Herbs are extremely useful, especially when producing creative recipes that need extra flavor. The only problem is that sometimes we end up with more herbs than we need. So, the best thing to do with the excess herbs is freeze-drying them.
Most recipes only require a tablespoon of herbs, and stores usually sell more than we need. If there is a freeze-dryer at home, freeze-drying the unused herbs for later is a good idea. Some people prefer to buy herbs that are already freeze-dried.
This article will help us learn how to freeze-dry herbs and what to do with them. While several herbs are still in season, it might be great to learn about preserving them for the winter months when the prices of these plants skyrocket.
Let’s dive into some useful information about freeze-drying fresh herbs!
How to Freeze-Dry Herbs
Freeze-drying herbs is as simple as with any other food. Wash and dry the herbs before laying them on the freeze-drying pans. A medium-sized Harvest Right Freeze-Dryer allows four trays at a time so that we can freeze-dry different herbs or vegetables simultaneously.
Pro tip: NEVER freeze-dry herbs with foods you don’t want to be infused with those herbs. Be careful which herbs you freeze-dry together, as they may infuse each other.
- We can freeze-dry tomatoes at the same time with herbs like basil or cilantro since these flavors usually complement each other.
- Or, if there are several herbs, load them up into the trays and follow the weight limit.
Freeze-drying herbs or any other product takes about 24 hours. Some ingredients take a little longer, but most herbs should be finished freeze-drying in a day or less. The herbs will be very crunchy at the end of the process.
During prep, remove the stems and other unnecessary parts (depending on the herb). It’s easier to get this done before starting to freeze-dry. There is no need to chop up the leaves into smaller pieces before freeze-drying.
Harvest Right Freeze-Dryers are the best brand to freeze-dry herbs and other foods. If you’re interested in learning more about that brand, click here to go to their site and shop sales.
How to Store Freeze-Dried Herbs
Freeze-dried herbs can be kept in an air-tight jar or mylar bag. Containers can be vacuum-sealed if infrequently used or hand-tightened if used frequently. Keep the freeze-dried herbs in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Never store herbs above an oven or other hot appliances.
You can keep freeze-dried herbs whole, in parts, and destemmed. Or another option is to cut them up or grind them into the type of powder we need. Roughly grind or crush the herbs if using them for pesto or sauces.
In addition, grind some herbs for different teas and other things that call for these flavorful add-ins.
For further reading on freeze-drying and storing food, this article is just for you: How to Freeze Dry and Store Your Favorite Foods: Guide with Pictures.
How to Use Freeze-Dried Herbs
Freeze-dried herbs have so many uses in seasoning any dish. Freeze-dried herbs can usually be used at the same amount as fresh herbs, though many people use slightly more freeze-dried herbs than fresh, but less than the amount needed if the herbs were dried.
For example, anyone can turn herbs into dips, sauces, pizza toppings, and many other add-ins to make a dish stand out.
Experiment with mixing olive oil and several types of herbs like basil and dill to make a bread dip. Bread dips that use olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs are surprisingly delicious.
We can also use herbs to make excellent pesto sauce. All we need to do is freeze-dry a lot of basil leaves and then roughly grind them with olive oil. Use the pesto sauce in bread, pasta, and even on top of pizza.
Freeze-dried herbs can also be used as a pizza topping or incorporated into pizza dough if making pizza from scratch. There are so many exciting and interesting ways to use them on pizza.
Can you tell that we love homemade pizza? The kids like getting to make their own via the toppings. And they love the sauce I make using freeze-dried herbs, so it’s a win.
Want to make your own flour in the freeze-dryer? It’s the best. Here’s how to do it in our handy dandy article, Can You Freeze Dry Flour? Would You Want To?
Also, we can use herbs as garnish for a healthy soup. Most people enjoy the full flavors of herbs in their soup, so this is one of the best ways to use them. For example, dill and rosemary are great garnishes for cream-based soups.
Do Freeze-Dried Herbs Taste Fresh?
If rehydrating freeze-dried herbs, they will taste almost the same as when fresh, with a slight difference in the texture. Freeze-dried herbs are the closest we’ll get to flavor and nutrition when it comes to dehydrated herbs. Regular dry herbs tend to be slightly bland.
To rehydrate herbs, put them in a bowl filled with water. After ten minutes of soaking, drain the rest of the water from the bowl or plate. This should fully rehydrate the herbs.
If making soup, we can skip the process altogether, as the herbs will naturally start to rehydrate once we add them to the mixture. Usually, we add them towards the end of the cooking process; otherwise, we might lose the flavor of the herbs.
However, we rarely need to rehydrate herbs in most recipes. Most recipes usually ask for dried herbs. But rehydrated herbs look nice on fancy drinks. For example, mint and basil, when rehydrated, work nicely in a pitcher of lemonade.
Because I’m always cooking with freeze-dried herbs, I’ve stopped reconstituting them separately from baking. I just add them in as if I were using fresh herbs, which always turns out fine.
Even for garnishes, freeze-dried herbs do great. They will absorb enough steam or moisture from the dish to taste great when the meal is served.
Do Freeze-Dried Herbs Last Longer Than Dried Herbs?
Freeze-dried and dried herbs never expire. However, the flavor may change over time, usually becoming less potent than that of fresh herbs. Freeze-dried herbs can be used as long as there is no moisture in the storage area or visible mold, spores, or other contaminants.
- Dried herbs – the flavor usually lasts from three months to a year for regularly dried herbs, but some made into teas last much longer.
- Freeze-dried herbs – the flavor can last years or longer, depending on how the herbs are stored. The flavor does diminish over time, though.
There is no need to worry about the herbs going bad, but if choosing to dry them this way, I suggest using them within a year to maximize their flavors and aroma.
Meanwhile, there have been claims that freeze-dried herbs can retain their flavor for three years or longer. Of course, it depends on the storage conditions. So, looking for good storage is a great idea if the herbs won’t be used soon.
Personally, we’ve prepared, stored, and tested some freeze-dried herbs that have lasted 3 to 5 years, though the flavor has diminished enough that we try only to keep our herbs in short-term storage, even when freeze-dried.
Our goal is to use them within 1 to 2 years, max. Otherwise, there’s enough of a drop in the flavor that it’s not worth it.
Are There Herbs That Don’t Freeze-Dry Well?
All herbs freeze-dry well and do so quickly since there isn’t a lot of water in them. So, putting them in a freeze-dryer shouldn’t be a problem. Freeze-drying herbs might even be safer than other preservation methods.
Other methods don’t preserve herbs very well. In addition, they may lose their flavor and aroma after a couple of months. Freeze-drying them allows us to store them for years to come.
When Should I Start Freeze-Drying Herbs?
Freeze-dry herbs while they are still in season so that they will be at peak potency and so there will be plenty of them throughout the year. If no herb garden is available, buying and freeze-drying herbs while in season is the most cost-efficient way to get a steady supply for the winter months.
Most herbs are in season during the summer, but a few flourish during the cooler seasons. Always harvest and freeze-dry whatever herb is in season right away.
Basil and most of its varieties are only available during the warmer months. It’s best to get a good stock of basil, especially for foods like pesto for the winter or fall months. This is a good chance to make favorite sauces for cheap, even if basil is no longer in season.
Meanwhile, cilantro, dill, parsley, and similar herbs do better during the cooler months. It’s best to harvest them right before winter hits when it’s hard for almost any herb to grow. These herbs are great add-ins to a variety of dishes.
What Other Methods Can I Use for Herbs if I Don’t Have a Freeze-Dryer?
Herbs don’t have to be freeze-dried to store well short or long-term. Herbs can also be dried, dehydrated, or frozen. However, these methods are best for short-term storage of up to several months or 1-year max, as the herbs will lose potency quickly.
Several other methods are effective if there is no freeze-dryer and someone still wants to preserve herbs. The downside is that these preservation methods can only keep the aroma and flavors for a few months, but if using the herbs quickly, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Dry herbs the old-fashioned way by laying them on a towel on the counter. Better yet, hang them to dry. Back in the day, drying was a popular way to preserve herbs since people didn’t have freeze-dryers or dehydrators.
Some teas and dried herbs are still dried using this traditional method. It’s generally safe to do as long as the plants don’t have pesticides on them.
When harvesting the herbs, cut the undesired parts off and lay out what will be used in warm, dry air. Make sure wherever the herbs are drying is well ventilated. Wait until they are completely dry.
The above method might take a couple of days. Don’t leave the herbs under the heat of the sun.
When the drying process is finished, leaving herbs under the sun may cause them to lose their aroma and flavors.
I like hanging herbs to dry in our kitchen, though I have to ensure they’re out of the sunlight. My sister hangs and dries herbs in her walk-in pantry. It makes the house smell divine!
Since there will be less flavor using this drying method, it’s an excellent idea to quality-check the herbs before sorting them out to dry. Look out for any bruises or imperfections on leaves.
Would you like to know more about the differences between freeze-drying and air-drying food? Read this article: Freeze Dry VS Air Dry: 8 Differences that Matter.
If you own a dehydrator, then using this nifty machine to dry herbs will allow preservation without having to check on them as often as the traditional method. The dehydrator dries the herbs and has continuous airflow that helps preserve the flavor and aroma.
We can also oven-dry the herbs, but they might end up either burned or lacking aroma and flavor when using them in recipes. Dehydrated herbs are probably the closest we’ll get to the freeze-drying method.
Like a freeze-dryer, the herbs will easily crumble into powder after using a dehydrator. Gather the spices in a paper bag or resealable plastic bag to crush them, and then transfer them into an air-tight container for storage.
We can also use the food processor for smaller, more uniform particles.
If you don’t already have a dehydrator, I’m a huge fan of the Excalibur brand. You can shop their whole line of bulk dehydrators on Amazon. This link takes you to the exact model we have and use.
To preserve fresh herbs as is, then freeze them at home. This might be hard to do with limited freezer space, but if there is room to store them, this is an excellent way to keep fresh herbs.
Freezing herbs is also a magnificent way to retain their natural essential oils and flavors. What’s awesome about this process is that there are many ways to freeze them. Here are a couple of methods that people use.
Freeze the herbs in flat layers in a freezer bag – put the bag in the freezer. Then, grab the amount needed while cooking. If the herbs don’t have any excess moisture, they won’t stick together.
We can also put herbs in an ice cube tray with water. Unlike the first method, the herbs will last longer. Clean the herbs thoroughly before putting them in the ice tray.
Fill the tray with water to cover the herbs, then store them in a freezer. We can even put more than one type of herb in each cube.
It’s also possible to freeze the herbs in olive oil. This means making portable salad dressing in cubes. However, this means using the herbs directly into the dish instead of leaving it to thaw. Leaving this mixture out to thaw may cause food-borne illness if ingested.
Freezing herbs is a great way to have fresh herbs available instead of dried ones. If you have a freeze-dryer, I recommend using that instead – and rehydrating the herbs for the fresh flavors.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Overall, freeze-drying herbs is the best way to preserve them. This process helps retain most of the flavor, aroma, and texture for longer than the other methods we mentioned. They never expire! Okay, so they do lose some potency over time. But the fact that they don’t expire is still amazing!
All herbs freeze-dry well and are great to have on hand during the winter when fresh options are less available.
Freeze-drying is the perfect resource for preserving our food and ensuring that we can store plenty of dietary options for the coming years – especially in our emergency preparedness.
Here is a list of some valuable articles for those who would like to learn more about preserving and storing food through the freeze-drying process:
- Are Freeze-Dried Foods Just as Nutritious? Let’s See!
- How to Safely Store Freeze-dried Foods in Mason Jars (vacuum sealer)
- 79 Foods You Can Freeze Dry and 17 You Cannot: Complete Guide
- The Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Freeze-Drying
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “How to Dry Herbs and Freeze Herbs for Keeping.” Almanac.Com, www.almanac.com/preserving-herbs. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.