3 Tips for Preserving Fresh Basil All Year Long

Tips from The Kitchn

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New York City isn't exactly the ideal place for planting a vegetable garden. Or, at least the kind of vegetable garden I'd love to have. Herb gardens on the other hand are totally doable for city dwellers, and something I've had great success with over the years. This year, in particular, I've watched my small basil plant flourish and grow like wildfire. It's happily given way to batches of pesto, refreshing drinks and homemade tomato sauce.

While the days of fresh summer basil will be coming to an end, we've got three tips to help you preserve fresh basil all year long.

I'm partial to freezing fresh basil, either the whole leaves or pureeing it, since it holds the flavor better than dried basil. But, if you enjoy cooking with dried basil, now is the perfect time to make your own.

Beyond these methods here, you can also freeze the herb in olive oil, or make pesto and freeze that too. But if you want the basil whole and unadulterated, these are the best ways.

1. Freeze the leaves whole

You can use frozen basil exactly as you would with fresh leaves. The leaves will shrink as they freeze, so cup for cup, plan to use slightly less than if you were cooking with fresh basil.

Freeze basil whole leaves in these 3 easy steps:

  • Blanch: Remove the basil leaves from the stem and blanch them in boiling water for 2 seconds.
  • Ice bath: Transfer the leaves to an ice bath.
  • Dry & freeze: Dry completely and store in a freezer-safe container, separating the layers with wax or parchment paper.

2. Puree and freeze

If the idea of basil vinaigrette, pesto or adding fresh basil to soup or stew sounds exciting, then consider pureeing and freezing fresh basil leaves for later.

Puree and freeze fresh basil in these 3 easy steps:

  • Prep: Remove the basil leaves from the stem, then wash and dry completely.
  • Puree: Use a food processor to puree the fresh basil leaves with olive oil. Use 1 tablespoon of olive oil per 1 cup of basil.
  • Freeze: Freeze the pureed basil in an ice cube tray, then store in a large resealable plastic bag or freezer-safe container.

3. Dry it

If you like cooking with dried basil, say goodbye to the jars in the spice aisle, because now is the perfect time to dry your own. There are a few different methods, but I like to stick with oven drying because it's so easy.

Oven dry basil in these 3 easy steps:

  • Prep: Remove the basil leaves from the stem, then wash and dry completely.
  • Dry: Set your oven to the lowest temperature. Place the basil leaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then place it on the upper rack of the oven. Bake for 2-4 hours, until the leaves are crumbly.
  • Crumble & store: Remove the basil from the oven and cool. Crumble the basil leaves and store in airtight containers.

Use that bunch of fresh basil now! → 10 Delicious Ways to use a Bunch of Basil

How to you store fresh basil after summer has passed?

(Image credits: Emma Christensen)