Freezing basil in ice cube trays with oil is one of the fastest and easiest ways to freeze basil. It does a great job of preserving the flavor and if you let the cube melt, the basil is still green. This is my favorite way to preserve basil, whether it's from your garden or if you purchased more than you plan on using right away.
I always throw in a couple of frozen basil cubes when I make my favorite spaghetti sauce with Italian meatballs. This is a great meatball recipe taught to me by the owner of an Italian restaurant. If you are looking for more information on growing basil or other ways of preserving it, take a look at this post - Basil, growing using and preserving this herb.
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Why I like freezing basil in olive oil
Freezing basil is the best way to keep its natural fresh flavor. I've been using this method for over 15 years. If you freeze basil without any oil, it turns black (like when basil gets hit by a hard frost in your garden). This method will keep this herb looking delicious and portioned in reasonable amounts to add to your favorite Italian dishes!
I use an ice cube tray that has a lid on it to freeze my herbs. That way it's covered, and I can always grab a couple of cubes when needed. If you are preserving more herbs by freezing, you can take the cubes out and put them in a freezer bag so you can keep making more herb cubes.
I love these ice cube trays; they are similar and inexpensive - Ice cube trays with a lid.
- Fresh basil leaves (leaves only, no stems)
- Extra virgin olive oil
Clean by giving the basil a quick soak in cold water. Remove water by using a salad spinner or a good shake. Pat dry with a paper towel. Let air dry for a few minutes.
Take the leaves off the stems. I find the easiest way is to pinch them off.
Take about 3 or 4 leaves and roll them into a tight roll. Then, using a sharp knife, cut into thin strips. The official cooking term for this style of chopping is chiffonade.
I stuff as much of the cut-up basil into the ice cube space but leave a little room for the oil. You will want to have the oil covering the basil so it doesn't turn black when frozen.
This is what each 'cube' looks like before freezing. I put as much basil in as I can, and I make sure there is enough room to cover with a drizzle of olive oil.
Below is the same tray, but the basil and olive oil are frozen. This way, you can pop a couple of cubes into a recipe (think pasta dishes) that calls for basil.
I just popped out a few basil cubes so you can get a good overall look at them.
Some years, I have a huge crop, and I freeze more basil than I have ice cube trays for. Just store the basil ice cubes in freezer bags and try to keep the cubes in a single layer and keep them flat in the freezer. This makes it easier to use when trying to break off a cube to add to your sauces and soups. This is my favorite way of preserving my basil plant leaves so I have the taste of fresh herbs in the winter.
If you are looking for directions to grow and oven-dry basil leaves, look at this post - Growing, using and preserving Basil.
No, it isn't. Pesto is a mixture of basil, extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan, garlic cloves, pine nuts, and sometimes parsley. Stay tuned for that recipe soon!
Yes, it does. It starts solidifying at 54 degrees F. To thaw, simply let it sit out at room temp (approx. 70 degrees F).
My basil cubes are fine for at least 6 months in the freezer. The key is to keep them in a well-sealed container (with little air) or in a small freezer bag with all the air squeezed out. If you can keep the air out, you prevent freezer burn (which will negatively affect the taste).
** I found some frozen basil & olive oil cubes in my freezer that were over a year old and they are fine!
More Herb Posts
How to Freeze Basil
- 1 Ice cube tray The kind with a lid are the best!
- 1 cup Fresh basil leaves packed
- ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil just enough to cover the basil
- Roll and chiffonade 3-4 leaves and place in each cube
- Pour enough olive oil over the basil to cover.
- Keep frozen until ready to use. Can be popped out of the ice cube tray and kept in a freezer bag.
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