Here's How Long Fresh Herbs Last—Plus, How to Store Them Properly
From basil to mint to the super versatile parsley, fresh herbs are available in your grocery store year-round. Their fragrant flavor and bright green color will liven up just about any dish, sweet or savory, as well as cocktails. Get to know some of the most popular varieties of fresh herbs and how to keep them fresh once you bring them home. Plus, try out our smart method for preserving their essence.
How to Store Fresh Herbs
Tender herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and mint should not be stored in the refrigerator—this can encourage the leaves to brown; instead, trim the stems, place them in a glass with about one inch of water, and store at room temperature, just like you would with a bouquet of flowers. Cover with a plastic produce bag, which helps to keep the leaves vibrant for approximately seven to 10 days.
For heartier herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano, simply wrap the stems in a damp paper towel, store in an airtight plastic bag or container, and place in the refrigerator.
How to Preserve the Flavor of Fresh Herbs
One of the best ways to ensure that your fresh herbs last for more than one week is to make herb ice cubes. Chop the herb of your choice finely, fill an ice cube tray halfway with the chopped herbs, then top with a little water, olive oil, or stock, and freeze. Then you can pop out a cube or two whenever you want to add herbal flavor and green color to a dish. This trick is best used for hearty herbs such as rosemary or thyme, which are less likely to get soggy than other varieties, such as dill or basil.
Another delicious way to make sure that fresh herbs last is by using them for homemade compound butter. Just add a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (try tarragon and lemon zest or basil and garlic) to softened butter, form into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Widely used in Mediterranean cooking, basil is aromatic and slightly pungent. Basil's delicate leaves are best used raw or added at the end of the cooking process, which helps to preserve their bright green color. It's often used as the base for pesto, but we also love it tossed with pasta or used as a garnish, as we've done with Pork-Cutlet Parmesan.
This fresh green herb, which is popular in both Mexican and Asian cooking, comes from the same plant as dried coriander seeds. While some may think that it tastes soapy, we love cilantro's pronounced flavor because it can stand up to spicy foods, such as this Smoky Tofu Chili.
Sometimes called the pickling herb, dill has a grassy flavor that works well in salads, soups, and sauces, as well as savory baked goods. It pairs especially well with fish, such as this recipe for Wild Salmon and Romanesco Pilaf, or in Zucchini Dill Pickles, a twist on the classic fermented snack.
Used in both sweet and savory dishes, as well as cocktails like the mojito, mint is a delicate herb that has a mild scent and a peppery flavor. It adds brightness to our Spiced Beef Stew with Carrots and Chickpeas, as well as Poached Chicken Sandwiches with Peas and Radishes, a springtime tartine.
An all-around favorite, a tablespoon of chopped parsley can instantly transform the look of a plated meal when used as a garnish. It has a very mild, slightly lemony flavor that works with nearly any dish. Sprinkle it over this Lemon and Parsley Risotto, mix it with bulgur and tomatoes for our Easy Tabbouleh recipe, use it in this French-inspired Trout with Almond-Parsley Butter.
A hearty herb with sturdy leaves, rosemary has a woodsy flavor that pairs well with poultry and red meat. When preparing our Pan-Fried Steak, add a sprig or two during the last few minutes of cooking, along with a couple of whole, smashed garlic cloves, to create even more aromatic flavor.
A common ingredient in French cuisine, thyme is used to season sauces, stocks, and vegetables, and it goes particularly well with poultry and shellfish. It can be used in many of the same recipes as rosemary, but its leaves are smaller and the flavor is more delicate, which makes it slightly more versatile.