Use this freeze-drying herbs tutorial to learn a better way to preserve fresh herbs from your garden and store them for fresh-tasting herbs any time of year.
After all the work, love, and care that goes into our cottage herb garden, we want to preserve our culinary and medical herbs in a way that preserves their nutrients, essential oils, color, and wonderful flavors in the best possible way.
Why I Love Freeze-Drying Herbs
There are very few foods that cannot be freeze-dried, and fortunately, herbs are not one of them. Freeze-dried herbs just taste better than any other method of preserving herbs.
When you add freeze-dried herbs to recipes, they taste like fresh, straight-from-the-garden herbs. Even delicate leafy herbs like cilantro, basil and parsley preserve well in the freeze-dryer, and they retain their nutrients!
When we learned how to freeze dry garlic, we recognized the significant cost savings of making our own. Popular brands like Litehouse freeze-dried herbs are convenient and easy to find, but purchasing them proves contradictory to eating well on a budget.
If you have a short growing season, you know it’s hard to get the garden-fresh taste in winter, and freeze-drying herbs allow us to enjoy that fresh taste year-round at an affordable price.
Freeze Drying Herbs to Preserve the Harvest
I don’t know about you, but the taste of fresh herbs offers such comfort and aromatic satisfaction while cooking, especially if I can extend that fresh taste into the winter months.
In the past, we used other preservation methods for preserving herbs before we owned our freeze-dryer. We would hang herbs to dry or freeze herbs in ice cube trays. If you find yourself in the same boat, don’t fret.
If you want to preserve your amazing homegrown herbs but don’t own a freeze-dryer yet, we can teach you how to dry fresh herbs in the oven, in the dehydrator, or by hanging. Or, we can show you how to preserve herbs in salt or learn how to freeze basil or other herbs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Freeze-Drying Herbs
Is It Better to Dehydrate or Freeze-Dry Herbs?
It’s not a matter of “better” or “worse.” There are certain herbs that lose their flavor when dehydrated, whereas they maintain their flavor when freeze-dried. Herbs such as cilantro and basil are perfect examples.
But for the rest of our herbs, we still choose to dehydrate them because it’s more economical. Read more about the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods here.
Can You Freeze-Dry Fresh Herbs?
Absolutely! You can freeze-dry all fresh herbs. You can freeze-dry a batch of sage or parsley and package them separately. Or, you can create custom spice mixes like Italian spice with oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary.
Herbs make a perfect candidate for freeze-drying. If you like to make recipes like freeze-dried chicken pot pie, freeze-dried guacamole or freeze-dried potatoes, you can add herbs to those dishes before freeze-drying to enhance the flavor of your freeze-dried foods.
Do Freeze-Dried Herbs Taste Fresh?
Yes, yes, yes! Of all the many ways you can preserve herbs, freeze-drying retains the most flavor and nutrients. Plus, the herbs keep their beautiful, vibrant colors when freeze-dried as opposed to other preservation methods.
What Is the Shelf Life of Freeze-Dried Herbs?
Freeze-dried herbs can last up to 25 years. But our goal is to store a year’s worth of food in our pantry. We don’t feel the need to save food for 25 years. But it is nice to know that if a pouch of freeze-dried herbs gets tucked into the corner of the pantry and forgotten, it is still good.
If you store freeze-dried herbs in canning jars, the shelf life is one year. We recommend using the herbs within a year anyway for optimal flavor.
Ways to Use Freeze-Dried Herbs
You can use freeze-dried herbs just as you use fresh herbs. Try some of these ideas to get you started.
- Fermented Recipes – Herbs add an interesting depth of flavor to fermented recipes. Try adding freeze-dried herbs to this fermented tomato sauce, lacto-fermented green beans, fermented tomatoes, fermented garlic dill pickles, or quick & easy zucchini pickles.
- Eggs – We use several methods to use up extra eggs. You can use freeze-dried herbs to bring scrambled eggs to life, or this flexible frittata recipe accommodates just about any of your favorite herb combinations.
- Main Dishes – This Easy Meatloaf Recipe, Garden Stir Fry, and Sweet Pepper Hash would all work well using freeze-dried herbs.
- Soups – Soups are frugal, but they don’t have to taste cheap. Try making this easy white bean chicken chili, homemade chicken bone broth, or bread soup using freeze-dried herbs and taste the difference.
- Condiments – Do you make your own condiments? Our favorites are fermented ketchup, easy homemade mayo, and homemade vinaigrette dressing. These recipes are easily adaptable to your taste using your favorite herb blends.
