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The Easiest and Best Way to Freeze Fresh Basil

What is the best way to freeze fresh basil to retain the flavor and color? We put all the the popular and not-so-popular methods to the test and came up the easiest and best way of freezing basil.

large basil plants growing in garden

Personally, my very favorite way to freeze basil is in the form of basil pesto. We go through many jars of pesto as we use it weekly for pizza night, toss it with pasta and veggies for a quick lunch, and stir it into home canned tomatoes for an easy sauce.

But there are times I want plain basil leaves and not pesto to cook with. In that case I reach into my freezer and pull out the baggie with frozen basil leaves in it.

To Blanch or Not to Blanch

According to those in the know, you’re supposed to blanch basil before freezing it. This is supposed to help the basil retain it’s color. There’s nothing on the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website about blanching basil before freezing it – so this tells me that blanching is a quality recommendation and not a safety recommendation.

As you can probably tell by my tone, I don’t blanch basil before freezing it. I don’t think that the end result of blanched basil is better than un-blanched basil.

Blanching is also a little stressful for me, and with basil you’ll only blanch it for 3-5 seconds. If you blanch it too long, you’ll end up with brown basil anyway.

But if you want to blanch the basil first here’s how to blanch and freeze basil leaves

  1. Rinse basil in cold water to remove any dirt or pests
  2. Remove the basil leaves from the stems
  3. In a medium stock pot bring water to a boil
  4. While the water is heating up, prepare a large bowl of ice water (this is called an ice bath)
  5. Put the basil into the boiling water
  6. Bring the water up to a boil again and boil for 3-5 seconds
  7. Remove the basil from the boiling water and immediately put it in the ice bath to stop the cooking
  8. Once the basil is cooled, remove the basil leaves and put them on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry
  9. Lay the blanched basil leaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put into the freezer until frozen
  10. Transfer the frozen basil leaves from the baking sheet to a freezer bag. These will start to thaw, so you’ll have to work quickly to get them into the bag. As they thaw they’ll start to brown.
  11. Remove all the air from the bag, close it, and label the bag.

No-Blanch Method

The no blanch method is exactly like the blanching method, you just skip the blanching part. Obviously, this is a much quicker way to freeze basil, but the color won’t be as vibrant as it is when you blanch the basil.

If you’re unsure of whether you should do the blanch or no-blanch method, I suggest doing a small batch of both, freezing them for a week, and then try them. Try to do this early in the season before you have a bunch of basil to contend with.

Here’s how to freeze fresh basil leaves

  1. Rinse basil in cold water to remove any dirt or pests
  2. Remove the basil leaves from the stems
  3. Put the leaves on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry
  4. Lay the basil leaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put into the freezer until frozen
  5. Transfer the frozen basil leaves from the baking sheet to a freezer bag. These will start to thaw, so you’ll have to work quickly to get them into the bag. As they thaw they’ll start to brown.
  6. Remove all the air from the bag, close it, and label the bag.

Ice Cube Method

A lot of people love the ice cube method of freezing basil and other herbs. You can blend the basil with oil, water, or broth and make a paste, similar to basil pesto, and put that in the ice cube trays. Or you can chop the basil leaves and cover them with oil, water, or broth.

I don’t care for this method mainly because of the liquid that needs to be added. And unless you want brown basil, you need to add the liquid. The liquid will keep the basil from oxidizing and turning brown.

When I use basil in a recipe, I don’t usually want the added oil or liquid. It will depend on how you are going to use the frozen basil as to whether the ice cube method is good for you or not.

If you want to try it, here’s how to freeze fresh basil in ice cube trays.

  1. Wash basil in cold water
  2. Remove basil leaves from stems
  3. If you want to make a paste, blend basil leaves with oil, water, or broth
  4. If you’re not making a paste, chop basil leaves
  5. Pack basil paste, or basil leaves, in an ice cube tray
  6. Cover the basil with oil, water, or broth. Even if made a paste, make sure there is a layer of liquid on top of the basil paste.
  7. Put the ice cube tray in the freezer until frozen.
  8. Pop the frozen basil ice cubes out of the tray and put them in a freezer bag.
  9. Remove all the air from the bag, close it, and label it.

My Favorite Way to Freeze Basil Leaves

My favorite way to freeze basil leaves, is to just put them in a freezer bag and toss it in the freezer. No blanching, no blending, no chopping, and no oiling.

Years ago a friend told me this is how she freezes cilantro. It works great, so this is how I freeze basil leaves too.

When you’re ready to use the frozen basil, just break a chunk off and add it to your dish.

I mentioned above that when you transfer frozen basil leaves from the baking sheet to a freezer bag, you need to work quickly because they start to thaw. When they thaw, the color will darken. The same thing happens when you remove the bag of frozen basil leaves from the freezer.

Because of this, I freeze basil in small freezer bags, not gallon size. If I have a lot of basil I want to freeze I use multiple bags.

When you remove it from the freezer, you’ll want to break off how much you need, and put it back into the freezer quickly.

I’ve read of people rolling the basil leaves in paper towels and then freezing it. The National Center For Home Food Preservation recommends rolling the basil leaves in freezer wrap and then putting them in a freezer bag.

I don’t do either of these. I have, but I don’t think it makes a better end product, so I don’t any longer. The basil leaves stick to the paper towel and the leaves start to thaw as you’re unrolling and removing individual leaves.

Here’s how to quickly freeze basil leaves

  1. Wash basil in cold water
  2. Remove basil leaves from stems
  3. Lay the basil leaves on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry.
  4. Put the dried basil leaves in a freezer bag.
  5. Remove all the air from the bag, close it, and label it.

Other Ways to Preserve Fresh Basil

I’ve mentioned that my favorite way to preserve basil is by making pesto. But I also like to keep dried basil on hand, especially for canning. Making a compound basil butter or a basil salt are also great ways to preserve basil.

collage of fresh basil being frozen in ice cube trays, on cookie sheet, and in zip lock bag

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Carol Pearson

Monday 25th of October 2021

Thanx for the great info about freezing fresh basil. I do not have enough leaves to make more pesto this year.

Angi Schneider

Monday 25th of October 2021

You're welcome!