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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.

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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:

© 2017 Mary Wickison

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