Are you looking for ways to keep your garden’s fresh basil alive and flavorful? Or are you trying to use up the abundance of basil at the grocery store without letting any of it go to waste?
Either way, freeze-drying is an excellent option for preserving herbs like basil! In this blog post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about freezing your fresh basil—from which varieties last longest in the freezer, what tools you need on hand, how long they can stay frozen, and their best uses in recipes.
So whether you want to make delightful pesto sauces or always have a little marinara sauce ready when needed, read our guide on how to freeze –basil!
Why Freeze Fresh Basil?
Preserving basil is a fantastic way to maintain the abundance of this herb that often comes from growing basil plants.
As gardeners know, basil plants can produce more leaves than you can use at once, especially during summer.
By choosing to freeze basil, you can extend the life of these fresh herbs and ensure you have a supply ready for your culinary adventures throughout the year. Its vibrant taste brings an ideal enhancement to so many dishes. The freezing process transforms fresh leaves into frozen herbs that retain much of their original flavor and aroma.
This preservation method allows you to enjoy the essence of fresh basil in your dishes long after the growing season has passed.
Does Frozen Basil Taste Good?
Frozen basil might have a different fresh flavor and texture than fresh basil leaves, but it certainly retains all its charm.
Frozen fresh basil retains most of its unique aroma and taste, which can still enhance your dishes beautifully.
The freezing process can alter the texture, making it a bit limp, so it might not be the best for garnishing. However, it is perfectly fine in sauces, soups, or stews where the texture is not as crucial and gives the dish a quick pop of herb flavor.
Is It Better To Freeze Basil Or Dry It?
When it comes to preserving herbs like basil, the method you choose can greatly affect the flavor and usability of the herb in your future culinary endeavors.
Freezing fresh basil is often considered a better option compared to drying, particularly if you want to preserve the vibrant, fresh taste that basil brings to dishes.
The freezing process can maintain the herb’s robust flavor, making it ideal for use in sauces, stews, or other cooked dishes.
On the other hand, drying basil changes its flavor profile, making it more concentrated and less fresh-tasting.
Dried basil is commonly used to flavor pizzas, salads, pasta, and meats, as well as being a key ingredient in pesto and a seasoning for dishes like soups, rice, lentils, and chickpeas.
Nonetheless, drying isn’t the most effective preservation technique for delicate leafy herbs like basil, cilantro, tarragon, lemon balm, and mint.
How to Freeze Basil: A Step-by-Step Guide
Freezing fresh basil is an excellent way to preserve its vibrant color and distinct flavor. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to freeze basil.
- Fresh basil leaves
- A colander
- Paper towels
- Salad spinner
- A clean cutting board
- A sharp knife
- A blender or food processor
- Ice cube trays
- Freezer bags
How To Freeze Basil
Clean And Dry The Basil Leaves
Start by washing basil with cold water. Then place them inside a salad spinner to dry basil.
After using the salad spinner, the leaves might still have some residual moisture. To remove this, gently pat the basil dry with a paper towel.
Make sure to do this delicately to avoid crushing or damaging the leaves. The key here is to ensure the leaves are completely dry but still intact.
Remove The Stems
Using a sharp knife, cut the stems from the basil leaves, and remove the leaves from the stems.
Chop The Basil
Place the leaves on your cutting board and chop them into small pieces. The size can be imperfect, as they will be further broken down in the freezing process.
Method 1: Freezing Basil in Ice Cube Trays
Fill the Trays
Distribute the chopped basil evenly among the compartments of your ice cube trays.
Either submerge the basil in water or drench it with olive oil.
Both methods work well, but oil can help retain the basil’s vibrant green color and add extra flavor.
Place the trays in the freezer and wait until the cubes are solid, which should take 2-4 hours.
Once frozen solid, pop the basil ice cubes out of the trays and transfer them to a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bags. These basil cubes can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.
Method 2: Making Basil Pesto
Blend the Basil
Start by cleaning and coarsely chopped basil leaves. Place them in your food processor bowl. As you begin blending, gradually drizzle olive oil into the mix. This process helps to break down the basil and combines everything into a smooth paste. The slow addition of oil while blending ensures a well-emulsified and flavorful basil pesto.
Spoon the basil paste into ice cube trays and freeze until solid.
Like the first method, once the basil paste cubes are frozen, transfer them to freezer bags for long-term storage.
Some Other Methods Of Freezing
Here are more detailed instructions for each freezing method:
- Flash Freezing:
- Begin by washing and thoroughly drying the basil leaves.
- Spread them out on a baking or cookie sheet, ensuring they don’t overlap.
- Place the tray in the freezer for a couple of hours until the leaves are entirely frozen.
- Once frozen, quickly transfer the leaves to freezer bags or an airtight container. Make sure to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
- Freeze Drying:
- Rinse the basil leaves and gently blot them dry.
- Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray.
- Freeze for at least 30 minutes or until each leaf is frozen.
- Store these leaves in airtight containers or freezer bags.
- Blanching and Freezing:
- Start by boiling a pot of water.
- As the water heats up, arrange for a large bowl filled with ice water.
- Simply You can quickly submerge basil in boiling water for 2 seconds. (Optional)
- When the water reaches a boil, immerse the basil leaves and let them blanch for approximately 30 second.
- Immediately drain the leaves and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Place the blanched basil leaves on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet and freeze them until solid.
- Freezing Whole:
- Wash the basil leaves and gently towel them dry.
- Place the leaves in a uniform layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let them freeze for a period ranging from 12 to 24 hours.
- Afterward, move the leaves into a zip-lock freezer bag or another container safe for freezing. Make sure to label it for easy identification.
