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How to Freeze Basil so Not a Single, Fragrant Leaf Is Left Behind

We try not to play favorites when it comes to fresh herbs, but basil really makes us swoon. This pungent plant has sweet, tender leaves and an oh-so-subtle anise flavor that can brighten and balance almost any plate. In fact, so enamored are we with basil’s alluring aroma, we’ve been known to toss it into salads, soups, stews and, of course, spaghetti. The only problem? When we bring big verdant bunches of the stuff home from the store, it often turns brown and slimy before we can enjoy all those luscious leaves. Yep, our preferred cooking companion doesn’t always fare so well in the fridge but fortunately, we’ve found a waste-free solution: Try one of these methods for how to freeze basil and you’ll be able to savor its fresh flavor for months.

How to Freeze Whole Basil Leaves

Whole leaves can be stirred into soup, spread on top of pizza or simmered in brown butter to make a decadent sauce for pasta. For all these reasons and more, it might be useful to preserve each leaf of your plant just as you found it—in one piece. Freeze whole basil leaves by using the method described below and your herbs will keep their aromatic oomph for up to six months.

1. Set up a blanching station by bringing a pot of water to a vigorous boil over high heat. Then prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with equal parts ice and cold water.

2. Pluck each basil leaf from the stem. Don’t worry about washing these guys—they’ll be getting a good rinse from both the scalding and freezing water in their future.

3. Blanch basil leaves for five to ten seconds in the pot of boiling water. (Note: Blanching will help ensure that your frozen herbs keep their zippy taste and eye-pleasing color, so don’t skip this step.)

4. After ten seconds, promptly remove the basil leaves from the boiling water by straining them into a colander in the sink. Immediately dunk the blanched basil leaves in the prepared ice bath to stop the cooking process.

5. Once completely cooled, take the herbs out of the ice water and dry them. The easiest way to do this is to spread the leaves out on a paper towel-lined tray, place another layer of paper towel on top of the leaves and pat until they’re thoroughly dry. Bear in mind that basil leaves bruise easily, so be sure to use a very gentle touch. Got a salad spinner? Save some paper and use that instead.

6. Transfer the blanched, dried basil to a large bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Use your hands to gently toss the leaves until all have been lightly coated with oil.

7. Once dressed (sparingly) with olive oil, spread the basil leaves out in a single layer on a wax-paper lined baking sheet and flash freeze them until frozen solid (about three hours).

8. Remove the tray of frozen leaves from the freezer and carefully peel each one off the wax paper before storing them in a plastic freezer bag. Squeeze as much air out of the plastic bag as possible, taking care not to bruise or squish the leaves in the process. Seal the bag and move your basil back to the freezer until your next pizza night.

How to Freeze Chopped Basil

Basil can also be chopped before freezing, which is the most sensible method if you prefer to feature this fresh herb in sauces, dressings and marinades. We strongly suggest you put your food processor to work on this one, though—your biceps will thank you. Otherwise, the process for freezing chopped basil is fairly easy. Here’s what you do:

1. Follow steps one through five, as described above.

2. Transfer your blanched, dry basil leaves to a food processor and add one to two tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse to lightly coat and chop the leaves with the press of a button. (Note: The amount of olive oil needed depends on how much basil you’re freezing but the idea is to use just enough so your leaves are lightly-coated, not swimming in the stuff.) Don’t own a food processor? No problem. Just finely chop the leaves with a knife, add them to a bowl and stir in the olive oil. 

3. Spoon the oil-and-herb mixture into an ice cube tray and store in the freezer for up to six months, thawing your cubes of culinary delight as needed.