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9 Ways to Freeze Basil Properly

Ways to freeze basil properly.

“There are about TEN different ways to freeze Basil….Properly grandson”, giggled grandpa with a wicked glint in his eye.

When I was a boy, instead of going off to camp or summer school, I usually visited my grandparents at their veggie farm for the summer. It was during one such visit that one night I woke up to hear my grandparents whispering in the next room.

“So, how are we going to freeze our basil, daddy?” rasped grandma.

“I don’t know mummy, there are so many ways to freeze basil…especially if we’re to do it properly.”

Having heard how old folk sometimes become witches and wizards in old age, I immediately thought my grandparents had become such and were, at that very moment, whispering about ways to freeze my friend Basil from the next farm, properly!

As you can imagine, I screamed and screamed and screamed.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it was only after grandpa later explained which basil they had been discussing, what it is, why freeze it, and the different ways of freezing basil properly, that I was able to enjoy the rest of my summer vacation with them. 

This is what my grandpappy had to say about basil….

What is basil and why freeze it…properly?

Basil leaves in a bowl.

Basil is a bright green leafy herb that is very healthy. It grows well and abundantly during summer. It is one of the culinary world’s most versatile herbs. It can be used in many different dishes and can be used as a garnish.

As a result, when most think of basil, they think of pesto, tomato sauce, or chicken pasta. But that’s not all. Basil is also a great herb to add to many other dishes.

However, should you be one of those who wants to have basil pesto, tomato sauce, and chicken pasta all year round, but don’t want to pay a premium for basil in the off-season, like me, then freezing it is a good way of storing it all year round.

While basil can be used both fresh and dried, dried basil is best for long-term storage. For the medium to short term, freezing is recommended. This is because basil is a very delicate herb that is intolerant to cold conditions and darkens when you cut it. This makes storing it long-term whilst at the same time trying to preserve its color, texture, and flavor, a complicated procedure.

Should you ever decide to freeze your basil, however, make sure you do so properly.

For starters, the difference between freezing basil and other food items and basil that you store in your freezer is that you cannot simply put it in a Tupperware or lunch box and throw it in the deep. This will only make your basil brittle and fragile. And when you eventually thaw it, your basil will be soggy and limp, at best.

Not to mention the fact that taste will have changed because all the freshness would’ve gone. Storing fresh basil in an airless package like a freezer bag with the air pressed out of it is the best way to freeze basil properly. Luckily, there are numerous other ways you can freeze your basil properly so it doesn’t lose its flavor or nutritional value. One such proper way to do it is to freeze it inside ice cubes.

Anchor1. Freeze Basil Using Ice Cubes

Freezing basil in ice cubes.

A family secret way of freezing basil properly Grandpappy shared with me that summer was to freeze it inside ice cubes. According to gramps, one of the secret ways our family has been freezing basil properly is to first dice it and place it in empty ice cubes.

Be careful though, not to make air pockets when you pour the water into the trays, because this will make the leaves stale and brown inside the ice cubes-despite them being frozen. Once you have done so, put the diced basil in the ice-cube trays’ yet unfrozen cold water. Then put the trays in the freezer until your ice cubes are frozen basil.

2. Freeze Basil Using Shallow Trays

If you have large trays and an equally large deep freezer or cold room, Gramps revealed you can also lay the basil leaves without cutting them, in shallow trays with water. The only downside to this is that they will quickly turn brown when thawing.

3. Freeze Basil Using Freezer bags with Water Inside

Freezing basil in freezing bag.

Alternatively, grandpa advised freezing basil following the same process as above but instead using freezer bags with water inside. Done properly, this method of using freezer bags apparently gives you a greater chance of preserving your basil properly. 

Just when I had heard all our family’s secret ways of freezing basil properly from grandpa, grandma also jumped in with one of her own. That of freezing basil properly is by using olive oil!

Anchor4. Freeze Basil Using Olive Oil and a Freezer Bag

It is a known truth that olive oil has a multitude of amazing health benefits for our bodies, however, according to grandma, it is also a fantastic way of freezing basil properly. Apparently, olive oil preserves basil by preventing air from spoiling the leaves whilst it is stored. Grandma vows that the beauty of using olive oil is that its mild flavor does not overpower the basil’s flavor – if anything, olive oil enhances it.

To use olive oil to freeze the basil properly, you first have to wash the leaves. Thereafter, dry them, chop them up and then put them in a food processor or blender. Leave the basil until all the leaves are shredded. Next, pour the olive oil into the food processor with the basil and mix the two well. The final step is to remove as much air as possible out of a freezer bag and then pour the contents into it. Now freeze your basil in olive oil in the freezer.

5. Freeze Basil Using Olive Oil and a Mason Jar

Basil leaves in mason jar.

On the other hand, grandma also revealed how for years she had been freezing basil following the same process as the one above but instead using mason jars. Done properly, this method of freezing basil using mason jars can also give you a greater chance of preserving it properly. 

However, as she also admitted, the downside to Grandma’s methods is that, depending on the quantity of your basil, you might need to use a lot of olive oil, and let’s just say, olive oil doesn’t come cheap.

