How To Freeze Dry Fresh Herbs with a Harvest Right

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Learn how to freeze dry herbs from your garden! Freeze drying preserves your homegrown herbs for months (and even years), so you can enjoy fresh flavors from your garden any time!

Freeze dried herbs spilling out of jar

Growing and preserving your own food is one of the fundamentals of homesteading. And if you are starting your homesteading journey in the suburbs, an herb garden is a great launching pad.

I often recommend starting a home food preservation journey with herbs because they are easy to maintain, grow in abundance, and are simple to preserve.

In the past, I would freeze my herbs in ice cube trays to make herb cubes or dry them in a food dehydrator. Sure, frozen herbs are good. But freeze drying is, by far, the best way to preserve herbs because it retains their natural freshness, flavor, and aroma.

By preserving your fresh herbs with a Harvest Right freeze dryer, you can enjoy your garden’s bounty all year (or for many years). You can toss your freeze-dried herbs into garden vegetable soup, make homemade herb butter, or sprinkle them on sourdough flatbreads.

Whether you are growing herbs in a container garden or a raised bed in your backyard, freeze drying them is a great way to enjoy your garden’s bounty without much effort!

Fresh basil and a a jar of freeze dried herbs with text "How To Freeze Dry Fresh Herbs"

Benefits of Freeze-Dried Herbs

  • Buying herbs in the grocery store is mega-expensive. However, growing and preserving your own herbs is a budget-friendly option, especially if you invest in a freeze dryer for preserving a wide array of foods.
  • There are different ways to preserve herbs, such as dehydrating, air drying, and oven drying. However, in my experience, freeze-dried herbs taste better than any other preserved form. The flavor is as fresh and potent as herbs straight from the garden.
  • You can make the most of your seasonal abundance. For example, growing cool-weather herbs like cilantro in my climate is next to impossible. But in our short cool season, I grow as much cilantro as I can and freeze-dry it. That way, I can still enjoy fresh cilantro long after I pulled it from my garden.
  • Freeze-dried herbs retain more nutrients than dehydrated herbs. Freeze drying does not change food’s nutritional composition, so even though they are dry, freeze-dried herbs are still packed with Vitamins A, C, and K.
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Tips for Freeze Drying Herbs

  • Wash off any dirt and clean your herbs. A salad spinner makes washing and drying herbs easy.
  • Remove any discolored, bruised, or damaged leaves. This is always a best practice in food preservation.
  • The tender, young stems are fine to leave on and can even add flavor. But remove any stems that are thick, dense, or woody.
  • Open the valve slowly. Herbs are light, so they can blow around when you release the vacuum. If that happens, it won’t cause a huge mess. However, I’m never looking for one more thing to do or clean up.
Fresh basil in garden

Dehydrated vs. Freeze-Dried Herbs

Different Processes

Many new suburban homesteaders mistake freeze drying and dehydrating for the same thing. But they are very different processes with distinct end results.

A food dehydrator circulates warm air to remove moisture from the herbs. Because it is using low heat, the herbs are slowly cooked. As such, dehydrated herbs have a slightly different flavor than fresh herbs and lose some nutritional value.

The freeze drying process uses frigid temperatures (about -40° F) and a vacuum suction to remove approximately 98% of the water from the herbs. Unlike dehydrating, the herbs are not cooked, so they retain most of their flavor and nutritional value.

Freeze dried herbs in mason jars

Are Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Herbs Better?

I prefer freeze-dried herbs because they retain more flavor and have a longer shelf-life. However, dehydrated herbs are still an excellent choice because they are cheaper and more accessible.

Freeze drying herbs requires a home freezer dryer, which is a large investment (around $3,000 for a medium Harvest Right). Understandably, that might be out of reach for some budgets, so investing in a freeze dryer for only herbs may be unrealistic.

However, if you plan on stocking your pantry with many freeze-dried foods, such as eggs, apples, and strawberries, investing in a freeze dryer might be worth it.

Freeze dried dill in jar

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Freeze Dry Herbs at Home?

Yes! With a Harvest Right freeze dryer, you can easily freeze dry herbs at home. If you don’t have a freeze dryer, there are other effective preservation methods, such as dehydrating and regular freezing.

What Herbs Can You Freeze Dry?

You can freeze dry any and all herbs! Though I freeze dry all of the herbs I grow in my garden, my favorites are those with a short growing season here in zone 8a, such as cilantro and dill. I grow as much as possible during the short window of cool weather. Then, I freeze dry and save them for later use.

Can You Freeze Dry Herbs with Other Foods?

Yes! One thing to keep in mind, though, is that herbs or foods with strong flavors can transfer. For example, if you freeze dry a tray of garlic chives with a tray of apples, your apples might have a slight garlic flavor. If you are freeze drying a batch of mixed foods and herbs, stick with complementary flavors.

