Storage Tips

The Best Ways to Store Fresh Herbs

January 23, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: A lesson on keeping your fresh herbs fresh.

There are few things as inspiring as a beautiful bunch of fresh herbs. We love you, salt and pepper, but only fresh herbs have the special power to transform a dish with nothing more than a few small leaves.

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It’s fun to buy beautiful bouquets of fresh parsley, sage, and thyme on your Sunday market trip, and to envision all of the beautiful meals you will make in the coming week. (It’s even better when you can buy them at the farmers' market and impulse-buy a cider donut or kettle corn.)

But what happens by the time Thursday rolls around, and those perky green herbs have turned wilted and swampy in the fridge, just when you're about to whip up a batch of pesto?

Say goodbye to dull, limp herbs. Here’s how to keep your fresh herbs fresh all week long.

Fresh herbs from Food52

First, sort your herbs:

Herbs fall into two categories: hard and soft. Soft herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon have soft, tender stems. Hard herbs have woody stems and include rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and thyme.

Read more: How to dry your herbs.

Fresh herbs from Food52

Next, store them properly:

Now that you’ve organized your fresh herbs, store them so they last.

Soft herbs like to be treated like a bouquet of flowers. Snip the bases of the stems and put them into a glass of fresh water, changing out the water every day or two if it starts to cloud. Basil should be kept at room temperature, but other soft herbs should be loosely covered with a plastic bag, then placed in the fridge.

Read more: How to preserve fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs from Food52  Fresh herbs from Food52

Store your hard herbs by wrapping them first in a damp paper towel, then loosely in plastic wrap before placing them in your crisper. If you’re going green, a damp kitchen towel and an airtight container work perfectly well. 

A final tip: Don’t wash fresh herbs until they are ready to be used -- it will add excess moisture and waste time.  

What are your tips for keeping herbs fresh? Let us know in the comments!


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Esther
  • josefernandez
  • Chava Nesher
    Chava Nesher
  • Miranda Joyce Childe
    Miranda Joyce Childe
  • Borosil US
    Borosil US
Recovering lawyer, food writer, pastry chef, and lover of food-related everything (namely: cheese, baked goods, and anything made by Mom)


