One of my issues with buying fresh herbs at the grocery store, is that I often have a lot left over after I've made whatever dish I'm cooking. Basil is easy, because it gets turned into a pesto. But other herbs like cilantro take longer to use up, even if you cook a lot of Mexican or Thai food. You can keep herbs fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, but there are better ways to preserve fresh herbs for long-term storage. In fact, you may want to buy a bunch of cilantro for just this reason, because freezing it makes it so much easier to use in cooking down the road. Here's how to freeze cilantro to save time (and money) for future meals.
If your using cilantro as a garnish or in something like salsa, you may want to stick with fresh cilantro since freezing can turn whole cilantro leaves a little mushy. You can and should use frozen cilantro in guacamole, salad dressings and to season soups, sauces, veggies, pasta dishes, stir fry and chutneys. You can also mix it into ground meat, to help season your meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
Freezing cilantro will give you extra time to use the herb, but you'll want to use it up within a couple of months. Make sure you label the bags or containers with a date (trust me, you won't remember).
There are three ways how to freeze cilantro, and two of them are no-freezerburn methods.
Freeze cilantro by the stem or whole leave
When you buy cilantro at the store, it comes in big bunches and you can freeze cilantro just like that, with a few steps to prep the herbs first. Wash the cilantro well and pick out any yellow or wilted leaves. Then blanch it by dipping the fresh cilantro into a pot of boiling water for 15-30 seconds, then dunking the cilantro into a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. Blanching helps the cilantro keeps its bright green color.
Lay the cilantro onto a layer of paper towels and dry them well. Excess moisture will make the herb mushy when frozen, so let them dry completely. Once the stems and leaves are completely dry, gently place them in freezer bags. Don't overpack the bags; you don't want to bend the stems or crush the leaves. Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag and zip it closed.
Cover the cilantro in oil
The best way to freeze herbs for is to chop them up and cover them in olive oil (though canola or vegetable oil works as well, it just has a different taste). Wash and dry the cilantro, and them strip the leaves off. Drop the cilantro leaves in a food processor or blender and puree them with olive oil, using a ratio of 1/3 cup to one to two cups of oil, depending on how strong a cilantro taste you want.
The leaves can be roughly or finely chopped, depending on your preference. Spoon the herb and oil mixture into ice cube trays or other small airtight container and place them in the freezer. You can either leave the cubes like that, or pop them out of the ice cube trays and store them in a freezer bag.
Freezing cilantro in butter
This might be my favorite way of freezing herbs. Make a compound butter, which is just butter and herbs mixed together. Chop the cilantro and place it in a bowl, then add softened butter and mix well. The ratio of butter to cilantro is one stick of butter to one to three tablespoons of chopped cilantro, depending on your tastes.
Place the mixed butter on a long section of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Shape the herb butter into a log and roll it up, making sure the ends are tightly closed. Wrap the log again in foil or put the wrapped butter into a plastic bag or airtight container and put it in the freezer.
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