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How to Freeze Fresh Basil

Mary loves cooking from scratch using natural ingredients. Here she shares some of her favorite recipes and products.

Freezing Basil

Freezing Basil

Why Freeze Basil

A few months ago my husband came back from our neighbors with three small twigs of a local type of basil. He pushed them in the ground, and we waited. After losing all their leaves and turning brown, we thought they had died. Until one day, a new green leaf appeared. Now, from that precarious start, the basil has taken over at least half of a six-foot raised bed.

We are now coming up to our wet season here in the tropics, and I am not certain what will happen to this plant. Although our temperature year round is a constant, we get heavy rains. Because of this, I have decided to cut some of the basil leaves and freeze them just in case I can't use them fresh.

Now that you know why I want to freeze it, let me show you how I did this.

How to Cut Basil Leaves

I have a pair of good kitchen scissors that I use, but depending on the thickness of the stalks of your basil plant, you may opt to use secateurs. I take an aggressive approach when I cut back plants, and the basil is no different. Because my basil had started to flower, I used this time to cut off some flowers simultaneously. The flowers I discarded in the flower bed will rot down. I cut and pinched this basil plant for about 15 minutes, and after removing a colander packed full, you couldn't even tell I had touched the plant. It is still so thick and bushy!

Removing the Leaves

Once inside the house, I began to pull the leaves off the stems. The easiest way to do that was by holding the smallest end and running my fingers down the stem. I didn't worry about a few stragglers left on the stem if I need more, there's a lot left in the garden. If you plan on using this for when you have guests, you may want to be more thorough. You'll see why in a second.

Now was the time to wash the leaves. For this, either leave them in a colander, as I did, or if you have a salad spinner, you can use that. Here on our farm, we don't use chemical sprays on our plants but if you do, make sure you wash your basil thoroughly. Shake off as much water as possible.

Chopping Basil in a Food Processor

Chopping Basil in a Food Processor

Using a Food Processor to Chop Basil

I use a food processor, but you could use a blender or chop it by hand if you don't have one.
Because basil leaves are soft, I used the lowest speed until the leaves on top had been pulled down towards the blade and been chopped. I prefer my sauces rustic and like to see herbs and vegetables in mine. If you choose to have a smooth sauce, continue until your mixture reaches the consistency you like.
I returned the chopped leaves to the bowl so I could add some oil. You'll want to use about one tablespoon for each cup of chopped leaves. Olive oil is the best choice. Think of the types of dishes you plan to use the basil in as a guide. If you use basil in Italian tomato-based sauces or pesto, then olive oil would be an excellent choice. I used two tablespoons, one was olive oil, and the other was sunflower oil.

chopped basil

chopped basil

Freezing basil

Freezing basil

Once you have mixed it thoroughly, you can begin to fill your ice cube trays. My trays are small, so I used a teaspoon. Pack it down so that when it freezes together, you have a cube shape.
Depending on your freezer, you may need to make modifications to this. I have a small freezer compartment, and it doesn't always freeze solid. What could happen is that your basil may fall apart and not come out as a cube. The loose pieces can still be put into a resealable bag and used as needed. If you want a cube shape, you can top off each ice cube tray with water. So you will have a basil ice cube. If you opt to do this, allow for the small amount of water to accompany your basil in your recipe.
As you can see in the image, I have frozen two trays, one with a bit of water and one without. The loose frozen basil will give me more control over how much I am using.

Frozen Basil

Frozen Basil

Bagging Your Basil

Now that you have your basil frozen, remove it from the trays to store it in freezer bags. Doing this will protect it from absorbing smells from other items in your freezer. Resealable bags are your best option.

Your frozen basil will be good for up to a 1 year.

Although the color and the taste aren't the same as using fresh basil from your garden, it's an economical way of adding flavor to your meals.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I use the same method with oregano and freeze it?

Answer: I have never tried it with oregano, but I can't see why you couldn't. There is a fellow writer, who goes by the name of CarbDiva and

every Monday she has a questions and answers column, that is food related. She has a vast knowledge of cooking techniques and is a wonderful food researcher. It would be a great question for her. She has written an article about oregano, here is a link:https://delishably.com/spices-seasonings/Flavors-o...

© 2017 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on July 11, 2020:

I'm so pleased you found it useful. It is handy to have a backup supply in the freezer.

