Like most fresh herbs, cilantro has a short shelf life. In addition to its short usable life, preservation can be difficult as well. Because it is a delicate herb, simply sticking it in the freezer will result in a slimy mush when you thaw it. This is because the enzymes that break down plant matter will work on cilantro’s tissues even while it is frozen. In order to keep it fresh for long periods, you will need to learn the best techniques for storing cilantro. There are various options for keeping your cilantro usable for long periods.
How to store cilantro in the refrigerator
Start by trimming the stems just as you would cut flowers for a vase. Trimming the stems gets rid of the dead tissue at the ends, which is incapable of taking in water and exposes the live portions. Place the cilantro in a jar and cover both the leaves and the mouth of the jar with a plastic bag. The bag will keep the leaves from being exposed to too much air.
Place the jar in the refrigerator. Change the water every three or four days. This method will preserve fresh cilantro for two weeks or longer.
Another way to store cilantro sprigs in the refrigerator is to utilize paper towels. Start by rinsing the sprigs, then pat them dry. Do this gently to keep from damaging the leaves. Next, place them on a bed of damp paper towels and roll them up. Place the roll into a zip lock bag for storage in the refrigerator.
Storing cilantro in the freezer
Freezing can be an effective cilantro storage method, but only if it is used correctly. Start by rinsing the sprigs with a salad spinner or simply by placing them under running water. Next, drain them in a colander and use a paper towel to pat them dry. At this point, you can choose between freezing the whole sprigs or trimming the leaves off with scissors. Removing the leaves can make it easier to measure portions. Spread the cilantro out on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for 30 minutes. Spreading them out on the tray before freezing ensures that the leaves are frozen separately rather than in a clump.
Move the cilantro to freezer bags immediately and return it to the freezer. Make sure to label the bags with the contents and the date. Freezing your cilantro like this allows you to keep it usable for several months. When you are ready to use the herb, thaw it to room temperature.
How to dry cilantro
You can use a food dehydrator to dry your cilantro, or you can do it the old fashioned way. Start by washing the cilantro to remove any dirt and debris. Next, pat it dry with a paper towel. Tie the stems together with a piece of string and hang your cilantro bundle in a location where it will be exposed to dry, moving air. Keep it there until the water on the surface has dried completely. Place the cilantro into a paper bag with the top of the bunch at the bottom of the bag, then tie the bag closed. Ventilate the bag by poking holes in it with a knife. Store the bag out of direct sunlight and in a warm, dry area. Check on the cilantro every few days. Once there are no moist spots, your cilantro can be transferred to a storage container.