How to Store Cilantro So It Stays Fresh

With these strategies, you’ll be able to make fresh salsa and guac for up to 2 weeks!

<p>Veena Nair / Getty Images</p>

Veena Nair / Getty Images

There’s something really special about the pop of citrusy, peppery flavor that cilantro provides. True, some people think cilantro tastes like soap due to a variance in a cluster of genes related to taste and smell. But for the majority of us, this punchy fresh herb is a staple in our kitchens. Since we use it so frequently for recipes that span the globe from Indian to Mexican to Thai cuisine and beyond, we’ve had plenty of practice in testing out the many options for how to store cilantro.

Ahead, Sarah Brekke, M.S., Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen brand manager, reveals a couple preferred techniques for how to store cilantro in its fresh herb form, then she shares ways to optimize your dried cilantro if that’s part of your spice cabinet stock.

“In the Test Kitchen, we are split on our storage methods,” Brekke admits, referring to the fact that they have two agreed-upon strategies for how to store cilantro that’s fresh. The goal with both is to “maintain some humidity around the leaves.” You can’t go wrong with either.

How to Store Fresh Cilantro

Option 1: The ‘Fresh-Cut Flowers’ Method

Best for: Easy and pretty storage

Using a sharp knife, carefully trim off the ends of the cilantro for a “fresh cut.”  Then remove the rubber band securing the bunch, if it’s present, to allow for more air circulation around the cilantro stems. Transfer the fresh cilantro, unwashed into a jar or glass filled partially with water. (Ensure only the stems are coming into contact with the water, not the leaves.) Cover the top of the bunch with a produce bag or another large plastic bag. Use a rubber band to secure the bag loosely around the top of the bunch, then place the cilantro “bouquet” on a shelf in the refrigerator. Before using the fresh cilantro, wash the leaves and stems well under cool water before drying and chopping.

Test Kitchen Tip: Refresh the water every few days and remove any wilted stems or leaves as needed to maximize the lifespan of your fresh cilantro bouquet. “Wilting and decay will rapidly cause neighboring stems to spoil as well,” Brekke confirms.

Option 2: The Zip-Top Bag Method

Best for: Those who love to pre-wash

Remove the rubber band securing the bunch, if it’s present, then wash the cilantro leaves and stems well under cool water. Extract and discard any wilting stems and leaves, then use a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to thoroughly dry off any excess water. Line a large zip-top plastic bag with a very lightly damp paper towel, add the clean-and-dry fresh cilantro on top, and seal the bag. Place the bag, cilantro facing up, in the refrigerator. Peek at the cilantro daily and remove any leaves or stems that show signs of wilting or decay.

How to Store Dried Cilantro

While nothing can replace the verdant, bright flavor that fresh cilantro layers on as a final garnish or lends in raw preparations like salsa or guacamole, in many instances, you can absolutely use dried herbs instead of fresh if you’d like. Dried herbs tend to last far longer than fresh, and they’ll stay flavorful if you keep them according to the best practices we mentioned in our guide for how to store herbs and spices:

  • Store dried herbs at or around a consistent 70°F temperature in a container that has a tight seal.

  • Avoid keeping spices near sources of heat or in places where they might come in contact with direct sunlight.

  • Write the date you open spices so you can estimate the age.

Test Kitchen Tip: We say “estimate,” as it’s impossible to know how long your retailer had the spice on shelves or in its warehouse before you brought it into your home. The opening date at least gives you an idea of how long the dried cilantro has been exposed to oxygen.

Can You Freeze Fresh Cilantro?

“While it’s possible to freeze cilantro, once thawed it’s not ideal for fresh applications such as a topper for street tacos or other garnishes,” Brekke says.

Still, frozen cilantro works just fine as a flavor-booster in meat mixtures, soups and stews, and should also suffice in salsas or guacamoles if you don’t have fresh cilantro.

To freeze cilantro, wash the leaves and stems well under cool water. Use a sharp knife to finely chop the fresh herbs, then transfer them to a small freezer-safe zip-top plastic bag. Label with the name and date so you can keep track of your stock.

If you prefer, you can also freeze cilantro as a purée. Wash the leaves and stems well under cool water. Place the clean cilantro in a food processor with a little olive oil or water, then pulse until you reach a thick purée consistency. Pour this mixture into ice cube tray wells, and freeze until solid. Once your cilantro purée cubes are formed, pop them into a freezer-safe zip-top plastic bag. Label with the name and date.

How Long Does Cilantro Last?

Following Brekke’s tips for how to store cilantro, plan to use the herbs within their approximate maximum lifespan

  • Fresh: Up to 2 weeks

  • Dried: 1 to 3 years (ideally use within 1 year)

  • Frozen: Up to 6 months

“If your fresh cilantro starts to smell spoiled, the leaves are turning black and slimy, or the stems are beginning to brown, it has gone bad and it’s time to discard it,” Brekke says.

Put your cilantro to good use as a subtle backup singer in dishes like Cilantro-Lime Turkey or Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Cilantro Ranch Dressing, or showcase it front and center in creations like Snapper with Cilantro Oil, Seared Pork Chops with Cilantro Chimichurri and Crispy Sweet Potatoes, or Cilantro Canapes,

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