A New Way to Preserve Fresh Basil (freezing method, and NOT in an ice cube tray!)

A New Way to Preserve Fresh Basil (freezing method, and NOT in an ice cube tray!) | Whole-Fed Homestead

Basil: the quintessential smell of summer around here! If only there was a way to preserve it…
Oh, but there is!

And I’m not talking about basil-scented soap and basil hand lotion. I can’t quite decide if these products are a good way to get a basil fix, or completely weird?! While I agree that there are quite a few foods that fall under both the categories of: things I want to eat, and things I want to rub all over my body… I’m not sure basil is one of these.

My “new” technique for freezing basil has the best of everything- it is quick, very easy, makes no dirty dishes, won’t take up a ton of freezer room, and can tackle large quantities of basil with no problem. The flavor does change just a tiny amount with freezing, but it has absolutely more fresh basil taste than other method I’ve used.

You might have tried freezing basil in ice cube trays filled with olive oil. Or maybe you just dry your basil every year (I do). But I think both of these ways fall a little flat.

First of all, dried basil is a completely different animal. It has its purpose, certainly, but there is no comparison to fresh at all.

I will tell you why I don’t like to freeze basil in ice cube trays- it’s too much oil for what I usually want to use it for. I almost always don’t want to throw a whole cube of olive oil into what I’m making.

For the rest of this story you should know that I’m a bit of a know-it-all… so when my mom told me about this new way she heard about to freeze basil, I turned my nose up a bit. That couldn’t possibly work well! I’d be better off trying the basil-scented hand soap, I thought.

A New Way to Preserve Fresh Basil (freezing method, and NOT in an ice cube tray!) | Whole-Fed Homestead

And then I was staring down an entire garden row of basil and facing the impending fall freeze. I had already dried more basil than three families would use in a year, but I wasn’t ready to give up that fresh basil flavor for the year yet! So I tried it. And this winter I’ve been eating my words…

And fresh-tasting basil! Thanks mom!

Here’s why it works so well: the technique is basically to ever-so-lightly coat the basil leaves with oil, squish them together in a bag and freeze. The oil does two things: 1. the light coating greatly protects the leaves from any freezer burn- they will last well into next basil season this way, and 2. it allows you to easily break off whatever size chunk you need.

A New Way To Preserve Fresh Basil (Freeze)

You’ll need five minutes and three things:
-a gallon-sized zip top freezer bag
-liquid oil, preferably good quality olive oil or avocado oil
-lots of beautiful fresh basil leaves

If you haven’t already, pluck the basil leaves from the plant stems. Prepare them how you normally would for use. I always try to pick the cleanest leaves for this so I don’t have to wash them. If you must wash your basil leaves you will need to let them dry very well before proceeding, like in a salad and herb spinner.

Take a freezer bag- I’ll assume you are using a gallon size. You must use a freezer bag (regular storage zip top bags will not keep your frozen goods safe!). And it really should be a bag. This won’t work as good in hard-sided containers.

For every 3 cups of fresh basil use 1 Tbs of oil. Approximately anyways, this ain’t rocket science.

Put three cups of lightly-packed basil leaves in the bottom of your bag and drizzle one tablespoon of oil over top. Use your hand to very gently toss and fluff the leaves until they are all nicely coated- this isn’t a “massaging,” you don’t want to bruise the leaves.

Add three more cups of basil leaves on top of the previous, drizzle on another tablespoon of oil, and again use your hand to toss the leaves until all coated. This is the most I like to put in one bag, but you can probably fit a little more if you’d like.

Gently press the basil all together, press the bag flat on the counter, and squeeze all of the air out of it.

I have a special technique for this that my family makes fun of me for. We’re all friends here, so I’ll share it with you. With the zip top facing away from me, and with top closed but except for about and inch, I lean my upper body onto the counter and over the bag, pressing the bag flat with my chest- this give me two free hands to work the zip top. And now you know one of my deepest, darkest secrets. But it works, I’m telling you!

A New Way to Preserve Fresh Basil (freezing method, and NOT in an ice cube tray!) | Whole-Fed Homestead

Store in the freezer, and simply break off a chunk of basil whenever you need some! It starts to thaw instantly in your hand. The flavor is very much like fresh basil, but the texture is a little… wilty. Although the flavor is superb, I think it is still best used in something cooked, or where the texture would disappear into the dish.

