If you’re wondering how to preserve basil (including freezing basil), you’re in the right place!
I am a huge fan of basil fresh from the garden. It has an amazing aroma and flavor. When it’s added fresh from the garden to your favorite dish it’s quite a treat.
I love adding it to AIP pizza crust, meatballs, or just chopped on top of a salad.
But basil doesn’t last long after harvesting it, so you must have a plan for your basil. If you can’t use your basil right away, here are some ideas for preserving basil:
How to Freeze Basil
Because basil is a fragile herb, it loses a lot of its flavor when dried (this is the same for mint, cilantro, chives, parsley, etc). So, many gardeners choose to freeze it instead.
However, basil doesn’t look great when frozen. It turns a brownish color that is not as attractive as it’s original vibrant green color.
That being said, freezing is the simplest way to preserve basil and is a great way to reserve lots of basil quickly. Here are a couple of options:
Freeze Chopped Basil in Olive Oil
Freezing basil in olive oil is a great way to preserve some of the color of the basil (though it will still brown in the freezer). Here’s how to do it:
- Chop the basil by pulsing a few times in a food processor.
- Add olive oil until it forms a paste (I had roughly 8 cups of basil and used 1 to 1 1/2 cups of olive oil).
- Put the paste into an ice cube tray to freeze.
- Collected the frozen cubes iton a plastic bag and return to the freezer.
To use, just add one cube to your skillet before cooking. You can also thaw the olive oil basil mixture before using it. One cube is equivalent to 2 tablespoons of fresh basil.
Freeze Fresh Basil in Whole Leaves
Whenever you freeze something from the garden, it’s best to freeze that item spread out on a baking tray first (and then transfer to a freezer bag). This way the food doesn’t get stuck together.
But herbs thaw so quickly when removed from the freezer it’s difficult to transfer to a bag. So, instead, I freeze herbs directly in the freezer bag. I lay out the herbs inside the bag and let them freeze. If they clump you can break off chunks to use in meals. It’s simple enough.
Blanching Basil Leaves
You can blanch basil leaves before throwing them in the freezer (or before adding them to olive oil or pesto). Many people do this to keep the color of the basil a more vibrant green. However, it also changes the taste of the basil.
I prefer the fresher taste of unblanched basil leaves and don’t mind a slightly darker green or brown color. But if the color of the basil is important to you, here is how you can blanch the leaves first:
- Remove stems.
- Toss basil leaves in boiling water for 4-5 seconds.
- Remove leaves from boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately submerge in ice water.
- Dry leaves completely before freezing.
Blanched basil leaves will stay greener when frozen than unbalanced basil, but the taste is slightly different. It’s up to you whether this step is worthwhile. I personally prefer less work whenever possible, so I don’t blanche the basil.
How to Dry Basil
While dry basil doesn’t hold onto all of its flavor, it is a simple method for preservation that doesn’t require electricity for storing.
Air drying is a very simple way to dry basil too. You can hang dry basil if you are harvesting the whole plants, but for individual leaves, a drying screen is easiest. Here are the basic steps:
- Rinse leaves under cool water and pat with paper towels or a tea towel to dry.
- Lay leaves in a single layer on the drying screen.
- Cover with a second drying screen or a porous cloth.
- Let dry for 7-10 days (until leaves are crispy).
Learn about all of the drying methods (including using a dehydrator or oven) you can use to preserve herbs.
Use dry basil in any recipe that calls for fresh (use 1 teaspoon dry for every tablespoon of fresh).
How to Preserve Basil in Salt
Another option for preserving basil is salt. This is a great way to preserve leafy/fragile herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, etc.
- Wash and completely dry your herbs.
- Using 4 parts basil to 1 part salt, add ingredients to a food processor.
- Pulse to incorporate.
- Optional: lay out on a baking sheet in the sun to dry (this will make the mixture last a bit longer).
This herbed salt will last for at least 6 months in the refrigerator (longer if you dry it after). To use just replace the salt in a recipe with this herbed salt.
How to Preserve Basil in Honey
You can infuse basil into honey for longer-term storage. If you’re using fresh basil it’s best to heat the honey (to avoid bacterial growth). But heating it means the raw honey will no longer be raw (and no longer hold some of those benefits).
You can also infuse honey with dried herbs using a no-heat method but if your basil is already dried, you may not want to preserve it a second time.
I have never tried this method of preservation for herbs, but I would go with the heated version since it’s fewer steps.
Here’s how to infuse honey with basil:
- Add 1 cup of raw honey and ½ cup basil (whole leaves or chopped) to a saucepan.
- Heat slowly over medium or medium-low until honey begins to bubble.
- Stir to incorporate honey and herbs.
- Turn off and let cool.
- Repeat 2-3 times (heating and cooling the honey) until it is infused with the flavor of basil to your liking.
Basil honey can be used in any recipe you want a sweet and savory taste. Cheese dishes, Italian dishes, even pizza, are great ways to use it.
How to Preserve Basil in Vinegar
Infusing basil into vinegar is yet another way to preserve it. Here are the basic steps:
- Add ¼ cup of fresh basil leaves to a 1-quart mason jar.
- Cover with about 2 cups of vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar).
- Let sit in a sunny window for 2-4 weeks.
- Strain herbs out of vinegar.
- Store your infused vinegar in a cool place.
It should last for several months in a root cellar to 6 months if stored in the refrigerator. Basil vinegar can be used for salad dressings, marinades, stir frys, or to drizzle over roasted vegetables or meats.
How to Make Basil Infused Olive Oil
Making herb-infused olive oil is simple and a great way to use up basil. Making basil-infused olive oil is very similar to the above recipe for basil vinegar. Find the full directions for infusing herbs in oil here.
Basil Preservation Recipes
When you run out of ways to preserve basil but still don’t want to waste it, consider adding it to some dishes or sauces and then preserve those instead. Here are some ideas:
- Paleo Pesto Sauce (AIP option)
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Thick and Zesty Pizza Sauce
- Canned Tomatoes with Basil and Garlic
- Meatballs (freeze them for later)
- Lasagna (freeze for later)
What is your favorite way to preserve basil?
I’ve preserved basil in olive oil cubes. It is similar to your method, with twice the amount of oil.
The result is a cube that melts easily in a pan and has amazing basil flavor. I freeze the cubes in vacuum sealed bags, then transfer them to a glass jar (still in the freezer) for individual use.
That’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing!