Don’t let your herbs go to waste. Instead, freeze-dry herbs to preserve the herbs’ flavor and quality. This simple process ensures that your herbs stay fresh and tasty for months or even years. Learn how to freeze-dry herbs with these tips.
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5 Tips for How to Freeze-Dry Herbs
Fresh herbs are a cook’s dream; they add so much flavor to dishes. I grow most herbs at some point during the year in my garden. However, my favorite cool-season herbs are a fond memory during the summer heat. It is the same with fresh garden basil; most winters are too cold for basil to grow well. So I love preserving the seasonal abundance of fresh herbs by freeze-drying. It is my favorite way to preserve fresh herbs.
Freeze-dried herbs retain more flavor and nutrients than dehydrated herbs. Freeze-drying also preserves more of the texture often lost when herbs are frozen. Preserving herbs through freeze-drying is simple; here are five tips to help you learn how to freeze-dry herbs.
1. Harvest herbs at their peak – Use fresh, flavorful herbs
The quality and flavor of the finished product come directly from what you preserve. Learn the best times to harvest the herbs and preserve them as soon as possible after harvest.
- Herbs generally have the most flavor just before flowering.
- The best time to harvest is in the morning (highest moisture content and most volatile oils).
- Use a sharp, clean knife or scissors to harvest.
- Harvest from all over the plant if possible.
- Feed herbs with a liquid fertilizer after a large harvest to encourage more production.
2. Prepare the herbs before freeze-drying
After harvesting, wash or rinse off.
Remove leaves from tough stalks and stems.
Lay flat to dry.
Herb preparation tips for different types of herbs:
Hold one end of the stalk with both hands, and move the thumb and first finger of one hand down the stalk, pinching firmly to remove the leaves.
Hold the bottom of the stalk in one hand and pull the fronds up and outward. Pluck the fronds away from the stems. Alternatively, leave stalks intact and coarsely chop.
Pluck leaves along the stem. If the leaves are small and the stem is very tender, leave them intact and use both the leaves and stem.
Peel if needed and thinly slice. Lay flat in an even layer for best results.
3. Process herbs in the freeze dryer
Freeze-dry herbs as soon as possible after washing and trimming.
Store extra herbs in the fridge covered in a damp paper towel if processing multiple batches of freeze-dried herbs.
It is unnecessary to blanch or pre-freeze (most herbs freeze-dry rather quickly). Most herbs require a processing time of fewer than 12 hours from start to finish.
Don’t freeze-dry different types of very strong-smelling herbs (such as garlic, basil, or cilantro) simultaneously. Other less pungent herbs that are similarly sized freeze-dry very well together and can be processed at the same time.
Fill trays to the side rims (or slightly higher). The trays can be very full.
Follow the instructions for the make/model of your freeze dryer. (For mine, you pre-chill and then push “start”.)
Sensors monitor the food’s temperature and internal moisture levels. At the end of the processing time, herbs should be crisp and dry.
4. Store freeze-dried herbs whole
For larger amounts, store in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber. Refill smaller jars with herbs and then reseal the mylar bag to preserve flavor. Herbs will last indefinitely, but the flavor is most intense if used within a year.
Label herbs right away, as many herbs can look similar. I use these labels from Amazon.
5. Use freeze-dried herbs as you would fresh herbs
Use the same amount or slightly more freeze-dried herbs as fresh herbs—usually less than if dehydrated or dried.
It isn’t necessary to rehydrate herbs for most recipes. Instead, I crumble them in my hand and then toss them in salads, soup, dips, or any recipe straight from the jar.
Freeze-dried cilantro or parsley is delicious in Pomegranate Jalepeño Cream Cheese Dip.
To rehydrate herbs, soak freeze-dried herbs in a bowl of water for 10 minutes, then drain the remaining water.
Freeze-dried herbs are excellent for herbal tea.
Don’t have a freeze dryer?
Purchasing a freeze dryer is certainly an investment. My freeze dryer runs almost nonstop, and I’m grateful to have one. I have the medium size freeze dryer with the premier pump from Harvest Right.
If you are purchasing a freeze dryer, please consider purchasing through my affiliate link. (It doesn’t cost you more, and I earn a small commission.) Your support helps me to continue to provide free content on my blog and YouTube channel.