Fresh basil is delicious in many recipes and can produce a broad range of meals. However, what happens when you have more freshly picked basil than you can use? Do you have to give it to someone else or throw it away? Not if you freeze your fresh leaves. The following information will provide you with the best insight into freezing and storing your basil leaves for the long haul.
Can You Freeze Fresh Basil Leaves?
While basil is best when it is fresh, you can freeze fresh basil leaves if you’re coming up on winter, and you don’t have time to use all of them. Basil is an annual that reacts poorly to cold and will die with the first frost. However, if you carefully harvest your basil plants before it gets cold, you can remove the leaves and carefully freeze them and keep them for many months.
Does freezing your basil leaves damage them? Not when you take the proper freezing steps. Understand, though, that they will turn black when exposed to freezing temperatures. That doesn’t mean that they are rotting or damaged. It is just a natural reaction that occurs when the leaves are exposed to cold temperatures. If you’re prepared for that change, freezing fresh basil leaves is reasonably straightforward.
We’ll take a look at a handful of different freezing steps here, including some of the best options for your needs. You’ll get a good insight into which is suitable for you and which you might want to avoid. Typically, most of the steps we’ll talk about here are relatively simple and shouldn’t be too hard for most people to handle. Most people won’t need too many extra kitchen items to get good results when freezing your fresh basil leaves.
What is the Best Way To Freeze Basil?
The best way to freeze basil will depend on a few different factors. We’ll go over two of the most common and popular ways to prepare and freeze these leaves to ensure that you understand each. Generally, we think that you’ll get the best taste and freshness when you blanch your leaves and freeze them separately. However, you can also freeze them in olive oil or as butter to get great results. In a separate section, we’ll discuss blanching your basil leaves.
Freezing Basil With Olive Oil: Why and How?
We enjoy freezing basil with olive oil because this method helps to preserve the flavor and taste more effectively. Beyond that, it also minimizes your risk of blackened leaves, which is always a good thing. When prepared and appropriately frozen in olive oil, your basil leaves should stay green and look more appealing. Follow these steps to freeze your leaves with this method:
- Wash your basil leaves thoroughly in fresh cold water
- Place your leaves in a food processor set to the coarse setting
- Add a slight drizzle of olive oil to the tops of the leaves
- Pulse the processor once or twice to cover the leaves with oil
- Use the processor a few more times until the leaves are chopped
- Scoop out the leaves and place them in ice cube trays
- Freeze the cubes in these trays overnight
- Remove the cubes from the trays and place them in a freezer-safe bag
Let your basil cubes thaw out for a few hours to prepare them for your cooking experience. You should avoid warming them up in a microwave whenever possible because it is easy to make mistakes and cook them too long. You may also change the texture and flavor when microwaving. Just prepare for this lengthy thawing period by placing the cube in the fridge before going to work.
Freezing Basil Butter: Useful for Many Situations
Basil butter is a common ingredient for many recipes and is something you can produce freshly, at home, with your basil leaves. However, you’re not likely to use all your basil butter for one meal. Thankfully, you can freeze this butter to keep it safe for several months. This simple freezing process will help to keep them fresh for a long time:
- Carefully place your basil butter in ice cube trays
- Cover the trays with plastic wrap to keep them protected
- Place the trays in the freezer overnight to fully solidify
- Remove the cubes from the tray as needed or store them in a plastic bag
For most situations, one cube of frozen butter (or plant-based butters/spreads) should be enough for a recipe. You will need to let the cube thaw out if you want to use it, which will take a few hours or so. Place the cube in a small bowl and put it either in the refrigerator or on the counter. It will thaw more slowly in the fridge but will be protected from contamination. On the counter, it melts fast but may be exposed to bacteria. Cover up the top if you want to avoid this risk.
How to Freeze Basil Step by Step
Blanching allows you to preserve your leaves individually instead of as butter or blended. This option makes it easier to preserve each leaf separately without blending or mixing with olive oil or as butter. Many people choose this method if they want to preserve leaves for cooking or medicinal purposes. Follow the steps below to get the best experience preserving your basil leaves properly.
Select Your Fresh Leaves
Make sure that you pick only the freshest leaves and throw away any bruised basil leaves with darkened spots. You want only the freshest and healthiest basil for your freezing. Otherwise, you’ll end up with poor-tasting leaves when you thaw them. Look for even minor signs of damage before tossing them away. Typically, darkened leaves are already going bad and should be discarded before you freeze the rest.
Wash and Prepare Your Leaves
Carefully remove the stems from each of your leaves and wash them in freshwater to remove any residue. Next, place them on fresh towels and let them dry completely before you blanch them. It may seem strange to let them dry, but you want to remove any of that residue through the drying process. You may also want to pat dry the leaves with a towel to keep them fresh and help them dry more quickly.
Blanch the Leaves
Boil a pot of water on your stove and carefully place your leaves in the boiling water until they wilt. This should take no more than a few seconds, so use a fork or a similar tool to place the leaves in the water and remove them. Next, place each blanched leave in an icy bath to get the best results. Blanching helps to remove any extra skin or residue and improves the freezing process.
Prepare to Freeze the Leaves
Dry all of your leaves and line a tray with parchment paper. Spread the leaves on this tray in a single layer and place them in a freezer for several hours. Once they are frozen, carefully remove them and put them in a freezer bag. Seal the bag tightly and mark it with the date you placed them in the fridge. Now, place the leaves in the freezer and avoid putting anything heavy on top.
Can I Freeze Fresh Basil Leaves Without Blanching?
We already discussed a few ways you can freeze your fresh basil without utilizing the blanching technique. The olive oil or butter method is valuable and well-worth consideration. However, you can also freeze your fresh basil leaves using the blanching method above but remove the blanching sub-step.
Instead, you just place your fresh and cleaned basil leaves on parchment-lined baking sheets. You then flash freeze the sheet and put them in a freezer bag for later use. Blanching will preserve your leaves more effectively, mind you, but you can skip that step if you want to freeze them without it.
Is It Better to Freeze Basil or Dry It?
Generally, freezing will keep your basil’s taste longer and minimize any taste loss. Using any of the methods mentioned above should be helpful for that goal. However, some people prefer drying basil because they like the taste it produces or prefers crumbling their leaves into an easy-to-use powder. While we still think freezing is best for most people, here’s how you can dry your fresh basil leaves:
- Set your oven on the lowest possible temperature and wait for it to preheat
- While waiting, place parchment paper on your baking sheet in a single layer
- Put all your leaves on the baking sheet in a single layer, avoiding doubling when possible
- Place this baking sheet on the highest rack of the oven to get the most heat as it bakes
- Let the leaves bake for at least 2-4 hours on the stove, regularly checking until they are crumbly
- Remove the basil from the oven and let it cool before you crumble the leaves for storage
- Carefully crunch up the leaves and place them in a small air-sealed jar for later use
Use your crumbled basil leaves as a flavoring or spice in any recipe that calls for them. You may want to freeze some of your basil leaves for long-term use and dry others for immediate or short-term use. They should last for a few months when dry, but make sure you check the crumbled leaves regularly for mold, mildew, or rotting signs. Throw them away if you see any signs at all.
How to Use Frozen Basil Leaves
You can use frozen basil leaves just like you would fresh leaves. Do you need to thaw them out every time you use them? Not necessarily. You can often throw your frozen individual leaves or cubes directly into a pan or pot, where they’ll thaw as your food cooks. As a result, you don’t have to wait a long time to use your frozen basil. However, some people may prefer thawing them before use.
Thankfully, all you need to do is leave them on the counter for an hour or two or in the fridge for most of the day. Frozen basil isn’t like meat and doesn’t take nearly as long to thaw out. Thawing is a good choice if you plan on using your basil leaves on dishes like salads or as a garnish. Typically, though, you’ll want fresh basil for garnishes or toppings because it may end up seeming limp or unappealing otherwise.
Otherwise, you can use frozen basil leaves in any dish that calls for it. For example, you can mix it into a pasta sauce, produce a fantastic vinaigrette, produce appealing soups and stews, add it to your eggs, or crumble it up as a topping. Unfortunately, frozen leaves won’t crumble as well as drying, though they can be broken up in this way as needed. Typically, baking will be the best time to bust out your frozen basil leaves.
Freeze Your Fresh Basil For Months of Use
When you follow these simple steps, you can preserve your basil for many months and get the enjoyable experience you want and deserve from them. As importantly, you can produce the kind of fun and tasty meals that work for your needs. Make sure to carefully prepare all of your basil for freezing to minimize any complications with this process. Also: know that you can freeze your basil if you live in regions where it can be grown perennial, including zones 10-13.
Hey, I’m Joey. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid and love everything about it. You can find my writing about food, kitchen appliances (such as blenders) and much more. Thanks for stopping by!