Esther May 26, 2017
Hey name is esther i what to no if i can put all my fresh herbs that I grow in the refrigerator to keep the freshness .what should I do .
josefernandez August 5, 2016
In addition to jar, wrap in moist towel and ice cube, I find it best to invest in a fresh herb box if you use fresh herbs often. Cole and Mason makes a great one I love but pretty sure there are others around, or maybe it could be a DIY project as well.
Chava N. August 4, 2016
I'm seeing opposing instructions to keeping a bunch of basil fresh for about a week or two. Some say put the bouquet with a plastic cover in the fridge, some say out of the fridge. It leaves me confused as to who to believe and at the price I have to pay for fresh herbs I can't see to wasting any on the way to making pesto, etc.
Miranda J. July 20, 2016
Thanks Borosilicate US,
I will look for them online. I think the impermeability of them will avoid rot due to water or container contaminants.
Borosil U. July 20, 2016
Thank you Miranda,
You are absolutely correct !
I still change the water every 3 days just to keep my herbs extra happy.
You can find them on FOOD52
Borosil U. July 20, 2016
The best way I found to store a bunch of fresh basil is in a glass with water in a shady spot in the kitchen near a cracked window. I have had it last up to 9 days, however, best to plan to use it earlier for more flavor. I use the little borosil tumblers to store my herbs. They are non-pours (scientific glass) and will not absorb odors, hence, much easier to clean than regular glassware. Plus the herbs just tuck right in.
MarZig July 10, 2016
I have easy time with parsley cutting bottoms and putting in glass of water. The one I really have hard time with is cilantro it doesn't seem to like the same way you treat parsley.... I am gonna try the suggested method here with paper towel. Anybody else have cilantro tips. It's my favorite herb wish I had a green thumb to grow my own.
petalpusher July 20, 2016
How do you know your thumb is not green? Cilantro is one of the easiest herbs to start! Buy a packet of seeds and try it. It should come up in a couple days if you're living somewhere with summer temperatures.
The secret is keeping the seed bed moist but not soggy until they sprout and then let the seed bed dry out between waterings. Good luck MZ, you can do it.
Maddie A. July 20, 2016
I have good luck with cilantro and can keep it usable for a week, if not two! The most important step I've discovered is removing any rubber band or twisty tie that's keeping the bunch of herbs together. They need their space! I then spread them out on a damp (if the cilantro is dry) or dry (if the cilantro is wet) paper towel so they're more or less in an even layer. Then, I loosely roll up the towel + herbs like you would with a buche de noel. Stick the herb/towel roll in a plastic produce bag and put it all in the crisper. Sometimes some of the leaves will turn yellow if not used quickly enough, but at least you don't get that nasty, brown, stinky and mushy dead cilantro compost! I've found this method works great for parsley, too :)
Shelley M. July 10, 2016
Doing the 'treat them like cut flowers' only goes so far with my fresh basil. It g oes south so fast.
Aimee P. July 20, 2016
I have a secret that sometimes works, sometimes not. Treat them like flowers, and then put the jar/glass where the stems will get direct sunlight. If you're lucky, roots will grow and you basil will stay fresh forever !
petalpusher July 20, 2016
Use it sooner. Or don't buy it unless you're committed to using it right away.
Shilpa R. June 28, 2016
I believing in washing whole dirt n mud first. I think these all dirty particles take main part for sogginess of fresh herbs.. I then dried on thick towel for an hour n pack in airtight container or zip lock bag.
Ali S. June 15, 2016
How long will herbs keep using these methods?
Ms.Ch`eri March 21, 2016
Storing parsley and cilantro is fairly easy, I first take the band off of them, discard any yellow or soggy stems in the bunch, I give them a quick swish under the faucet sprayer (gently) to get rid of any loose dirt and gently shake the excess water off. I then trim the bottom of the stems, (but not too much because I will trim them every couple of days, the trimming is important) I then place the thin vegetable bag over the top from the grocery store (loosely). I then store them in the refrigerator. This has kept them fresh for up to two weeks. I do the same with green onions only I DO NOT TRIM THE BOTTOMS, the roots will continue to grow like a plant, if I do not use them in a timely manner they will actually out grow my want to know if anyone has tried using a seal a meal machine for basil???????? If so pleassssse post your outcome. Thank You!
charlene S. May 3, 2015
I love cooking with fresh herbs and buy them regularly, but I always end up tossing some portion of what I purchase before it gets used up. ... Until, I came across a tip about how to freeze fresh herbs. I was amazed at how well the technique works, and how fresh the herbs stay. Whatever herbs I haven't used 2-3 days after they come home from the store, I freeze. I bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then blanch the herbs for about 20-30 seconds. Remove the herbs from the boiling water and rinse under cold water. Pat dry, and store in freezer bags in the freezer. Blanching kills the enzymes on the leaves that allow the herbs to continue to ripen, and eventually turn black and go bad. Once they're blanched, the herbs stay bright green, even once frozen, and maintain their wonderful fresh flavour. Here's a link with specific instructions for freezing various types of herbs.
dawn R. May 19, 2015
Awesome tip thank you!! I will try that today!
Miranda J. March 9, 2015
After years of buying fresh one tiny expensive bunch at a time, I have saved several of the flat, self-closing containers they come in, so now I can get less pricey herbs at markets. I just wrap them in paper towel, as your article suggests, and I find that the herbs last up to a month if you use them frequently and weed out the yellowish ones as they appear. Keep the paper towel free of slimy black residue and you have a "fridge" herb garden!
Gret March 7, 2015
And I do what Mouse does with basil! Favorite part of my small backyard veggie garden is how much tomatoes & basil, my garden will produce. Also make various pesto's with the herbs, for the freezer.
Mouse March 7, 2015
Yes, I do this too--parsley in water in a jar with a plastic bag over it. It works. But if you want to store it for longer, check out Margaret Roach's trick at her website, A Way To Garden. She picks off the leaves, rolls it up into a log in a freezer bag, and secures with a rubber band. Then in the middle of winter you can take out the frozen roll, and cut off as much as you need. The texture of course isn't the same as fresh, but great for stews, soups, etc. Very practical for gardeners who grow a lot of parsley.
Dina M. July 24, 2014
you guys should repost this--so timely, as we're all harvesting our basil or getting herbs at the farmer's market, only to have them looking pathetic two days later if not following proper storage rules....thanks for this!
timbrel2 May 2, 2014
I always try keeping basil at room temperature. In 3 days I have a limp, unattractive and unusable bunch. I'm going to do anything else but that next time. Herbs are too expensive to waste
petalpusher July 20, 2016
Don't buy them if you aren't planning to use them right away. Your timing is off.
Gret April 9, 2014
I ALWAYS wash my herbs, because I'm not going to put dirt into fridge! The basil, I put stems or roots into water & lightly cover with plastic in fridge.The other herbs, I do as la greca,5 below.
Kerry J. April 9, 2014
Should the basil still be covered loosely with a plastic, in a glass of water out of the fridge?
The Q. February 27, 2014
Great, great advice!! :)
Robert January 30, 2014
I don't understand the tip that says don't wash herbs until you are ready to use them because it will add water and waste time. I wash them and store them as soon as they come home (or in from the garden) Then they are clean and dry when I want to use them. No washing or drying needed!