How to Store and Preserve Fresh Basil

Make slouchy basil a thing of the past — here's how to store it so it stays fresh for as long as possible. 

Basil provides fresh, summery flavor to favorite hot-weather dishes like salads, grilled pizza, bruschetta, and more. But just because it brings the fresh flavor, doesn't mean it stays fresh for long. Sadly, this bright green herb can go from tall and perky to limp and wilted before you ever get the chance to use it. But I'm here to tell you — it doesn't have to be this way.

If you think you've sworn off this ever-fading herb, give this a read first. When stored properly, fresh basil can last long enough for you to actually get your money's worth out of it. And if you need it to last even longer, you'll also learn how to freeze and dry basil for long term preservation.

How to Store Fresh Basil Leaves

There is no decided method for storing basil. People swear by different methods, so we've provided two options, both of which have proven results.

fresh cut basil in glass cup with water on white background
Andy Lyons/Meredith

Method #1: Basil Bouquet

As with many fresh herbs, it's helpful to think of them as cut flowers. Any leafy herb with a soft stem, including basil, can be stored as you would a bouquet of flowers — in water. Here's how:

  1. Trim the stems, removing the last inch or so. Place basil in a jar filled with a few inches of water.
  2. Loosely cover the tops of the basil with a plastic bag (unfortunately, your basil bouquet won't make a beautiful centerpiece). A thin, produce bag works great for this.
  3. Leave the basil bouquet out at room temperature, replacing the water every few days. Whatever you do, don't refrigerate it. Exposed basil doesn't do well in the cold. Once you're ready to enjoy, wash and dry the leaves.

Fresh basil will last one to two weeks when stored this way.

Method #2: Plastic Bag

Another popular method for storing basil is the plastic bag method (it sounds far less exciting than "basil bouquet," I know). If you prefer to keep your basil stored in the fridge like salad greens, this method protects it from the harsh elements.

  1. Go ahead and remove the leaves from the stems. Wash and dry the leaves, using either a paper towel or a salad spinner.
  2. Wrap the basil leaves in a dry paper towel and place inside a plastic bag. Seal and store for one to two weeks.
Fresh basil on paper
Carson Downing/Meredith

How to Preserve Basil

If you don't plan to use your basil within one to two weeks, there are two methods for long term preservation: freezing and drying.

Freezing Basil

Because basil isn't as hardy as herbs like rosemary or mint, it does best when frozen as a paste. Here's how:

  1. Rinse the herbs. Then blanch them by dipping them in a pot of boiling water for about 10 seconds (using tongs is the best way to do this). Then shock them by immediately plunging them into a bowl of ice water.
  2. Dry with a paper towel or salad spinner. Remove the stems.
  3. Add to a food processor along with just enough olive oil to create a sort of pesto-like paste. Freeze in an ice tray for individually-portioned servings.

To use frozen basil, add it to hot dishes straight from frozen, or thaw and drain before adding to cold dishes. Frozen basil will last for up to three months.

Read More: How to Freeze Fresh Herbs

Drying Basil

You never know how long store-bought dried basil has been sitting on the shelf, so drying your own is going to be the fresher (and cheaper) option. Here's how:

  1. Wash and thoroughly dry the basil. Remove the stems.
  2. Set your oven to 200 degrees F, or the lowest temperature. Add the basil to a parchment-lined baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven. Bake for two to four hours, or until dry and crumbly.
  3. Allow the basil to cool completely, crumble, and store in an airtight container for up to a year.

As with all dried herbs, the ratio is about one teaspoon dried for one tablespoon fresh.


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