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”
Glad you like the site, Jana. I'm afraid I haven't ever grown lemon balm so I can't give much advice about it. I would try google though; I bet someone has written about it.
I just discovered your website searching for ways to harvest and store my abundant basil. I also want to harvest my lemon balm. Is it time? How to trim and harvest the herb,so it continues growing? Excellent work/site! Quite amazing, will let my friends know about it! Jana
Maria, at the end of the post above there is a link to a post on how to freeze rosemary and thyme. I trim my herbs way back in the spring every year.
Hi Kalyn, I just came across your site. I have rosemary and thyme plants that are overgrown and have a lot of thick stems. . I want to get new growth. What would be the best method of harvesting and preserving.
Can you use a blender to chop the basil? I don't have a food processor.
You might be able to get it to work in a blender, but I am a bit worried that it will chop the basil more finely than you'd want. If you did it that way, I would only buzz for a second or two, then stir, repeating until it's all chopped. You could also chop the basil by hand and then mix with olive oil in a bowl.
Thanks, and you can also freeze the pesto. Some sources say leave the cheese out but I've frozen pesto with cheese and haven't notice any problem with it.
And here it is…what I didn't see before, when I sent a comment on the basil chicken breasts!
Awesome, this answers my "how" question!
Thank you for the wonderful recipes and for having such a fun and interesting blog. I've been lurking for years now and just had to come out of the woodwork to tell you how amazing this blog is. I'm always recommending it to people!
Thanks for this awesome idea. I searched out on ways to have a "fresher" way to store my basil in the winter after reading that it is one of several herbs that isn't flavor worthy when dried. Not sure if I agree with that but at least it lead me to your site. I followed your directions and them made 1/4 cup dollops onto a waxed-papered cookie sheet, put them in the freezer overnight, and then transferred the dollops into a freezer bag. Perfect! Thanks again!
Margaret so happy that I have helped you keep your basil to use in the winter!
Kalyn, I just discovered your blog with the heading that it was updated in June 2008. What a great find for me. Basil has become my very favorite herb and you are my very favorite blogger for having such fantastic tips for all of us. Bless you for giving us a method to save all of that fantastic taste for winter use. Have a great fall and winter, Margaret
I have heard about people freezing pesto like that and just breaking off as much as they need. I think that would work find for this basil too. Hope you enjoy it!
I press my pesto flat in a freezer bag and freeze it that way. I make the layer thing enough that it's easy just to break off what I need. I love the idea of having a more neutral option since I've been wanting to try using basil in some sweeter dishes.
Pesto has garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese besides the basil and it's much more finely pureed. This basil is barely chopped.
by adding the olive oil, isn't this like pesto? i made a bunch of pesto with my basil last year and froze it.
Glad it was helpful and thick plastic bags should work just fine.
Thank you, this was very helpful and I'm looking forward to having this basil in winter! I put my mixture into small plastic snack bags, doubled.
I hadn't thought of trying it with water; thanks for sharing that.
I either process basil with oil or with water and then spread it out on a cookie sheet. Place it in the freezer then when it's frozen I break it up like brittle and keep it frozen for soups and sauces or add other stuff to make pesto. I do this with Kale and Lamb's Quarter and Chard also. A good way to sneak in nutrients with my husband who turns his nose up at chard and kale unless it's saturated with oil and served with potatoes!
Cheryl, I use this all winter long in pasta sauce, soup, and stews.
Carol, so glad it's helpful for you.
And years after your post, it is STILL helping folks! I cut back all my basil today – the plants were HUGE. Then I went through what I had cut and took off the good leaves. All last winter, I had to buy basil weekly for my cooking, and I am determined to not do that again. So your description of how to freeze basil is very helpful. Thanks! Now I have to do the same with my rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley, and dill.