- Flavored Cheeses – We love using freeze-dried herbs to make homemade chevre with our goat’s milk. If we don’t have fresh herbs in the garden, the freeze-dried herbs are a great option.
- Sauces – Herbs are a must when we make this quick & easy pan sauce or a lemon reduction sauce with roasted chicken.
- Freeze-Dryer – We love the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. With our large family and all the preserving we do, we actually operate two Harvest Right Freeze Dryers, and they’re running nearly constantly throughout the harvest season.
- Storage Containers – We recommend using vacuum-sealed glass jars or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
- Oxygen Absorbers – Add oxygen absorbers to your storage containers to remove any unwanted oxygen and carbon dioxide, keeping your preserved foods tasting fresh.
- Vacuum Sealer – Use a jar sealer to vacuum seal your canning jars.
- Parchment Paper (optional) – You can line your freeze-dryer trays with parchment paper if you are concerned with the herbs sticking to the trays.
- Fresh Herbs – Use the herbs of your choice. Herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley, dill, or chives freeze dry wonderfully.
Homesteading Hack: If you freeze-dry several different types of herbs on separate trays in your freeze-dryer, choose herbs that complement each other. They could infuse each other in the freeze-drying process.
Freeze-Drying Herbs Step-by-Step
- Harvest fresh herbs at their peak. The better the quality of the herb to start with, the better the end product. Most herbs are at their peak just before they flower. Also, harvest herbs in the morning when there is the most oil in the stems and leaves.
- Prepare herbs by washing and drying them. Pat them dry with a clean towel, or try air drying them by laying them flat on a paper towel or clean towel.
- Remove the leaves of the herb or cut away any stems or stocks.
- Place your herbs on your freeze-dryer trays. Herbs typically do not need blanching or pre-freezing; you can just freeze-dry them fresh. But follow the directions on your freeze-dryer.
- Place the trays in the freeze-dryer and follow the instructions of your freeze-dryer. Most freeze-dryers have a sensor that senses when the herbs are dry. Homesteading Hack: Adjust the custom setting on your machine to not heat above 95°F. Freeze-drying herbs at a lower temperature to preserve the nutrients.
- Once your freeze-dryer stops, check to make sure your herbs look done. There should not be any moisture in your herbs. They should feel crisp to the touch.
- Store, label, and date your herbs. If using a resealable bag or jar for regular access, include a desiccant package to help keep the herbs dry. Homesteading Hack: For the best, most potent flavor, use your freeze-dried herbs within a year.
How to Tell If the Herbs Are Done
Typically, herbs will take between 12 and 24 hours to freeze dry. Your freeze-dryer senses the moisture content and stops when the herbs become fully freeze-dried.
It is a good idea to double-check your herbs, however. You can tell when the herbs are done if they are crisp and crunchy with no moisture.
How to Rehydrate Freeze-Dried Herbs
You can sprinkle freeze-dried herbs directly into your recipes or on top of fresh foods without rehydrating. If you want to rehydrate your herbs, spray them lightly with a mist of water and wait a minute or two.
Homesteading Hack: You can be exact about this by weighing your trays of herbs before and after freeze-drying. The difference between the two weights is how much water (by weight) you want to add back to rehydrate your freeze-dried herbs. But who wants to be that fussy about it? With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of using your freeze-dried herbs in recipes. The real trick is using as little water as possible to rehydrate the herbs. I find that a small spray bottle works great for this.
Storing Freeze-Dried Herbs
We do not recommend using freezer bags to store your freeze-dried herbs for long-term storage.
You can store freeze-dried herbs in canning jars or Mylar pouches. If you choose to use glass jars, make sure you vacuum seal the lid and reseal the lid after every use. The herbs will stay fresh and potent for one year. Homesteading Hack: If herbs are being accessed regularly it is best to place a small amount in a air proof jar with a desiccant package, resealing the larger container. This should keep well for a bout 1 month.
If you use Mylar bags, get as much air out of the pouch before sealing. Also, place oxygen absorbers inside the bags before sealing. Oxygen absorbers remove any unwanted oxygen or carbon dioxide in the container, helping preserve your herbs safely.
Did you try freeze-drying herbs? If so, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below, then snap a photo of your freeze-dried herbs and tag us on social media @homesteadingfamily so we can see!
Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
If you love the taste of fresh herbs, then freeze-drying herbs truly is the superior method to preserve fresh herbs’ color, flavor, and texture.