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How to Store Fresh Herbs

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Keep those fresh herbs fresh.

Other than salt, nothing gives food a flavor boost like fresh herbs. Here is your easy guide to how to store fresh herbs, including fresh basil, cilantro, chives, dill, rosemary, thyme, and more.

how to store fresh parsley and chives

How do you store fresh herbs?

Fresh herbs add such life to a dish. A pop of fresh basil on top of a ripe tomato mozzarella salad, soft dill and chives stirred into classic egg salad, rosemary and thyme on top of a pork tenderloin — fresh herbs add color, flavor, texture and dimension.

But too often, what started as a perky bouquet of parsley on Sunday may look like a dull, droopy tangle by Wednesday. No more! Below, we will talk about how to keep your herbs fresh in the refrigerator by storing them correctly.

how to store fresh herbs like rosemary, dill, bay leaves, chives, cilantro, and parsley

First, know the difference between hard herbs and soft herbs.

Many fresh herbs are stored in a similar way, provided that you divide them into the correct category. The two main categories of fresh herbs are soft herbs and hard, or hardy, herbs. Knowing whether herbs are soft or hard is a useful step in knowing how to store fresh herbs.

Soft herbs refer to herbs that are generally, well, soft. Think tender leaves with pliant, even edible, stems. Soft herbs, also known as tender herbs, include:

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Chervil
  • Parsley
  • Tarragon

Hard herbs have woodier stems and/or thicker, firm leaves. Hard herbs include:

  • Bay leaves
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Thyme

Then there are the “borderline” herbs, a hybrid category that straddles soft and hard depending on both leaf and stem texture and best storage. These borderline herbs include:

  • Chives (borderline hard)
  • Dill (borderline hard)
  • Mint (borderline hard)
  • Oregano (borderline soft)

The difference between fresh hard and soft herbs helps guide their storage. Read on for specifics.

finished poached chicken recipe on plate

How to Store Fresh Soft Herbs

In general, you can store soft herbs or tender herbs by snipping the bottoms and placing them in a container like a vase of flowers, with a little water at the bottom, then covered loosely with plastic — such as a quart container with a lid, or a glass with a plastic bag on top — to prevent too much oxygenation. Here are specifics by herbs:

How to Store Fresh Parsley

The best way to store fresh parsley is in the style of a bouquet of flowers with a couple inches of water. Trim the bottoms, place the parsley in a drinking glass, cup, or mason jar filled with cold water, loosely cover with a plastic bag such as a gallon baggie or produce bag, then refrigerate.

The water in the cup or jar will keep the parsley hydrated and perky, and the plastic bag on top acts as further moisture protection. Parched parsley will look dull and wilted, but is still edible.

How long will fresh parsley last in the fridge if refrigerated correctly? A while, as in at least a week and possibly two. The parsley in the below photo is 10 days from the purchase date. Replace the water once or twice if it starts to look too murky or dried out.

How to Store Fresh Cilantro

Fresh cilantro gets stored in the exact same way as fresh parsley. In fact, I often store the two “bouquets” of herbs together in the same water glass.

To store fresh cilantro: 

  1. Trim the bottom of the stems,
  2. Place the parsley in a cup of cold water,
  3. Loosely cover the cilantro bunch with a plastic bag such as a gallon baggie or produce bag, then
  4. Refrigerate.

fresh basil leaves

How to Store Fresh Basil

Fresh basil leaves can be the most finicky of all the soft herbs to store. The things to remember here is that basil likes to be:

  • Well hydrated,
  • With dry leaves, and
  • At room temperature (so avoid the fridge)

If this seems confusing, you’re not wrong (hydrated but dry?), but you’ve got this. Just remember that keeping your fresh basil fresh gets requires different storage methods depending on whether you have 1) only basil leaves, or 2) a small basil plant with roots and stems attached.

The most common types of basil you will find are Genovese (the Italian basil you see with pesto or caprese salads or sandwiches), and sweet Thai basil, perfect for Thai-style curry. Both are stored the same way.

overhead shot of pesto recipe pasta with basil and cheese

To store fresh basil leaves (no stems or roots attached):

If you have picked up a bag or plastic clamshell box of fresh basil leaves, the key here is to keep the leaves dry and out of the fridge, which is a very moist environment. I repeat: Do not refrigerate basil leaves. 

Leaves-only basil will only last a day or two (ideally three), so use it fast. Award-winning pesto is always the right decision. To take care of your basil leaves, make sure they are not packed too tight together. This could breed a humid environment and the leaves will turn black.

Use dry paper towels to separate the basil leaves into single layers, then let them rest loosely inside the bag or clamshell.

To store fresh basil leaves that are still attached to the roots and stems:

My grocery store often sells portions of basil plant, packed with some of its roots attached. I prefer these because they will last much longer. To store this type of basil, place the basil plant in a glass of cool water. The water should fully cover the roots, plus a little bit of stem. Leave the basil plant on the countertop in the cup, and add water as necessary — possibly daily. Basil is thirsty and will suck up all that water!

Basil plants such as this will keep in a glass for about one week.

Why don’t you refrigerate basil?

Basil likes a warm, dry environment. The fridge is neither. The cold and dampness will quickly turn the basil black and wilted.

How to Store Fresh Chervil and Tarragon

These herbs are too delicate to store in a drinking glass or cup. To store fresh herbs such as chervil and tarragon, roll them loosely in a lightly damp paper towel, then wrap the loose roll in plastic wrap or place it in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container. Refrigerate. The chervil and tarragon should keep for about a week, if not a little more.

How to Store Fresh Dill

Dill fronds should be very dry when stored, or they will quickly turn swampy and black. To store fresh dill:

  • Rest the dill loosely on an ever-so-slightly damp paper towel, then
  • Place the dill in a sealed plastic bag or container and refrigerate.

The dill should keep for about a week, if not a little more, in the fridge. The key here is a little humidity, not wetness.

How to Store Fresh Herbs Like Chives, Mint, and Oregano

As with dill, the important thing to remember is a little moisture, but not wetness. To keep chives, mint, and oregano fresh and happy:

Roll the herbs loosely in a slightly damp paper towel, then wrap the loose roll in plastic wrap or place it in a sealed plastic bag or container. Refrigerate.

fresh chives stored in damp paper towel wrapped in plastic

How to Keep Hard Herbs Fresh

The second classification of fresh herbs is hard herbs, also known as woody herbs. Unlike soft herbs like parsley and cilantro (discussed above), hard herbs have woody stems and thicker, hardier leaves. These hard herbs include:

  • Bay leaves
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Thyme

Properly Storing Hard Herbs Like Bay, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme

Bay leaves are usually found dried, but fresh bay leaves are wonderfully glossy and supple, with a fresh, almost eucalyptus aroma. Bay leaves have a long shelf life, and will keep in a freezer bag, sandwich baggie, or in the little plastic clamshell they probably came in just fine, without special treatment, for several weeks in the refrigerator.

As for storing rosemary, sage, and thyme:

These common hard or woody herbs will keep best when treated exactly as chives, above. Remember, light moisture — not too wet, not too dry. And refrigerate. To store hard fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage to keep them fresh:

Loosely roll the herbs in a lightly-dampened paper towel, then wrap the loose roll in plastic wrap or place it in a sealed plastic bag or container. Refrigerate.

Hard herbs should last in the refrigerator for at about two weeks.

fresh rosemary leaves

Any more questions about storing herbs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to check out these herb-loving recipes:

1 comment

  • good tips! I have been storing my basil all wrong–yikes!

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