How to Freeze Fresh Basil
This post will show you How to Freeze Fresh Basil, and frozen basil is a wonderful thing to have in the freezer when basil is out of season! I’ve been freezing basil for years, so I’ll also give you some recipe suggestions that can work with frozen basil.
PIN this post to try freezing some basil later!
When I wrote a quick little post about How to Freeze Fresh Basil years ago for Weekend Herb Blogging, I didn’t realize it would turn into one of the most popular posts ever on Kalyn’s Kitchen! I’m still growing and freezing fresh basil every summer and if you have garden basil, this post will help you freeze it to use all winter in soup, stew, and pasta sauce.
Check out all the ideas for using frozen basil after the photos, and then get freezing some basil for winter!
Step One: Trim your basil plants often!
If you’re a gardener who’s growing basil, trimming your basil plants regularly will let you freeze basil to use all through the winter. I do this several times each summer, whenever I have some basil that needs to be harvested. Here’s how my basil looked before I trimmed the plants and pulled off the big leaves.
Here’s my basil after I trimmed it. Basil will actually produce more leaves if it’s vigorously trimmed a few times each year, since everywhere you cut the stem it produces two new stems. Just be sure to keep a few leaves on each stem (remember high school botany, that’s where the plant gets food.)
Step Two: Wash the basil leaves and dry them well!
I pinch off all the basil leaves, discard the stems, and wash the leaves very well in a salad spinner (affiliate link). Spin them as dry as you possibly can. If you don’t have a salad spinner, just wash your basil leaves in the sink and dry them well with paper towels.
Step Three: Chop the basil leaves in a food processor!
Put a few of handfuls of basil into the Food Processor (affiliate link), using the steel blade. The food processor bowl should be full, but not tightly packed. (I haven’t tried chopping up the basil by hand, but I’m sure it can work if you don’t have a food processor.)
Step Four: Add olive oil while you chop the basil!
I pulse the food processor with one hand and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube with the other hand, just pulsing until the basil is coarsely chopped. You should make sure that all the basil is coated with oil, which keeps it from going dark in the freezer.
I use about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil for each batch in the food processor when I’m making coarsely chopped basil like this to use for pasta sauce, soup, or stew during the winter. When I’m making basil puree to add to basil vinaigrette I use more oil and chop the basil much more finely.
Step Five: Put the chopped basil in containers for the freezer!
I have two sizes of these little plastic containers with tight lids that I use to freeze the basil. It doesn’t matter what size container you use, but a good trick is to measure the containers before you first use them. That way, when you pull one out of the freezer for a recipe, you’ll know how much it is. Some people like to freeze the chopped basil in ice-cube trays, then pop them out and seal with the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer (affiliate link).
Another way of freezing the chopped basil is in a quart-size plastic bag, smashing the basil down flat and pressing all the air out of the bag. This is easy to fit into a crowded freezer, and when it’s time to use some basil you can just break off a piece and put the rest back into the freezer.
Recipes that work well with frozen basil:
Italian Beef Stew with Zucchini, Mushrooms, and Basil
White Bean Soup with Italian Sausage, Zucchini, and Basil
Ratatouille Stew with Italian Sausage
Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce for the Freezer
Cannellini Bean and Sausage Stew
More suggestions for using basil:
If you don’t have enough basil to freeze, here’s How to Preserve Fresh Basil on the Countertop. Something I make with basil every summer is Basil Pesto with Lemon. You can also make French Pistou Sauce from Julia Child if you want a dairy-free sauce with basil. (Pesto and Pistou also freeze well.) There’s a great collection of recipes using basil in my post on Cooking with Fresh Basil. Check out Cooking Tips for more cooking tip posts like this one.
More tips for freezing herbs and vegetables:
My Favorite Tips for Freezing Garden Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, and Vegetables
How to Freeze Fresh Herbs: Rosemary and Thyme
More about Freezing Fresh Herbs: Freezing Sage, Tarragon, and Mint
This post showing How to Freeze Fresh Basil was updated with better photos and more information, July 2008. It was last updated with more information in 2022.
163 Comments on “How to Freeze Fresh Basil”
Isn’t it amazing that the “covering basil with olive oil entirely before freezing” is not a standard instruction? We only blundered upon it after being devastated by quite black frozen pesto the first time I froze it (some years ago)
Until your post about freezing basil here, I’ve never seen it spelled out that way. I’m so glad you did.
