Cilantro (also known as fresh coriander) isn’t easy to freeze as its cells tend to lose their structure once frozen, resulting in a mushy mass upon thawing. Nevertheless, there are some tricks that will allow you to work around this and save that glut of cilantro from the herb garden.
Cilantro (fresh coriander), fresh, usually in a bunch
Oil or butter (see methods)
Freezing in a bag
This method will result in an icicle-squashed mush but it’s just fine if all you want to do is break off icy bits and toss into soups, salsa and stews for flavor.
Select a hearty bunch of cilantro. Ensure that it is clean. If you need to wash it, let it dry thoroughly before freezing.
Place the whole bunch of cilantro inside a resealable freezer bag.
Place another bag around the first bag. Then press down hard to expel as much air as you possibly can. Seal tightly. Label and date.
Place the bagged cilantro into the freezer.
Use within 2 months. Whenever you wish to use some, simply pluck off a few icy sticks of frozen cilantro and toss straight into the hot dish as it cooks. The herb will melt and disperse its flavor throughout. Just don’t expect it to look like anything special!
Freezing cilantro in oil (cilantro and oil paste)
Using a food processor, puree the cilantro with olive oil. If you don’t want olive oil flavor, choose a more mildly flavored oil. Use completely dry fresh coriander, as you don’t want additional moisture.
Use a ratio of about 1 cup fresh coriander to 1/4 cup of oil.
Process to form a smooth paste.
Add the olive oil/other oil pureed cilantro to ice cube trays or any plastic container. Fill about 3/4 of the way. Do not add water.
Place the tray or trays of pureed cilantro in the freezer to freeze. Remove when frozen and add to freezer bags. Label and date.
Use a cube or two when needed. Add to soups, stews, casseroles and any other dish requiring a coriander flavor but that doesn’t need it to look good. Use within 3 months.
Freezing cilantro in butter
Make an herb butter. The basics are outlined in How to make a herb butter; use cilantro as the herb.
Wrap the butter in kitchen foil. Place this inside a freezer-proof container with a lid. Label and date the container.
You can freeze little portions (easiest to thaw), a butter roll or a whole block of herb butter. Do whichever works best for your cooking and storage needs.
Use. Cilantro butter will keep for up to 12 months. You can either slice off a piece of the frozen butter and allow just that piece to thaw, or thaw the whole portion, depending on your needs. Thaw in the refrigerator and once it has thawed, keep it covered in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 3 days.
Freezing after blanching
Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems.
Boil water in a wide-mouthed pot.
Quickly dip the cilantro leaves in the water for a second or two (no longer). Then drain.
Dry the blanched leaves with a paper towel. However, keep moist.
Put the leaves in a resealable freezer bag. Label and date. Place in the freezer.
Use. When you’re ready to use the frozen cilantro, take out chunk of cilantro and crush it with your hands into your favorite dish.
Note: This method also works with parsley and basil.
If you have the time, make salsa with the cilantro already in it. The salsa will freeze better than the cilantro alone.
If you need to dry herbs after washing, dish drying racks are excellent; make sure the rack is clean, then simply lay out the herbs on the rack and leave to dry. If a little sun comes through the window to warm things up faster, so much the better.
Frozen cilantro tends to lose a lot of its flavor. Use it up quickly or try your very best to avoid freezing it all, and just enjoy it fresh; its distinctively flavored volatile oils disappear quickly.
Things You’ll Need
Freezer bag/freezer container
Ice cube trays
Sources and Citations
Browne, Mary; Leach, Helen; Tichborne, Nancy. (2001). The Cook’s Herb Garden. (2001). ISBN 1-86962-041-0 – research source
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