Great to hear from you.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on July 10, 2020:

I've been wondering what to do with all of my fresh basil. Thanks so much for this informative article. What a huge help! I will begin freezing the basil tomorrow and this will be convenient for future recipes.

Big thanks!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on March 31, 2020:

I'm happy to know that it will come in useful for you. I didn't realize your area had such a sharp winter.

Rajan Singh Jolly on March 30, 2020:

Glad to learn how to freeze basil. As my basil plant withers out during our severe winter this information will come in handy. Thank you for sharing, Mary.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on February 12, 2018:

That's great news. It sounds like you have the best of nature's bounty. Good luck on your hunt for your herbs and thanks for reading and your comment.

DDE on February 12, 2018:

I have researched greatly on many different types of herbs Basil is one of my favorite herbs. I live close to the mountain ranges and have discovered the herbs during my daily walks. This is a useful hub!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 05, 2018:

Hi Jackie,

I agree.

Now that I have successfully done this method with basil, I will be attempting other herbs.

The only thing that lets it down is the color. Instead of that vivid bright green, it turns the color of cooked spinach. Of course, that is okay in a cooked meal but as a garnish or in a salad, it doesn't look attractive.

Thanks for reading.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 04, 2018:

I love herbs in ice cube form. So easy to do and to use!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 04, 2018:

Hi Nell,

It is great if you know you can go to the shop and get it. Here, it is hit and miss with supplies.

I am now adding basil to most things. I think a nice basil plant would be lovely on your balcony. (in summer of course)

Nell Rose from England on January 04, 2018:

How interesting, I never realised that you could freeze basil. I love basil with tomatoes, but luckily I don't need to freeze as I cheat and buy from the shop, lol! but great advice if you grow your own.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 02, 2018:

Hi Bill,

Although your basil may be a different type, there should be no problem freezing a surplus.

When it's formed into cubes, it will take up more space than loose, but if you have a large freezer, it should accommodate it.

Glad you found it useful.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 01, 2018:

Still not getting notifications from HP, so glad I took the time to check for anything new from you. Great information here. I'm definitely going to try this with our basil next summer. Thanks, Mary, and Happy New Year to you.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 01, 2018:

Hi Linda,

Yes, it does smell wonderful.

I had to laugh when I read your comment, because other than when I make baked goods, I rarely use a recipe. When I make sauces, gravies and soups I just keeping adding ingredients until I get a rich taste. I have now discovered, adding cream cheese to almost any sauce helps immensely. I have been using milk in my tomato and meat spaghetti sauce for ages.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 01, 2018:

It sounds like we have the same type. I can't believe how well this plant grows, it makes me feel like a master gardener.

Glad you found the article useful.

Happy New Year to you.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 31, 2017:

What a great idea! Basil grows lavishly around here, and sometimes we throw out branches because there is a limit to how much we can use. Not anymore. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on December 31, 2017:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

That is great to hear that your herbs do so well. If you've got the freezer space, I say "go for it". Convenience is paramount in my kitchen and it's nice to reach into the freezer and instantly add flavor to whatever I'm cooking.

Thanks for reading and your comment.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 31, 2017:

Wow, I can't believe having so much fresh basil to play with. Doesn't it smell divine? Perhaps in the future you can share some of your recipes which incorporate those basil "Popsicles". Wonderful article (as always).

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on December 31, 2017:

Hi Louise,

Anything that will save me time and money is a good thing. I seem to have less patience as I get older and I just want to get in and out of the kitchen. I am always looking for shortcuts.

Glad you like the idea, thanks for reading.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 30, 2017:

How smart! I don't grow many things well, as I am terrible about remembering to water. However, most herbs do well at my house. Basil, parsley, and oregano have done very well in potted containers. Now I won't waste the bounty.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on December 30, 2017:

I like the look of them pesto ice cubes. I've never seen them before. Thanks for the advice!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on December 30, 2017:

Hi Peggy,

That sounds like a great idea. I like to use it in both tomato-based sauces and in my white sauces. It just adds extra flavor but without being too overpowering.

Isn't it handy having it ready to use?

Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 30, 2017:

I cut our basil and went ahead and made pesto out of it. Now I have those frozen pesto ice cubes in our freezer ready to use when desired. Next year I will make some such as you did without the additional pesto ingredients so that I have flexibility in how to use the basil cubes when cooking. May do some of both!

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