fresh basil and ice cubes

How to Freeze Basil in Ice Cube Trays

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Learning how to freeze basil in ice cube trays will help preserve your fresh basil so you can use it in recipes through the colder off-season months. I’ve used this technique for many years and have enjoyed the smell and flavor of fresh basil all year in many recipes.

how to freeze basil in ice cube trays

How to Freeze Basil in Ice Cube Trays

Basil is easy to grow and with the help of some plastic ice cube trays, it’s easy to freeze as well. That’s literally all you need – fresh basil and ice cube trays. In this post I’ll provide step by step instructions so you too can freeze your basil.

If you’ve never grown fresh basil, check out my article for how to grow your own basil at home.

Steps to Freeze Fresh Basil in Ice Cube Trays

Freezing fresh basil using ice cube trays is very simple, and fast. Super fast. Here’s what you need:

  1. Fresh basil with whole leaves
  2. Ice cube trays  – any kind is good. I use cheap plastic ones from the dollar store
  3. Distilled or other “clean” non-tap water
  4. Plastic freezer ziplock bags

Do Not Chop Your Fresh Basil Leaves

Start off by cleaning the basil by simply running it under water to remove any dirt or unwanted bugs that managed to sneak in.

Remove the fresh basil leaves from the stems.  Do not chop them, keep the leaves whole. Then take a good number of them, about 5 or 6 leaves and stack them. Make sure the biggest size leaf is on the outside of the stack. 

Roll the Basil Leaves for Better Freezing

Next, roll the stack of leaves up nice and tight.

Place the basil leaves stack in the empty ice cube space and press them down to make them stay down. You might have to fold the roll in half in order to make them fit.  Don’t worry about being gentle or if any tear, that’s completely fine.

Repeat this process until all your basil is in the tray.

Submerse the Basil in the Ice Cube Tray With Water

Once you have the whole tray or however many cubes you have filled with the basil, gently fill up each cube with water. Do not use tap water since this is for consumption. Tap water has chemicals that yes, kill bad stuff, but the chemicals themselves aren’t great for you either.  So if you can, use distilled or purified water.

If you’re concerned with some of the basil floating in the water and not being fully submersed, then fill 3/4 of each cube with water. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes and check if any of the leaves are sticking out of the water. If so, fold them over and top with more water.

how to freeze basil in ice cube trays

Freeze the Basil-filled Ice Cube Tray

Next place the basil-filled ice cube trays in the freezer to solidify for about an hour. This allows you pop the basil cubes out and store in a Ziploc freezer bag and place back in the freezer.

Use quart size bags in order to make it easy to squeeze in tight spots when the freezer is packed to the hilt.  Just make sure they are truly frozen so they won’t freeze together.

How to Use Basil that is Frozen in Ice Cube Trays

freezing basil in ice cube trays

Congratulations, you got your basil well frozen in the trays and ready to use in the off-season colder months for many Italian recipes. But exactly how do you extract the basil from the ice cubes and how do you use it in recipes?

Once you know how to freeze basil in ice cube trays, don’t expect it to have the same texture and use in recipes as you would when you first made the basil trays. For example, using these in a margarita pizza on the grill, or with tomato and mozzarella skewers, is out of the question.

One of the down sides to freezing basil in ice cube trays is the amount of water you’re dealing with as the ice cube melts. Therefore, it’s important to know what types of recipes are best suited for this method of freezing basil.

The rule of thumb is to use your frozen basil cubes in anything that already has liquid, or can be easily cooked off.

Here are some examples:

Remember, you won’t get the same texture as truly fresh off the plant, but the flavor will still be there. You can make a fresh tomato sauce and drop in some basil cubes and let it cook and simmer. I am always amazed when I make it during the winter months how good it is, just like in the summer!

How Long Can You Store Frozen Basil Cubes in the Freezer?

This is such a good question and frankly, my honest opinion is however long until it’s so freezer burnt it changes the taste. That’s my generic rule of thumb with all things though. 🙂 

You can store the frozen basil ice cubes up to a year. Many people will say 6 months which is all you need to carry you through the colder months. However, I can tell you that I was using my frozen basil in my pasta sauce up until late spring the following year, so that’s about 9 to 10 months. Flavor was still great.

Other Types of Basil to Freeze in Ice Cube Trays

Basil varieties for freezing in ice cubes

When you make your frozen basil ice cube trays, it doesn’t have to be limited to Italian sweet basil or Big Leaf Basil. Thai basil is a great basil variety that would work very well.

The best method is to use basil with big enough leaves that you can stack and roll them. So small basil plants that have very tiny basil leaves such as bush basil would not be ideal as they will float to the top of the cube in the water.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. If you have your own tips to share, please do so in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

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How to Freeze Basil in Ice Cube Trays

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