Cilantro is a divisive herb that people either love or hate. It goes off so fast that you’re often left to throw it in the trash, but we’re here to tell you that you can freeze cilantro.
It is commonly used in Asian dishes, guacamole, soups and stews. The hints we show here are perfect for any of these uses, although fresh cilantro is preferable for guacamole and other non-cooked dishes.
If stored properly, cilantro will keep for up to 6 months in the freezer.
This article will give you some handy tips and tricks to ensure you can extend the lifespan of your herbs without any problems.
How to freeze cilantro
One way to freeze cilantro is in ziplock freezer bags. You will need to wash it in a large bowl of cold water. Agitate the bowl for a few seconds before draining and repeating with a fresh bowl of water.
Continue doing this until the water is clean, and then lay the cilantro leaves on a dishtowel. Place a second dishtowel on top and gently pat the leaves dry.
Place the sprigs in a ziplock freezer bag. Try to keep the leaves and stalks as flat and straight as possible. Gently press out as much air as you can.
Wrap in a second ziplock bag to protect the delicate leaves from freezer burn. Label the bag with the date and contents before placing at the top of the freezer to store.
Another way to freeze cilantro is to finely chop the leaves and stems. If you do not want to chop, place the cilantro into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Place these into an ice cube tray and cover with a drop of water or oil. Do not fill completely, instead only fill about ¾ of the way up. This is to allow the cubes space to expand into as they freeze.
Place in the freezer. Allow to freeze in the ice cube tray overnight and in the morning, remove from the tray and place into a ziplock freezer bag.
Ensure that the bag is clearly labelled with the date and contents.
Another way to freeze cilantro if you are running low on freezer space is to puree with ⅓ cup oil per cup of chopped cilantro. Pour into a large ziplock freezer bag.
Press the air out and squash the puree into a thin, flat layer for freezing. Ensure the bag is clearly labeled and is left to freeze flat.
You can also make cilantro butter. Using a ratio of around 1 stick of room temperature butter to 2tbsp chopped cilantro, mix up the desired quantities.
Roll the butter into a tube with parchment paper inside aluminum foil. Twist the ends like a boiled sweet and place in the refrigerator to harden. Place the roll with the seam down, so that the aluminum foil does not unravel.
Once it has hardened sufficiently, place in a ziplock freezer bag and label clearly. Place in the freezer until you need to use.
How to defrost cilantro
If you opt to freeze cilantro in ice cubes, you can simply drop these into your pot as you are cooking for a burst of flavor. Just remember that this will cause the temperature of the pot to drop and may increase the cooking time slightly.
If you choose to freeze cilantro puree in a flat layer in a ziplock bag you can simply snap a piece off of the block. Drop into your pot and stir to melt and incorporate.
To use cilantro butter, allow to thaw at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before using. This will last up to 5 days in the fridge.
Factors to consider before freezing cilantro
You should try to freeze cilantro as soon as you can after picking, to preserve the scent and flavor. If you use cilantro regularly, it may be worth investing some time and money into a windowsill herb garden.
If you purchase your cilantro from a store or farmers market, smell it before you buy. High quality cilantro will have a strong scent and will be a vibrant green. The stalks should also be straight and hold themselves up without going limp. Avoid any plants that look yellow, crushed or wilted.
If you wish to retain that vibrant green color after freezing, blanch the cilantro in a saucepan of boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds. Immediately submerge in a bowl of iced water and dry well before freezing.
Cilantro should be stored at the top of the freezer to prevent it getting squashed or damaged by heavier items.
It is important to ensure that your cilantro is fully dried before you place it in the freezer. This is because the water droplets are what cause the ice crystals to form which will damage the leaf structure.
If you have a salad spinner, an alternative to the method described above is to gently spin the cilantro leaves. Once you have spun them, lay on strips of paper towels and roll up like a burrito to soak up any remaining moisture.
Frozen cilantro is not as good as fresh, and will likely not have as strong a flavour or as vibrant green a color. We recommend using frozen cilantro in cooked dishes, rather than in cold one such as guacamole.
The ice cube method is likely to work better to preserve the color, particularly if you cover the leaves in oil. The oil contains hydrophobic molecules that repel water, creating a barrier between the leaves and the freezer.
We hope that you now feel confident with your knowledge of how to freeze cilantro. If you follow our tips and tricks you will always have some on hand to add an extra pop of flavor to whatever you are cooking!
Don’t forget that the stems and leaves are both edible and the stems pack a massive flavor punch. Always freeze both parts for the best possible result.