Then there’s always the off chance of the mason jar still breaking in your freezer! But as she explained, there is little chance of this happening if you keep in mind that liquid expands when it’s frozen. So, all you have to do is ensure that you fill the jar to the appropriate line to allow for the inevitable expansion to occur without the jar breaking. 

Since those summer vacations at my grandparents’ farm, I have since discovered that the official way of freezing basil properly is blanching it.

Anchor6. Freeze Basil Properly by Blanching it

Blanching basil leaves in large pan.

Most of my grandparents’ family secret ways of freezing basil properly involve chopping and dicing or shredding the basil first in a food processor before.

However, there are times when diced basil just won’t do, as when you might require an intact basil leaf. Such as when you need a sheet of basil that you can break off manageable quantities for your soup or sauce. This is when to have blanched your basil comes in most handy.

Freezing basil by blanching it is when you steam or scald your basil in hot water for a short time and immediately cool it with icy water. Scientifically speaking, blanching is usually done to stop enzyme actions that cause loss of flavor, texture, and color in leafy vegetables or herbs. To freeze your basil properly by blanching it, follow these steps:

  • Wash & dry basil leaves.
  • Boil pot of water.
  • Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water.
  • Put fresh basil leaves into a colander.
  • Place the colander with leaves into the previously boiled pot of water for 3-5 seconds.
  • Remove the blanched leaves and immediately put them into the ice water bath.
  • Spin the blanched leaves dry in a salad spinner or pat dry them.
  • Spread them out on a cookie sheet and then freeze them until firm 12-24 hours.
  • Transfer basil leaves to a freezer bag and pop them back into your freezer.
  • Thaw as needed.

The challenge with blanching is ensuring that you scald the leaves just long enough (3-5 minutes.) for effective preservation and short enough that you do not leach the nutrients or lose the flavor. Leaves can also turn brown if you leave them for seconds too long before putting them in the freezer.

So, an issue some people might have with blanching is the potential loss of water-soluble nutrients in basil. Apparently, the flavor of basil reduces in potency when you steam the leaves for too long. It can be a delicate balance that is difficult to get right every time. Requiring some 12-24 hours, blanching, though proper, is a time-consuming way of freezing basil, properly.

What of freezing basil by rolling it in a paper towel first?

7. Freeze Basil Properly – Roll it in a Paper Towel First

Wrapping basin in paper.

The science behind this way of freezing basil properly is that a paper towel absorbs moisture. This fact about paper helps to keep the leaves fresh and dry in the freezer.

However, this method is best when you would like to store basil short term. This is because the moisture that is trapped by the paper towels tends to compromise the paper towels themselves and expose the basil to the frosty conditions of the freezer.

To freeze your basil properly by rolling it in a paper towel first, follow these steps:

  • Wash and dry your basil leaves.
  • Add a single layer of leaves to a paper towel and roll it up.
  • Remove as much air as possible from your gallon freezer bag, remove as much air as possible and freeze your basil.

Disappointingly, after freezing your basil properly using this method, thawing for use becomes a chore. Unfortunately, the leaves get stuck on the paper, and extracting them is not easy. You have to peel the leaves off and sometimes they come away with bits of the paper towel! It can be especially difficult to take a few leaves and roll the rest back up again. As such, you’ve to use the lot once you have thawed some.

Akin to my grandpa’s way of using shallow trays, is that of freezing unblanched basil, spread on a tray!

8. Freezing Unblanched Basil, Spread on a Tray

Basil leaves in tray.

Usually used for preserving such veggies as berries and green beans, it can also be used to freeze unblanched basil spread on a tray properly.

It takes less than five steps to freeze your unblanched basil properly. To do so,  follow these THREE simple steps below:

  • Wash and dry your basil leaves.
  • Place the leaves on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  • Freeze 12-24 hours until firm.
  • Pressing as much air as possible out of the freezer bag and putting your leaves into the freezer.  

Since the basil leaves will not be in contact with anything but the tray, they are easily thawed and effortlessly removable for cooking. Although they will occasionally break, basil leaves frozen using this method proves one of the best ways to do so. They look just like they did when they were put on the tray.

When later in life I asked grandpa how much like “his” freezing basil using shallow trays this way of freezing unblanched basil spread on a tray was, his sage  reply was simply, “Great minds think alike!!, grandson, that they do.” He laughed.

If this was not enough, grandma’s “secret” way of freezing basil using olive oil and mason jars also now sounds very much like a method that’s quite popular on Pinterest called…

9. Chopped and Coated with Oil

To freeze basil using this method, simply follow the steps below:

  • Wash, dry, and then chop your basil leaves.
  • Sprinkle your basil leaves with some olive oil.
  • Portion into mason jars and freeze.

Like Grandma’s method, in this one, the basil leaves are also chopped and then put in Mason jars. By all accounts, freezing basil leaves in this way makes it difficult to remove them from the jar-they should talk to Gran!  

When l approached Grandma about the similarities between the two methods, her simple answer was, “There is nothing new under the sun,” then hurriedly walked away.

I guess when it comes to ways to freeze basil…properly, “where there is a will, there is a way“.