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Freezing Annual Herbs

Freezing Annual Herbs

PHOTO: Chives

One of my favorite rituals in early fall is freezing annual herbs, including basil, cilantro, chives, dill, and parsley, as well as homemade pesto. Freezing herbs and pesto is totally worth the (minimal) effort because you can infuse soup, stews, and sauces with garden fresh flavor throughout the winter.

I like to freeze pesto in a Beaba Multiportion—a silicone container divided into 1/4 cup portions that comes with a lid. To freeze pesto, fill up each cell of the Multiportion with pesto, pop on the plastic lid, and stick it in the freezer. Once the pesto is frozen, remove the Beaba from the freezer, turn it upside down, and press the bottom of each portion. Neat 1/4 cup servings of pesto slide right out! I then wrap them up individually in plastic wrap and store them in a lidded glass container in the freezer.

Of course, a Beaba is merely a handy gadget, not a kitchen essential. You can also freeze pesto portions using kitchen tools you most likely have on hand. Simply line a small, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Portion out 1/4-cup mounds of pesto on the sheet and stick it in the freezer. Once the mounds of pesto freeze solid, remove them from the freezer. Wrap and store the pesto in the same way as described above. When you are ready to use the pesto, remove it from the freezer about an hour before you plan to use it to give the sauce time to defrost, or pop it into the microwave for a few seconds.

I freeze smaller portions of herbs in a silicone ice cube tray. First, make an herb puree by blending 1/2 cup of herb leaves (stems removed) with 3/4 cup olive oil until a loose puree forms. Then fill the cubes of an ice tray with puree and slide the trays into the freezer. Once the herb cubes are frozen, pop them out the cells, wrap them individually in plastic, and store them in labeled, lidded containers in the freezer.

I like to defrost the cubes and stir them into mayonnaise or Vegenaise for a tasty sandwich spread. You can also drop frozen cubes right into soups, stews, and sauces, or whisk defrosted cubes into a vinaigrette.

Willi Galloway is the author of Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and she writes about organic vegetable gardening and seasonal cooking on her blog, DigginFood.

Comments on this Blog

I did this, but am having a hard time getting the frozen herbs out of the tray. Any thoughts?

Any ideas on using something other than oil that won't alter the flavor?

Is there a way to do this without using oil?

Is there a way to do this without oil? I have severe coronary disease & am trying very hard to rarely use oils

Amanda-- If you used a silicone tray try pushing the cubes out from the bottom. You may also let them defrost for just a few minutes and then try popping them out or you can also try rubbing a bit of oil in each cell before filling with herb oil/pesto. Oil alternatives: freezing oil in some kind of fat (I.e. Oil, butter or margarine) helps preserve the herbs flavor best because the fat traps the oils from the herb's leaves. You could try water. I haven't done so myself, but it is totally worth a shot.

We use tomatoes instead of oil in our pesto, along with walnuts or pecans, cheaper than pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. With freezing it you might need a touch of olive oil.

moi je met des cubes d'herbes dans mes smoothys

Great thanks! I haven't tried a silicone tray so will maybe have to buy one. Lately I've just been defrosting and seems to be working.