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Do Freeze-Dried Herbs Taste Fresh?

Yes! In fact, in my experience, freeze-dried herbs taste better than other preserved herbs. And as an added bonus, they retain much of their vibrant color and aroma.

What Is the Shelf Life of Freeze-Dried Herbs?

If your herbs are completely dry and stored properly, they can last up to 25 years. This is great if you are looking for long-term storage options. However, I am not really interested in long-term storage for my personal use, so I try to use them up within a year.

Herbs on Harvest Right trays

How To Use Freeze-Dried Herbs

You can use freeze-dried herbs in any recipe or dish that calls for fresh herbs. These are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

  • Salad dressings – Toss freeze-dried herbs into olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar for a quick homemade salad dressing.
  • Dips – I live for homemade gorgonzola-dill dip! Just mix together freeze-dried dill, homemade yogurt (video), mayo, gorgonzola cheese, and a little milk for a delicious veggie or chip dip.
  • Soups – Add a handful of freeze-dried herbs to cheddar broccoli soup or your other favorite soup recipe.
  • Sprinkle greens – To keep herbs exciting for my toddler, I call an herb garnish “sprinkle greens.” I just mix up any freeze-dried herbs that I have on hand and sprinkle them on everything.
  • Sauces – I love adding freeze-dried basil to homemade tomato sauce.
  • Herb butter – Mix room temperature butter and your favorite herb mixture to make compound butter, then slather it on homemade sourdough bread.
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs – Add freeze-dried herbs to homemade breadcrumbs and use them to make delicious sourdough fried chicken. This is my favorite way to season chicken for chicken parmesan.
Freeze dried herbs in mason jars and small dish of chopped herbs

Tools You Will Need

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  • Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. This is the machine you will use for freeze drying. You will need your own freeze dryer or a friend with a home freeze dryer.
  • Knife – You may need to trim some of the herbs. A small knife will do the trick.
  • Cutting board – A cutting board is helpful when trimming and cleaning your herbs.
  • Mylar bags (for long-term storage). If you plan to store your herbs for over a year, seal them in a mylar bag with an appropriate-sized oxygen absorber.
  • Oxygen absorbers (for long-term storage). Oxygen absorbers preserve the quality of freeze-dried food by preventing spoilage, mold, and other deterioration.
  • Glass jars (for short-term storage). Glass mason jars are great for short-term storage. Make sure you have air-tight lids and a handheld vacuum sealer to go with them.
  • Handheld vacuum sealer (for short-term storage). If you are storing food for a short time, vacuum sealing the jar lid will keep it fresh and allow you to seal and re-seal it.
Freeze dried basil

Ingredients

  • Fresh herbs – Use your favorite herbs. Basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, oregano, lemon balm, chives, and sage are some of my favorites.

How To Freeze Dry Herbs

Harvest the Herbs

Try to harvest your herbs at their peak, usually just before they flower. Also, if possible, I recommend harvesting them mid-morning after the dew has dried and before the day gets hot. This is when the most oil is on the stem and leaves. Like all food preservation, the quality of the food when it’s fresh determines the quality of the food when it is preserved.

Herb garden with basket in background

Prepare the Herbs

Wash and dry the herbs. You can pat them dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel. But a salad spinner is also a quick way to rinse and dry them.

Remove the fresh herb leaves. You can leave the tender, young stems on soft-stem herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, etc.). But remove any old, tough, or woody stems.

Fresh herbs on counter and on Harvest Right trays

Place Herbs in Freeze Dryer

Place the prepared herbs on the freeze dryer trays. Some folks like to line the trays with parchment paper, but I haven’t found it necessary. Ensure the herbs don’t go above the top edge of the tray. This is easy with dill and oregano, for example. But leafy herbs like basil are harder to squish down. Divide the herbs among the trays as needed.

Note: Unlike freeze drying other foods or dehydrating, it is not imperative for herbs to be in a single layer. They don’t have a high moisture content, so layering them doesn’t significantly affect the dry time.

Fresh herbs on Harvest Right trays

Place the trays into the freeze dryer. Close and seal the freeze dryer door. Make sure the drain valve is closed (it should be perpendicular to the drain line). Hit start.

Let the freeze dryer do its magic! The process’s length depends on the quantity of herbs and the room’s temperature (if your freeze dryer is in a garage, for example, it can take longer on hot days). But the drying time usually takes around 12 hours or more.

Check for Doneness & Store

Once the freeze dryer has completed the process, check the herbs to ensure they are completely dry. If there is any moisture, return the trays to the machine, select “more dry time,” and add 2 hours. Repeat as needed until the herbs are dry.

Freeze dried herbs on Harvest Right trays

When the herbs are completely dry, store them in vacuum-sealed glass jars (short-term storage) or mylar bags with an appropriate-sized oxygen absorber (long-term storage up to 25+ years).