P.S. Thanks for the link! My husband is tickled that you mentioned his brilliance at thinking of serving basil pesto with whole toasted pinenuts. And you really must try it! It’s fabulous.
Kalyn, I couldn’t agree more. Basil is my all time favorite herb. I’ve tried to grow it, but it’s always been a failure, so I just buy it instead. Of course up here in Toronto, the big fat gorgeous bunches are only to be had in summer. The rest of the year we have to buy tiny little packets for the same price!
Thanks for sharing the gardening tips. Maybe I’ll try again!
I just found your blog today! Great blog! I will be back again and again as I look for great recipes…
My blog is: http://ca.360.yahoo.com/the.bunnyo I am blogging my attempted to go a year without junk food…
Some important things about basil are to never let it flower-keep pruning. Prune the branch to just above a set of leaves to promote side branches. You can prune as low as to leave 3 sets of leaves on the branch. Fertilize every other week with nitrogen fertilizer such as fish emulsion. If you need to prune more than you need, strip the lower leaves, put in water, change water daily and you will soon have rooted cuttings ready to plant for more wonderful plants
This is really helpful to know, Kalyn. Usually I make pesto and freeze that, but I’ve never tried freezing basil on its own. I didn’t know ginger root could be frozen too. Thanks for the great tips!
Ivonne, it did smell good! Nothing like the smell of basil.
Ed, there’s always next summer!
Gabriella, can’t wait to see what you do with your basil.
Charles, love to help people learn new things.
PatL, I used to use ice cube trays too before I found these little containers. (Great minds thinking alike and all that!)
Yes, I love doing that! I freeze mine in ice cube trays, then put the frozen cubes in a plastic bag. If I do it just right, each cube is 1 T of oily basily goodness! Yum!
I am still learning the ropes about herbs and stuff. This is a nice tip. I didnt know that herbs can be frozen. I only learned about the dried stuff.
Great post! I hae done it many times but it is great to see it all laid out.
and yes, I do remember the high school botany part.
Great post. We should have done it while we had loads of basil.
Great tips Kalyn!
I can almost smell that basil from here, Kalyn!
Orchidea, interesting to know that it’s common to freeze basil in Italy. I had read in so many cookbooks that you can’t do it, but they’re probably by American writers.
Tanna, of course you’re right. Before I get too jealous about you growing basil in the winter in Texas, I should think about the hot summers. In Utah summer is pretty nice because of no humidity, although it gets pretty hot here too.
Well, Kalyn you may not like your winter but I sure don’t like our summers! Nobody and nothing is perfect.
I’ve so far been successful at getting my husband to create some area sheltered enough in our mild Texas winter, that I’m able to grow basil all year. But, this will be useful if I have another basil failure like this winter. Thanks for a great tip.
Comments which are unrelated to the content of the post and appear to be nothing more than an attempt to advertise another blog will be deleted. I apologize if this seems harsh, but I learned from experience that if you let people post comments like that, they will do it over and over.
Adoro il basilico!
My parents in Italy have basil in their garden and they use it fresh but me… here in Sweden… I always buy basil, simply take the leaves off, wash them well and then put them in the freezer. All people I know in Italy also freeze basil when it is out of season.
Great advice Kalyn. I’ve found that basil does freeze great, if it has oil added to it. And it’s wonderful to be able to take out a little frozen cube of it and toss it in soup or some other dish.
Genie, don’t be afraid to cut them back. Sometimes I even trim them more vigorously than the one in the photo. I think as soon as the plant has some good sized leaves you can start cutting it back. I’m usually careful to leave a set of leaves on each stem, but honestly I don’t know if it’s necessary. That’s just a habit I have from “pinching back” houseplants, and I’m guessing the same principal applies here.
Kalyn, this may be the most helpful bit of information I’ve read in weeks! Thanks so much for posting this — I’m definitely going to put it to use, especially now that I have two basil plants.
I have to admit…I’ve been nervous about cutting the basil back. My two plants are still pretty small, but I want them to start getting bushy so I can use them regularly. How soon do you usually do your first cutting back?
The Inadvertent Gardener