Fresh herbs are an easy, healthy way to boost the flavor of your cooking with ingredients that you can pick up in any market all year around. The only problem? It’s annoying to buy a big bunch of parsley when the recipe only calls for a teaspoon. There’s nothing worse than opening the crisper drawer to see sad, limp leaves staring back at you (maybe because it makes me think of sad, wasted money), which is why I was determined to learn how to preserve herbs.
Preserving leftover herbs is not only easy to do, but it’s also a great time-saving shortcut that makes it possible to use a wide variety of fresh herbs night after night without wasting bunches of fresh herbs week after week. Here’s a breakdown of the best methods, along with some helpful tips.
HOW TO PRESERVE HERBS: FREEZE THEM IN OIL
Freezing herbs in oil is simple and, in my opinion, the best way to preserve both their flavor and aroma. The passionate herbalists at the Herbal Academy of New England suggest that freezing herb pastes (very top) is the way to go. All you need to make them is a handful of herbs and a little olive oil, which sounds easy to me. Hop on over to their site for an abundance of nutritional info and great suggestions for how to use the herb pastes.
Gaby from one of our favorite blogs, What’s Gaby Cooking, has an awesome method for how to freeze herbs in oil (above) that she shares at The Pioneer Woman. She uses a standard ice cube tray, which is great for storing pre-measured amounts: One tablespoon will fill each well a little more than half way. Melt one of the frozen cubes in a pan for sautéing or swirl into a winter stew for a burst of fresh flavor.
HOW TO PRESERVE HERBS: FREEZE THEM (NOT IN OIL)
Don’t want the oil? Learn what Adrienne at Whole New Mom calls the easiest way to preserve herbs. She’s a big believer in freezing herbs over drying them, and her no-fuss approach may persuade you to feel the same. Follow her steps to make sure that you get it right every time. And remember that the key is making sure to get all of the air out of the bag before sealing. Believe me: It makes a difference!
HOW TO PRESERVE HERBS: DRY THEM
If you’re an herb geek or just an all-around food nerd, you’ll love reading Longbourn Farm’s post on herb harvest and preservation. In addition to preserving, Alli has a ton of great tips on growing, snipping, and pruning fresh herbs. She gives a clear step-by-step for drying, crushing, and then storing herbs in little mason jars. If you want to really save money, keep empty spice jars and use those!
HOW TO PRESERVE HERBS: MAKE PESTO OR HERB BUTTER
Making a pesto is essentially the same method as freezing herbs in oil, but with even more flavor so that the mixture can stand alone as a marinade or sauce. I like the simplicity of this paleo friendly Dairy-Free Pesto Sauce from Against All Grain. With 10 minutes of prep, you’ll have a ready-made sauce for pasta, pizza, meat, or fish that you can store in the freezer for up to three months.
Tip: Think beyond basil and expensive pine nuts by switching up the herb and nut combination. I happen to love kale and walnut pesto like the one at our editor Stacie’s site, One Hungry Mama.
Butter? Yes, butter! The folks at Rodale’s Organic Life suggest making herb butter by mincing herbs, blending with soft butter, and freezing. Sounds good to me! Follow their lead and add a little garlic for sensational flavor that’s perfect for slathering on seared steak or roasted vegetables.
HOW TO PRESERVE HERBS: WRAP THEM… QUICKLY
Okay, this is my lazy, 3-second method, but I learned it in a professional kitchen so it has some merit. As soon as I get home from the store, I wrap my herbs in a paper towel and place them in a bag in the crisper drawer. Wicking away the excess moisture prevents premature wilting and browning in the fridge. It’s not exactly long term preservation, but it will definitely increase the shelf life of your herbs for a few extra days and sometimes even up to a week. Then, as soon as you see them starting to turn, you can freeze or dry them using one of the methods above.