It happens to all of us. We enthusiastically bring home bunches of fresh herbs only to guiltily throw them away a week later, all wilted and mushy. This doesn't have to be the fate of your herbs any longer. Whether you want to keep them crisp throughout the week or properly store them for the months ahead, there are many ways to take care of your herbs. Here's our quick and simple guide on how to store fresh herbs to extend their shelf life!
Storing Herbs Short-Term
Short-term storing methods are useful if you grab a bunch of herbs like parsley or basil at the store and want to have them fresh on hand throughout the week.
Before storing herbs short- or long-term, wash them under cold, running water. Remove any leaves that are already wilted or brown. Then, dry them in a salad spinner, or pat them dry to remove excess moisture.
There are two easy ways to preserve herbs short-term, depending on whether they are hardy or tender. Properly preserved, they should stay fresh for two to three weeks, except for chives, which typically last about a week.
1. Storing Hardy Herbs
2. Storing Tender Herbs
To store tender herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, basil, and tarragon, first cCut the ends of the stems. Then, pour about an inch of water in a glass jar, and place the herbs in the jar as you would flowers. Loosely cover the herbs with a plastic bag or a lid. Store in the fridge. (This doesn't apply to basil, which should be kept on the counter away from direct sunlight.)
Storing Herbs Long-Term
Long-term storing methods are most helpful if you don't typically go through the herbs you buy on a weekly basis and want them to last for the next few months. It's also a great way to preserve larger quantities of herbs, like those from your herb garden.
There two methods to go about storing herbs long-term: freezing and drying, each with several sub-methods. When properly stored, herbs can last for up to 6 months.
Freezing herbs like parsley, basil, dill, or mint helps preserve their flavor and their essential oils. You can choose from four different techniques:
Lay the herbs flat on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight container and store in the freezer.
Finely chop the herbs (one type). Pack them in an ice cube tray, and cover them with olive oil. Place the tray in the freezer. Once frozen, store them in the tray, or remove the cubes and place them in a freezer bag for storage. Add the frozen cubes directly to your meal during cooking for an instant boost of flavor and aroma.
Make an herb paste by adding your favorite herbs to a blender along with olive oil. You can also add other ingredients, like garlic, spinach, and spices. Add the paste to an ice cube tray and freeze it. Store in the tray, or transfer the cubes to a freezer bag.
Place a bunch of herbs on a piece of plastic. Then, gently roll them into a log. Tighten the log with rubber bands and freeze. Whenever you want to use them for cooking, slice off the amount you need, and return the log back to the freezer.
Another simple way to preserve herbs and extend their shelf life is drying them. Dried herbs are easy to store and potent in antioxidants. Keep in mind that herbs with thick leaves — like thyme, oregano, or rosemary — maintain their aroma better when dried than delicate herbs, like parsley.
Air dry the herbs by hanging them in small bunches upside down on a string. Keep them in a dark, well-ventilated place for 2 to 4 weeks. Once dry, transfer them in an airtight container for storage.
Dry the herbs in a dehydrator by laying them in a single layer on the racks. Set the temperature between 95°F to 115°F (35°C to 68°C) for 1 to 4 hours, depending on the type of herb.1 When crispy, take them out to allow them to cool. Then, break them into smaller pieces or grind them, and store them in an airtight jar.
Dry the herbs in an oven by laying the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set the temperature to 110°F to 130°F (45°C to 55°C) and dry them for 3 to 4 hours.2 When they are crispy and crumble easily, take them out of the oven and set them aside to cool. Store them ground or crumbled in an airtight jar.
Your search for how to keep herbs fresh is over. If you're guilty of throwing them away week after week, these simple methods of preserving them will prove useful. Storing herbs is not only a wonderful way to add flavor, color, and aroma to your everyday meals, but also a smart way to save money. Who knows? It may also inspire you to start your own herb garden come spring.
- Michigan State University, Tips for using and preserving fresh herbs, 2016
- Penn State University, Freezing Herbs | Harvesting and Preserving Herbs and Spices for Use in Cooking
- University of Kentucky, Harvesting, Preserving, and Storing Herbs, 2002
- University of Minnesota, Preserving herbs by freezing or drying, 2021
- Ohio State University, Selecting, Storing, and Using Fresh Herbs, 2021
- National Center for Home Food Preservation. (n.d.). Drying. Retrieved August 29, 2023, from https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry/herbs.html
- University of Minnesota Extension. (2021). Preserving herbs by freezing or drying. Retrieved August 29, 2023, from https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/preserving-herbs-freezing-or-drying