- Freezing in Oil:
- Start by placing the basil leaves in the compartments of an ice cube tray.
- Add olive oil over each one, just enough to cover the leaf.
- Place the tray in the freezer until the cubes are solid, then transfer them to a freezer bag or small plastic containers.
- Simple Freezing:
- Rinse the basil leaves and thoroughly pat them dry.
- Simply put the leaves in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.
Can I Freeze Basil Without Blanching?
Yes, you can freeze basil without blanching. One method is to pack the basil leaves straight into a baggie or container and then freeze them.
However, it’s important to note that fresh basil has enzymes that can cause it to darken in the freezer.
If your goal is to preserve the fresh green color of the basil, blanching for 2-4 seconds in boiling water before freezing can help as it kills these enzymes.
How Do You Defrost Frozen Basil?
Defrosting frozen basil is a simple process. First, remove the basil from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature.
This allows the ice crystals to melt naturally without damaging the delicate leaves. If you’re in a hurry, submerge the frozen basil in a sealed plastic bag in a bowl of cold water.
This helps speed up the thawing process but do not let the water get into the bag, as it could make the basil soggy.
After the basil has thawed, lightly dab it using a paper towel to eliminate any surplus moisture before incorporating it into your dish.
Tips for Freezing Basil
- Layering with Salt: Layer the basil leaves in a container, sprinkling salt between each layer. The salt helps to preserve the flavor of the basil.
- Adding Olive Oil: Drizzle enough olive oil over the basil leaves in the container to coat them lightly. This will add flavor and protect the basil from freezer burn.
- Vacuum Sealing: Consider sealing your basil leaves if you have a vacuum sealer. This can help to extend their shelf life and protect them from freezer burn.
- Label and Date: Remember to label and date your containers or bags before placing them in the freezer. This will help you track how long the basil has been stored.
- Store Properly: Once the cubes are fully frozen, remove them from the tray and shift them into a freezer-safe container or a resealable bag designed for freezer use.
- Be sure to label the bag with the date for future reference.
- Use as Needed: When cooking and needing some basil, simply take a cube out of the bag and add it to your dish. The olive oil will melt, leaving the basil to flavor your meal.
How Long Does Frozen Basil Last?
According to various sources, frozen basil can last up to a year in the freezer. However, it’s important to note that the quality may decline after about three months.
The leaves might turn black over time, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the basil is spoiled or unusable. It’s recommended to use the frozen basil directly from the freezer in hot dishes or to thaw and drain it before using it in cold dishes.
How to Use Frozen Basil?
Here’s a guide on how to use frozen basil in various dishes:
- In Heated Dishes: If you use your basil in heated dishes like pasta, soups, stews, or sauces, add your frozen basil directly to the pot.
- Basil Cubes: Frozen basil cubes are an excellent way to infuse flavor into your dishes. Put the frozen basil cubes in a bowl and let the ice thaw. After the ice has melted, remove the excess water from the bowl and continue following the recipe as instructed.
- These cubes can be tossed into pasta dishes, soups, stews, and salad dressings for a quick pop of herb flavor.
- In Cold Dishes: If you want frozen basil in cold dishes, let it thaw first. Drain the water and use it as per the recipe. Remember that the basil’s texture may not be as crisp as fresh basil, but it will still provide a good flavor.
- Substituting Frozen Basil for Fresh: If a recipe calls for fresh basil and all you have is frozen, don’t worry. You can substitute frozen basil for fresh in most recipes. Use slightly more frozen leaves than the recipe calls for, as the flavor can diminish slightly when frozen.
- In Tomato-Based Dishes: Frozen basil works well in tomato-based dishes like marinara or tomato basil soup. Toss some frozen basil cubes in, and it will taste like fresh basil.
- Pasta with Basil Pesto: An easy dish to utilize frozen basil in a pesto sauce. Blend your frozen basil with olive oil, garlic, and parmesan to make a delicious pesto. Combine it with your preferred pasta for a quick and tasty dish.
- Homemade Pizza with Basil and Tomato Sauce: Use your frozen basil in a homemade tomato sauce for pizza. Simmer canned tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, and frozen basil cubes until it thickens into a sauce. Spread this on your pizza dough, add your favorite toppings, and bake.
- Frozen Pesto Pasta Sauces: Create a flavorful pasta sauce using your frozen basil pesto. Just thaw your pesto, mix in some cream or milk to make it saucy, and heat it up. Toss it with cooked pasta and have a simple, flavorful meal.
- Thai Basil Stir Fry: If you’ve frozen Thai basil, it can be used in various Asian dishes like a stir fry. Sauté your favorite vegetables and proteins, and add your frozen Thai basil at the end for a unique, aromatic twist.
- Tomato Basil Soup: Combine canned tomatoes, olive oil, and frozen basil in a pot. Let it simmer until the flavors meld together. Blend until smooth and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich for a comforting meal.
How To Freeze Basil?
Freezing basil is an easy and effective way to preserve this aromatic herb for future use. It extends its shelf life and retains much of the original flavor and aroma, making it a great addition to various dishes.
While the texture may change slightly after freezing, the essence of the basil remains, thus enhancing the taste of your meals.
The methods of freezing are numerous and can be selected based on personal preference and how you plan to use the basil in your recipes.
Whether you choose to freeze it in ice cube trays with oil or water, make pesto, or simply freeze it whole, each method has unique benefits.
Additionally, storing your frozen basil correctly is essential to maintain its quality and prevent freezer burn. Labeling and dating your storage containers also help keep track of the storage duration.
So, the next time you find yourself with an abundance of fresh basil, don’t let it go to waste. Instead, use these freezing techniques to ensure you have a ready supply of this fragrant herb to enhance your culinary creations throughout the year.