How to Freeze Fresh Basil

Updated on January 5, 2018
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Mary loves cooking from scratch using natural ingredients. Here she shares some of her favorite recipes and products.

Freezing Basil
Freezing Basil | Source

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 the 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 at the same time. The flowers I just discarded in the flower bed to rot down. I was cutting off the stem as I wanted the wider leaves that were below the flowers. I was cutting and pinching this basil plant for about 15 minutes and after removing a colander packed full, you couldn't even tell I had been cutting the plant. It is still so bushy!

Chef Remi's Latest Kitchen Scissors - Multi Purpose Utility Shears for Chicken, Poultry, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Herbs, and BBQ As Sharp As Any Knife and Comes Apart For Cleaning
Chef Remi's Latest Kitchen Scissors - Multi Purpose Utility Shears for Chicken, Poultry, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Herbs, and BBQ As Sharp As Any Knife and Comes Apart For Cleaning

Hands down, my kitchen scissors are my most valued kitchen tool. Notice I didn't say gadget because they are a tool. Not only do I use them to cut my basil, but also raw or cooked chicken. I feel I have more control with these than using a knife or a cleaver which just send chicken bits flying.

Trimming up meat, and removing sinew and gristle on beef is more precise with these.

I am still surprised by how often I reach for these shears where before I would have opted for a knife.

I am such a fan, I have started giving these as gifts to people I know.


Removing the Leaves

Once inside the house, I began to pull the leaves off the stems. The easiest way I found to do that was by holding the smallest end and running my fingers down the stem. This is the opposite way to how the plant grows and the leaves come off quickly. I didn't worry about a few stragglers left on the stem because if I need more, there is a lot left in the garden.

I continued doing this until they were all removed. I would like to mention, if you plan on using this for when you have guests, you may want to be more thorough than I was. You'll see why in a second.

Removing the stem took away less volume than I thought and I still had a colander full. Now was the time to wash the leaves. For this, you can either leave them in a colander, as I did or if you have a salad spinner you could 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 | Source

Using a Food Processor to Chop Basil

For the chopping, I used a food processor but you could use a blender or even chopped it by hand. Whatever works best for you.

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. Then I turned it a few notches higher. I didn't want a puree, just chopped smaller. If you prefer to have a smooth mixture, continue until your mixture reaches the consistency you prefer.

I returned the chopped leaves back to the bowl so I could add some oil. This could be done either in the food processor or as I did, return the leaves to a bowl and then add the oil. You'll want to use about 1 Tablespoon for each cup of chopped leaves. Obviously, olive oil is the best choice but if you don't have that, use what you have. Think of the types of dishes you plan to use the basil in as a guide. If you will be normally using your basil in rich Italian tomato-based sauces or a pesto, then olive oil would be an excellent choice. I used 2 Tablespoons one was olive oil and the other was soy.

chopped basil
chopped basil | Source
Freezing basil
Freezing basil | Source

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 smallish 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. This 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 which will accompany your basil in your recipe.

As you can see in the image, I have frozen two trays, one with a little water and one without. The loose frozen basil will give me more control over how much I am using.

Frozen Basil
Frozen Basil | Source

Bagging Your Basil

Now that you have your basil frozen, you should take it out of the trays to store it in freezer bags. The benefit of doing that is it is protected 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.

© 2017 Mary Wickison


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    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 weeks ago from Brazil

      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.

    • profile image

      DDE 5 weeks ago

      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!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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 profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 months ago from The Beautiful South

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

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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 profile image

      Nell Rose 2 months ago from England

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      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).

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      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.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

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

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      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!