“How do you keep your herbs fresh and vibrant?” is a question I get on the regular. So today, I’ll tell you exactly how to store fresh herbs so they last and stay green and flavorful for a good while (10 days to 2 weeks, and sometimes, when I'm lucky, even longer!)
My friends have a running joke about me being the “parsley queen”! It’s funny because it’s true! Cooking the Mediterranean way, I use more herbs than anyone I know!
I usually buy my herbs in bulk (bunches of them at a time), and I have a great way to store them so they last me a good 10 days and up to 2 weeks, and sometimes even longer!
Today, I’m sharing all my tips for how to store herbs, particularly soft herbs (like parsley, cilantro, dill, etc.) I also have some tricks for storing hardy herbs like oregano and rosemary so they keep well and remain flavorful.
Know the type of herb you’re working with
There are two types of herbs: soft herbs and hardy herbs, and they need to be stored differently.
Luckily, it's really easy to figure out which type of herb you have. Soft herbs have tender stems and delicate green leaves. The stems are also edible, though, in some cases, they may taste bitter. Some examples of soft herbs are cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, and basil.
Hardy herbs have woody stems (which should not be eaten) and tougher leaves. Rosemary, thyme, and oregano are all hardy herbs.
Most fresh herbs are best stored in the refrigerator (with the exception of basil – more on that later). But depending on the kind of herbs, soft or hardy, you’ll need to prepare them a certain way so they will last in the fridge.
Watch this short video for the best way to store soft herbs
Why do herbs go bad?
If the leaves are turning dark and slimy, or the stems are starting to mold, or your herbs have a funny smell you know it’s time to throw those herbs out. But why do they get bad quickly? Here are a few reasons:
- They may have been already going bad when you bought them. Choose herbs that are bright colored with no wilted leaves. For example, parsley leaves should be super green and perky, not yellow nor limp-looking. Avoid buying herbs that have dark spots or discoloration, or are slimy and soggy. Always do the sniff test when you’re buying fresh produce, including herbs. They should smell fresh and pungent. Any sickly sweet, cloying scent can mean the herbs are either bad or going bad.
- Too much moisture. If the leaves are too wet before you store them away, they will get slimy and start to rot. But if the leaves are too dry, they brown and die.
- Too much oxygen and/or light! Excess oxygen can also turn your fresh herbs brown quicker, while too much light will lead to yellow leaves.
- Temperature is another big reason herbs go bad faster. Most fresh herbs are best stored in the refrigerator. But if they are in areas of the fridge that are too cold (like the back of the top shelf), they can freeze, which will cause them to become mushy and start to decay faster.
Should you wash herbs before storing?
I always wash my herbs before storing them! There is some debate about washing fresh herbs before storing them in the fridge, because washing adds moisture, which can cause decay. But bacteria remains on the herbs if they’re not washed, which can cause them to rot. I wash and dry my herbs thoroughly before preparing them for the fridge.
How to store soft herbs in the fridge
Time needed: 10 minutes.
This is my favorite way to keep soft herbs (such as parsley, dill, cilantro, and mint) fresh for 10 days to 2 weeks in the fridge (sometimes even longer!):
- Remove rubber bands or fastenings
Your herbs will come bundled with a rubber band or some plastic twisty, you need to remove that first as it can damage the herbs.
- Wash the herbs in cool water
Swish the herbs in water several times to get rid of all dirt. I do this in a large bowl, changing the water until it runs clear.
- Dry the leaves very well
Give the herbs a good shake or put them in a salad spinner and give them a gentle spin. Then go ahead and spread them on paper towels or a clean linen towel to dry. (I like to have a clean linen towel under the paper towels for better absorption.) Pat the herbs dry and roll the towels over them so that you can capture any left moisture.
- Trim the herbs.
Trim about an inch or so from the bottom of the stem.
- Put the herbs in water (like a bouquet of flowers).
Fill a large glass of water just ⅓ of the way and put the herbs in it, sort of like a bouquet of flowers. (The trimmed part of the stem should be in the water. The leaves should not touch the water.)
- Cover the herb leaves with a recycled bag
Grab a shopping bag and cover the leaves with it, and tuck the bag under the glass or tie it loosely at the bottom. (If you like, you can also use a tall glass jar with a tight lid, as long as the leaves fit nicely in the jar)
Keep the herbs in the fridge, covered. For best results, change the water every few days. You can also give the stems another small trim.
How about storing basil?
Do not refrigerate basil! Unlike cilantro, parsley, mint, and other soft herbs, basil leaves are very delicate and will bruise and turn black if refrigerated. If you’re wondering how to store basil properly, check out my quick hack to keep basil fresh for up to 2 weeks!
Storing hardy herbs
Hardy herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage can also be stored in the fridge. Start by washing and drying the hardy herbs thoroughly (just like you would soft herbs). Trim off about an inch of the stem. Wrap or roll the herbs in damp paper towels so that you cover the entire herb, then store them in a ziploc bag in the fridge.
Even without any special care, hardy herbs tend to last longer in the refrigerator than soft herbs, even if you just keep it in the little plastic container it’s sold in – usually a week or so. You’ll know they’ve gone bad when the leaves have darkened and wilted, and the stem shows signs of mold.
How long will fresh herbs last in the fridge?
Soft and hardy herbs can last up to 3 weeks in the fridge if stored correctly.
To help out my tender herbs (like cilantro and parsley), I change their water and trim their ends every few days. I also make sure they’re completely covered by the plastic bag at all times. Hardy herbs are more hands-off – once prepped, I leave them alone until I need to use them.
Can you freeze herbs?
Yes! You can freeze herbs, both soft and hardy!
- Hardy herbs take very little effort to freeze. Simply wash and dry them thoroughly, place in a ziploc bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and freeze.
- Soft herbs need a little more preparation. You could take a similar approach to freezing hardy herbs, and simply store the herbs in a freezer-safe bag. The herbs will not look good when defrosted, though, so you should only cook them into dishes (like soups and sauces), not use them for garnish.
- The better method is to freeze your soft herbs in oil! Wash and dry the herbs, then chop them up. Add the chopped up herbs to a clean ice cube tray, cover with extra virgin olive oil, and freeze. Once frozen, you can pop the cubes out of the tray and transfer them to a freezer-safe bag.
- I treat basil a little differently, once again. Follow my simple method for freezing basil, where I blanch and chill the basil leaves, freeze the leaves on a cookie sheet, and then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag.