Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Please leave your valid email address below.
Preserve Your Harvest

How to Freeze Basil in Ice Cube Trays (Olive Oil or Water)

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to preserve fresh basil, this post is for you! Read along and learn how to freeze basil in ice cube trays with olive oil, water, or other oil of choice. It’s simple to do, and creates the perfect little portion of basil to pop into a skillet, soup, and more – whenever you need it. Truth be told, I find myself using our easy-freezy “basil bombs” even when we have fresh basil available in the garden! They’re simply too convenient to resist.

This post will cover the easy step-by-step process of freezing basil, including tips on how to defrost and use frozen basil cubes in cooking too. Hot tip: You can use this method to freeze any type of fresh herbs in ice cube trays! I’ll also briefly explore a couple other ways to preserve basil, including freezing whole basil leaves in bags, dehydrating basil, and freezing pesto. 


Related: Learn how to harvest basil and promote bushy basil plants here.



Does basil freeze well?


It sure does! A commonly asked question is “is frozen basil still good?” – and while you may not want your basil plants to freeze outside in the garden, freezing basil is an excellent way to preserve fresh basil leaves to enjoy later. 

In fact, many chefs and basil connoisseurs prefer the flavor of frozen basil vs dehydrated or dry basil. Don’t get me wrong, I love dried basil too. But when it comes to preserving basil, freezing it may be as close to fresh as you can get! Especially freezing basil in ice cube trays, where the olive oil or water encapsulates the basil to really lock in those fresh flavors. 

Freezing basil in olive oil or water creates a protective layer around the basil to prevent oxidation (exposure to air), which slows degradation in storage and keeps the basil looking nice and green in color! When exposed to air, oxidized basil turns brown or black. Black basil isn’t harmful and still good to eat, though it’s a little less appetizing. 



Should I blanch basil before freezing?


Nope! After browsing many articles where folks did side-by-side tests of freezing blanched vs unblanched basil, I’ve come to conclusion that it’s not worth the effort (or risk). A quick blanch will help frozen basil retain a brighter green color, BUT just a moment too long in the hot water or steam can quickly result in mushy, overcooked basil. Unblanched basil retains a similar good flavor along with a better texture.


Supplies Needed


  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil, water, or other culinary oil of choice
  • Ice cube trays of choice. I like to freeze basil in silicone ice cube trays, which makes them incredibly easy to pop out and use! These flexible food-grade silicone trays create the perfectly petite frozen basil cubes (about 2 tablespoons per cube), or preserve larger servings with jumbo silicone ice cube trays like these.
  • Resealable airtight freezer container for storage – such as a ziplock bag, reusable silicone food storage bags, or these durable freezer containers.


Should I freeze basil in olive oil or water?


That’s really up to you. Freezing basil in ice cube trays with olive oil or water are both great options. Both coat the basil, prevent oxidation, and effectively preserve it. To shake things up, you could even freeze it in broth!

Freezing basil in ice cube trays with water makes it slightly more versatile in regards to use and flavor, since you can use the basil without adding oil to your meal. On the other hand, you may not want to add water to your dish either (such as making stir fry or salad dressing). In that case, you’d need to defrost the basil cube and sift out the basil to use.

Personally, I love freezing basil in olive oil because it’s even easier and faster to use (for me). I simply toss a frozen basil cube with olive oil into a pan or pot and go! That little bit of oil is a welcome addition in most cases.



Instructions: Freezing Basil in Ice Cube Trays


For the best results, use the freshest basil possible. If you’re preserving homegrown basil, harvest during the cool morning hours while the plants are most perky and lush. If you can’t process it right away, store cut basil stems in a glass of water – like flowers in a vase. 


  1. Remove the basil leaves from the stems, and pluck off any flowers. It’s okay if some smaller, tender stems are in the mix, but avoid the old tough woody stems.

  2. Wash the basil leaves, and then at least partially dry them. I usually soak and swirl my basil in a bowl of water, strain it through a colander, and then toss it in my trusty old salad spinner to dry. You could also lay the leaves out on a clean towel and gently blot to dry them.

  3. Next, chop the basil into fine pieces. Per internet recommendations, I tried to chop basil in my food processor once… and it did a terrible job, leaving the basil more bruised, oxidized, and mushy than anything! Perhaps your food processor will work better than ours, but for now, I prefer to hand chop my basil with a sharp chef’s knife.



Instructions continued 


  1. Scoop and portion the chopped basil into your ice cube tray of choice, lightly packing it until the cubes are almost full to the top. This way you’ll end up with mostly basil, rather than too much olive oil or water. 

  2. Pour olive oil or water over the chopped basil until the ice cube trays are full, but not overflowing. The thick oil may take a moment to settle and soak in between the basil bits. Top off as needed.

  3. Transfer the basil-filled ice cube trays to the freezer, and freeze for several hours or overnight – until frozen solid.

  4. Finally, transfer the frozen basil cubes into an airtight freezer container, such as a ziplock bag, reusable silicone food storage bags, or these durable freezer containers. Storing frozen basil cubes in a sealed container (instead of the ice cube trays) will help prevent freezer burn. Since they were frozen individually first, the cubes shouldn’t stick together so you can easily pluck one out as needed. 



How to Use Frozen Basil Cubes


The ways to use frozen basil cubes are endless! Add them to any dish or meal that you’d enjoy fresh or dry basil in, including but not limited to: 

  • In homemade salad dressing
  • Added to soup, stew, tomato sauce, curry, casseroles, and more (best to add towards the end, once things are almost finished cooking)
  • In the pan with sautéed vegetables, stir fry, or scrambled eggs. I love the flavor it adds to our sautéed zucchini, cabbage, green beans, bok choy and other garden veggies.
  • Toss a cube in the pot while cooking rice, quinoa, lentils, or dry beans
  • To finish off cooked pasta, cold pasta salad, or potato salad (best if defrosted first)


Rather than fussing with defrosting, I usually add frozen basil cubes with olive oil straight from the freezer, allowing them to melt right into the dish. 

If you freeze your basil cubes in water but don’t want water in your dish (or oil), simply place the basil cube in a small bowl or cup to defrost, and then strain off the water or oil once it melts – leaving just the basil bits to use.



Other Ways to Preserve or Freeze Basil 


In addition to freezing basil in ice cube trays, we love to freeze pesto too! Check out our popular walnut, parmesan and lemon “Besto Pesto” recipe along with freezing instructions here. There are vegan and nut-free variations included. Every summer, we stock our freezer with enough pesto to last us through the year. I love to use it on sandwiches, pasta, eggs, and more.

Drying basil is another great way to preserve it. Once dehydrated, it’s amazing how much basil can condense down in a single jar for convenient dry storage in the pantry. We like to store dried basil leaves whole to keep the flavor and aroma as fresh as possible. Crush it up at the time of use, sprinkled into soups, stews, and sauces all winter long. See our dried basil tutorial here – with tips for drying basil in either a food dehydrator or the oven. 



Can I freeze basil leaves whole?


Yes, whole basil leaves freeze quite well too. Plus, it’s even faster to do than freezing basil in ice cube trays! However, the storage life is a little shorter since they’re not coated with oil. 

To freeze whole basil leaves, wash and gently but thoroughly dry the leaves, and then pack them right into a resealable freezer bag. Keep the leaves spread out in a fairly flat layer, though it’s fine to layer leaves on top of eachother some too. Press down to remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing. Then when you need some, simply open the bag and break off a little chunk of basil to use. 


How long does frozen basil last?


Using the ice cube tray method, frozen basil in olive oil or water should stay good for up to a year or longer. However, the flavor will be best if used within six months. After that, it’s more likely to lose some of its fresh flavor or develop freezer burn in storage. Whole basil leaves frozen in bags should be used within 3 months for the best quality. 



It’s as simple as that.


I told you it was quick and easy, right? I hope you enjoyed learning more ways to preserve basil, and can put these tips to good use in your garden and kitchen. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you found this information to be useful, please consider leaving and review and pinning or sharing this post. Otherwise, it’s time to get chopping and freezing!


Print Recipe Pin Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Freezing Basil in Ice Cube Trays – Olive Oil or Water

Looking for quick and easy ways to preserve basil? Come learn how to freeze basil in ice cube trays with olive oil or water. It’s simple to do, and creates the perfect little portion of basil that's easy to pop into a skillet, soup, and more – whenever you need it.
Prep Time15 minutes
Course: Preserved Food, Preserves, Salad Dressing, Seasoning
Keyword: freezing basil, freezing basil in oil, frozen basil cubes, Preserving basil

Equipment

  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • ice cube trays of choice
  • resealable freezer food storage bags

Ingredients

  • fresh basil
  • olive oil, water, broth, or other culinary oil of choice

Instructions

Making Frozen Basil Cubes

  • Remove the basil leaves from the stems, and pluck off any flowers.
  • Wash the basil leaves, and then at least partially dry them. 
  • Chop the basil into fine pieces. (I prefer to hand-chop mine with a knife, as our food processor tends to bruise and smash the basil)
  • Scoop and portion the chopped basil into your ice cube tray of choice, lightly packing it until the cubes are almost full to the top.
  • Pour olive oil, water, or broth over the chopped basil until the ice cube trays are full, but not overflowing. The thick oil may take a moment to settle and soak in between the basil bits. Top off as needed.
  • Transfer the basil-filled ice cube trays to the freezer, and freeze for several hours or overnight – until frozen solid.
  • Finally, transfer the frozen basil cubes into an airtight freezer container, such as a ziplock bag, reusable silicone food storage bags, or these durable freezer containers.  Since they were frozen individually first, the cubes shouldn’t stick together so you can easily pluck one out as needed. 
  • Frozen basil cubes in olive oil or water should stay good for up to a year or longer. However, the flavor will be best if used within six months.

Using Frozen Basil Cubes

  • Rather than fussing with defrosting, I usually add frozen basil cubes with olive oil straight from the freezer, allowing them to melt right into the dish. 
  • To remove oil or water first, simply place the basil cube in a small bowl or cup to defrost, and then strain off the water or oil once it melts – leaving just the basil bits to use.
  • Basil cubes are an awesome addition to salad dressings, stir fries, soup, sauces, stew, sautéed vegetables, egg dishes, casseroles, pasta, pasta salad, and for cooking brown rice, quinoa, lentils or other dry beans.



4 Comments

  • Nora

    5 stars
    I am excited to try this as I am growing my own basil. Could I use avocado oil in place of olive oil? Also, would vacuum sealing the cubes be better, the same, or poor idea? Thanks Nora.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Nora, yes you can use avocado oil if you prefer, I don’t think it’s necessary to vacuum seal the frozen basil cubes as they will store fairly well in a freezer bag/storage container and it’s less work. Good luck!

  • Terri

    I have some beautiful large basil plants in my garden and unfortunately we had so much going on and they all bolted. Can I still harvest the leaves or is it too late?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Terri, absolutely you can still harvest the leaves, our basil usually starts to flower by mid summer and we just continue to cut it back and harvest off the plants through the rest of the season. Hope that helps and enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating