Freezing cilantro is a great way to keep the herb for future use. You can be certain you will be getting fresh-tasting cilantro time and again through this method of preservation. This versatile herb can be used in a variety of recipes, but often times you are stuck buying more than your recipe calls for. That is where freezing comes in handy.
Don’t let your cilantro go to waste! Pop your leftovers in the freezer next time. Read on to learn all about how to freeze cilantro.
Can You Freeze Cilantro?
Freezing is the ideal way to extend the life of your cilantro. You can freeze cilantro for up to a year and use it as much as you need.
Next to drying herbs, freezing is one of the most common methods of making herbs last. Although herbs lose a bit of their bright color in the freezer, they retain much more of their fresh flavors than they do dry.
If you don’t intend to use all of your cilantro at once, freezing is the best way to ensure you get the fresh taste as if you had just picked it from the plant.
How To Freeze Cilantro
There are a few different methods you can use to freeze your cilantro. Unlike herbs with larger leaves like basil and bay leaves that can easily be frozen whole, it is best to do some prep work with the cilantro before you begin the freezing process.
The delicate leaves of the plant will retain better this way and will help you easily add it to recipes later on with little extra effort.
One popular method is to freeze the cilantro using ice cube trays. For this method, first, wash and dry the cilantro completely.
Depending on personal preference, you can either finely chop or purée the cilantro in a food processor. Add the herb to an ice cube tray with the desired amount per cube, and add water to fill the remaining space in the tray. Based on how you intend to use your preserved cilantro, you may also choose to fill the trays with oil instead of water or mix and match for different recipes.
If you do decide you would rather keep the whole leaves intact for your freezing process, that is possible as well. Take the sprigs whole and blanch them in boiling water. Follow up by cooling the cilantro down in ice water. Pat dry and seal in an airtight bag or container. Removing stems is optional.
The ice cube method eliminates the need for thawing time, and you can add the cubes straight into the dish you are preparing. Keeping them whole is ideal when you plan to use the cilantro as a garnish or would prefer it not to be very finely chopped.
How Long Does Cilantro Last In The Freezer?
The lifespan of fresh cilantro in the fridge is very short. Freshness can be maintained anywhere between 3 to 10 days but will show visible signs of decreased quality by color changes and wilting.
When preserving cilantro in the freezer, you can extend the life of the herb by at least six months but up to a year. Technically, frozen cilantro can last in a freezer indefinitely, but quality does fade slightly over time.
If you choose to top your guacamole with 15-month-old cilantro from your freezer, it will still be fine to eat, but you may be wondering where the flavor is.
The best way to ensure you maximize the longevity of frozen cilantro is by proper storage. Properly stored frozen herbs avoid the risk of freezer burn and overall protects the freshness you are trying to preserve.
Keep the storage container sealed tight, and make sure you remove as much moisture as possible before the initial freeze. Remove excess air if using bags for storing, and freeze in small batches.
How To Tell If Frozen Cilantro Is Bad
The window of preservation for fresh cilantro is very short. Frozen cilantro itself will not turn bad once it has been frozen, aside from potentially losing some of its flavor over time.
The real concern lies in if the cilantro has started to turn bad by the time you are freezing it. A telltale sign of cilantro turning bad is by the color. The leaves of the herb are bright green when fresh but turn dark green as they start to spoil. Brown leaves indicate the plant is dead and therefore should not be frozen.
If the plant is soft, slimy, or is giving off an unpleasant smell before you are ready to store it in the freezer, it should not be preserved. Color may lessen during the freezing process as well, but should not be taken as an indication of spoilage as it would be when fresh.
As long as you freeze your cilantro while it is still of good quality and keep it stored properly while frozen, you should not be at risk for bad cilantro.
How To Use Frozen Cilantro
Frozen cilantro can be used in any dish fresh cilantro is called for. Be aware that in the thawing process, however, the leaves will become a little soggy and may not be ideal for garnish or topping dishes.
If you choose to freeze your cilantro in the ice cube tray, you can easily add the cubes to soups or sauces. Pesto is a popular Italian sauce usually composed of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and olive oil. It is a popular choice to substitute the basil for cilantro or add a mix of the two for a more dynamic flavor.
Cilantro is a staple ingredient in many Latin American dishes, including cilantro lime rice, which is a side dish that commonly accompanies barbacoa pork, beef, and carnitas. Chimichurri, a sauce common in Argentinian dishes, combines cilantro, parsley, oregano, red wine vinegar, and olive oil for a delicious table sauce and spread to pair with meat.
Cilantro is also a versatile herb that can add a bit of zest to your salad, homemade salsa, or a popular choice, guacamole. These dishes will benefit from cilantro that was frozen whole.
If you intend on adding your frozen cilantro to a dish you are cooking, there is no need to thaw it before adding it. If you would like to add them to a cold dish or as a garnish, you can bring them out of the freezer and let them sit at room temperature for just a few minutes.
Gently pat the leaves dry with a paper towel and add to your dish. A few seconds in the microwave can also expedite the process, but be careful not to keep them there for too long as you may end up drying them entirely.
With proper storage, frozen herbs, including cilantro, can last up to and often over a year. Be sure you store your herbs in airtight containers and pat them dry before the initial freeze for the best results.
Frozen cilantro will not have the same crisp leaves as fresh cilantro does because of the added moisture it ends up absorbing. As a result, for fresh salsas like pico de gallo, it may take away from the overall texture of the dish to add frozen cilantro.
There are plenty of other salsa options that frozen cilantro would be excellent in. Salsas that are blended or have cooked elements are ideal for frozen cilantro. See how to preserve salsa by freezing.
Frozen cilantro cubes are ideal for cooked dishes. A couple of cubes into a soup, melted over a piece of beef or fish with a douse of oil, or even mixed into your morning scrambled eggs is an easy way to take an everyday meal to the next level.
If you are willing to put in a bit of extra work, you can even freeze the cilantro cubes as pesto and have an easy way to mix the sauce into fresh pasta or add to salads.
Learning how to freeze cilantro can be a huge time and waste saver, but many worry it compromises quality. Frozen cilantro will not come out of the freezer looking exactly as bright and enticing as your original plant, but it will certainly taste the same.
Determine what exactly you intend to use the herb for, because if the appearance and texture matter, you may want to reconsider choosing the frozen option. Otherwise, it will be just as good as fresh.