A New Way to Preserve Fresh Basil (freezing method, and NOT in an ice cube tray!) | Whole-Fed Homestead

And by the way, you can use this technique for other soft herbs as well! Try oregano or marjoram, parsley and mint.

Now go ahead and plant that whole entire packet of basil seeds!

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26 thoughts on “A New Way to Preserve Fresh Basil (freezing method, and NOT in an ice cube tray!)

  1. What a great idea for basil. I have frozen leaves for years but never with a covering of oil. Happy to know there is a way to prevent freezer burn. Thanx always Crystal for
    The many insights into how to do it better, different…..and Iwhat I love MOST is your KNOW IT ALL ATTITUDE!
    So happy to have the time to catch up on the Homestead. Hope you plant enough for us locals.
    Need to talk about skin care…

  2. When I want to remove the air from a freezer bag of food I set the bag on the counter with the zip top towards me, zip all but 1-2″ closed. Then insert a straw through the opening. Close the zip as close as possible around the straw. Suck out the air in the bag through the straw. It may take more than one breath, if so just press down on the straw while you exhale so air won’t re-enter the bag. Then suck out the rest of the air in the bag as you carefully withdraw the straw and quickly zip the last bit of opening. This technique really flattens the bag around the food like those expensive seal-a-meal appliances.

    1. I use this technique all the time. Flatten the bag out as you suck the air out so no freezer burn. It works really well. The flat bags store neatly in the freezer too.

  3. Hey Crystal! Love the idea of freezing basil this way. I have, as you have, done the basil in a food processor with olive oil and then put the it in ice cube trays. I’ve also simply frozen the leaves. I have a a lot of basil growing in the greenhouse (my second batch because the first bolted because it’s been so hot this year), so will try this method very soon. Thanks, Sheila (sboone335 from Instagram)

    1. Hi Sheila! Please let me know how you like the method and if you notice a difference between using a little oil and just freezing the leaves without anything! :)

    1. Sure! Though I wonder what kind of smoothie you are making with basil in it… sounds interesting! The flavor of frozen basil is slightly different than fresh basil, so it might not taste the same. -Crystal

  4. I chop up my basil and freeze it in ice cube trays, but use water instead of oil. I think it works great!

  5. A simple way to remove unwanted air from a zip-top “freezer” bag is to just use a soda straw. Zip the top leaving enough open to insert the soda straw into the bag. Leave about half the straw outside the bag. Then just suck the air out of the bag until there’s no air (very little anyway) left in the bag. Then just remove the straw and zip up the last inch of the bag and it’s nearly vacuum packed. Its a poor man’s “Food Saver.”

    1. I haven’t tried that, and though I think it would be fine, I actually think it would lower the quality because the leaves would bruise. No need though really, as they crumble and break off in pieces once frozen. -Crystal

  6. Umm have any of you tried expelling air from baggies using water bath method?. Deep bowl of water or fill the sink, zippered bag mostly closed, emerse to expell air and zip shut. Easy

  7. You inspired my imagination. I’m going to spray with my misto filled with Evoo. I’m planning to spray while still on the vine. Newspaper below or paper towels. Then, pluck leaves from vine and toss into the gallon freezer bag. I too, am a fan of the water emersion technique for removing air.
    I’m thinking it will result in less trauma to leaves and may be able to pull whole pretty leaves. Glad I found your site.

  8. What might work better, taste-wise, when making basil pesto: making the pesto from basil leaves that have been
    frozen? Or making the pesto from fresh leaves, then freezing the pesto?

  9. My 81 yr old dad was doing this with leftovers and day. I’d never heard of it! He never used to cook until my mom past a few years back. He was the all outdoor guy. Talk about humbling. Here I thought I knew more – LOL!

  10. I never thought of this option! I always did the ice cube option and it wasn’t very successful. I picked the top unblemished basil and snipped the leaves from the stems and packed into vacuum seal bags with pre drizzled extra virgin olive oil and let the vacuum sealer suck all the air out and seal. I will try using some soon and if successful I will pack throughout the summer. Thank you 🙏!

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