4 Ways to Preserve Fresh Rosemary

updated Aug 27, 2022
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(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

If you’re one of the lucky ones who lives in a hot climate, preserving rosemary might not be an issue for you, since rosemary is evergreen in warmer growing zones. If you live in a colder climate, like I do, you know rosemary doesn’t survive the winter, so learning ways to preserve your harvest is necessary.

The fresh, bright flavor of rosemary can be used for everything from grilled vegetables and roasted lamb to savory marinades and herbaceous cocktails, and capturing its vibrant flavor couldn’t be easier.

Freeze Your Rosemary

Rosemary’s sturdy, resinous character makes it a perfect candidate for freezing. Of course, you can freeze rosemary leaves in ice cube trays, suspended in either olive oil or filtered water. You can also make “herb roll-ups” by filling freezer bags with rosemary leaves, squeezing out any excess air, and rolling the bags from their base to the top, like we showed in last week’s post on preserving parsley.

My favorite and most convenient means of freezing rosemary requires one extra step, but the result is worth it. Take individual clippings of rosemary, leaves still attached to the stem, and place them on a baking sheet. Place the rosemary sprigs in the freezer for a couple of hours, until they are frozen solid. Transfer the sprigs to a freezer bag for future use. Instead of a large mass of leaves, now you can easily pluck one or two sprigs, as needed, for garnishes, additions to soups, and components for rubs.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

Dry Your Rosemary

Unlike more tender herbs, like parsley or basil, rosemary naturally holds its flavor, color, and texture when it is dried. Drying it couldn’t be easier, either. Each of the three most-commonly used methods — air-drying, oven-drying, and dehydrating — are all great options. After washing and drying rosemary sprigs, bundle them together, tie them up at their bases, and hang in a well-ventilated area to air-dry.

Rosemary also dries evenly in the oven. Place sprigs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and set the oven on the lowest temperature possible. Choose the “warm” setting or even just let the pilot light do the work, if you have a gas oven. My favorite method? Place rosemary sprigs in a food dehydrator, select the lowest setting, and wait a couple of days. Due to rosemary’s thicker texture, the dehydrating process might take a little longer than other herbs.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

Try a Rosemary Infusion

Infusing vinegar or olive oil with rosemary is a great idea. Think about all of the marinades, rubs, and salad dressings you’ll be able to quickly toss together. One of my favorite ways to use my fresh rosemary is to make rosemary bitters. I follow Emily’s directions from her post, “How to Make Homemade Bitters,” and I steep several rosemary sprigs, along with a few grapefruit peels, for two to three weeks. After straining off the solids, bottle it up and add a few drops to hot tea or a gin-based cocktail.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

Make Rosemary Citrus Salt

One of my favorite things to have around during grilling season is rosemary citrus salt. Start with a cup of coarse sea salt and add a good handful of fresh rosemary leaves, along with the zest from one lemon. Pulse in a food processor until you achieve a fine texture. Store in an airtight container. This loose recipe works well with other resinous herbs, like savory, sage, or thyme, and is stellar on grilled chicken, vegetables, lamb, or steak.

I even like to take a handful of rosemary citrus salt and add a little olive oil or sweet almond oil to make a fragrant after-gardening hand scrub.

What are your favorite ways to preserve rosemary?