Note: When packing freeze-dried food, don’t dilly dally. The longer it sits out in the open, the more water it will absorb from the air. This happens faster than you’d imagine, so quickly get it in jars or mylar bags.

How To Tell When Freeze-Dried Herbs Are Done

Depending on how many herbs you have, they will take 12-24 hours to freeze dry. The herbs should be brittle and crumbly. Also, they should not feel cold (cold indicates remaining moisture).

If they are not done, put them back into the freeze dryer and dry them for two more hours. Continue this process until they are completely dry.

How to Store Freeze-Dried Herbs

How to store long-term

If stored properly, freeze-dried food can last up to 25+ years. For long-term storage (more than one year), store your freeze-dried goods in a mylar bag with an appropriate-sized oxygen absorber. Always keep your packaged freeze-dried food in a cool, dry place.

How to store short-term

Personally, I am not interested in long-term food storage. I aim to have quality food in the pantry and use it within a year. So, for short-term storage like this, I use a handheld vacuum sealer to remove excess air from the jar. Then, I keep the herbs in a dry, dark place. They stay fresh for about a year this way, though we usually use them up faster than that.

Note: I do not recommend storing freeze-dried herbs in a freezer bag for short- or long-term storage. It will not keep them fresh for long.

Fresh herbs on tray

How to Rehydrate Freeze Dried Herbs

The easiest way to use freeze-dried herbs is to toss them directly into your recipe or on your favorite foods. Herbs don’t need much water to rehydrate, so the moisture from the recipe or meal is usually enough.

If you want to rehydrate them, I recommend spritzing them with cool water and giving them a few minutes to hydrate. Generally, using as little water as possible when rehydrating herbs is the best practice. You can always add a little more if needed. But there isn’t a fix for adding too much water.

Where to Purchase a Freeze Dryer

Most home food preservationists use a Harvest Right freezer dryer. You can buy one directly from Harvest Right or use my Harvest Right affiliate link.

If you choose to use my affiliate link, I will receive a commission at no expense to you. It’s a great way to help me provide more free content for you. Thank you for supporting my content!

If you tried freezing drying your herbs and loved it, leave a review!

How To Freeze Dry Herbs

How To Freeze Dry Herbs

Yield: 3-5 jars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 10 minutes

Learn how to freeze dry herbs from your garden! Freeze drying preserves your homegrown herbs for months (and even years), so you can enjoy fresh flavors from your garden any time!

Ingredients

  • Fresh herbs - Use your favorite herbs. Basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, oregano, lemon balm, and sage are some of my favorites.

Instructions

    1. Try to harvest your herbs at their peak, usually just before they flower. Also, if possible, I recommend harvesting them mid-morning after the dew has dried and before the day gets hot. This is when the most oil is on the stem and leaves. Like all food preservation, the quality of the food when it’s fresh determines the quality of the food when it is preserved.
    2. Wash and dry the herbs. You can pat them dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel. But a salad spinner is also a quick way to rinse and dry them.
    3. Remove the fresh herb leaves. You can leave the tender, young stems on soft-stem herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, etc.). But remove any old, tough, or woody stems.
    4. Place the prepared herbs on the freeze dryer trays. Some folks like to line the trays with parchment paper, but I haven’t found it necessary. Ensure the herbs don’t go above the top edge of the tray. This is easy with dill and oregano, for example. But leafy herbs like basil are harder to squish down. Divide the herbs among the trays as needed.
    5. Place the trays into the freeze dryer. Close and seal the freeze dryer door. Make sure the drain valve is closed (it should be perpendicular to the drain line). Hit start.
    6. Let the freeze dryer do its magic! The process’s length depends on the quantity of herbs and the room’s temperature (if your freeze dryer is in a garage, for example, it can take longer on hot days). But the drying time usually takes around 12 hours or more.
    7. Once the freeze dryer has completed the process, check the herbs to ensure they are completely dry. If there is any moisture, return the trays to the machine, select “more dry time,” and add 2 hours.
    8. When the herbs are completely dry, store them in vacuum sealed glass jars (short-term storage) or mylar bags with an appropriate-sized oxygen absorber (long-term storage up to 25+ years).

Notes

        • The final yield will depend on how many herbs you dry.
        • When packing freeze-dried food, don’t dilly dally. The longer it sits out in the open, the more water it will absorb from the air. This happens faster than you’d imagine, so quickly get it in jars or bags.
        • Unlike freeze drying other foods or dehydrating, it is not imperative for herbs to be in a single layer. They don’t have a high moisture content, so layering them doesn’t significantly affect the dry time.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 9Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g

Nutrition is auto-calculated and will depend on the type of herb, how much you use per serving, etc.

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