As part of my ongoing quest to figure out how to store fresh herbs, I’m tackling how to keep cilantro fresh in this post!
What is Cilantro?
The delicate fresh herb is popular in Indian, Mexican, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. The leafy herb is also called coriander, Mexican parsley, and Chinese parsley. So don’t be confused when you see it in recipes!
The whole cilantro plant is edible. The leaves are an herb and the seeds are turned into spice powder. Sometimes you can find dried cilantro in the supermarket. The roots are an essential ingredient in Thai cooking. I often chop cilantro leaves and stems whenever I cook with them. The stem is quite soft and super flavorful. You know I hate to waste anything 🙂
You will most likely see fresh cilantro in salsa, chutney, or salad. It is slightly tart and tastes like spicy parsley and citrus. While cilantro spice powder is nutty, citrusy, and spicy. The dried seeds and spice powder is added to a cooked dish like curries and is used to flavor pickling brine and gin.
Before we learn how to properly store cilantro, let’s go over how to pick and prepare fresh cilantro.
How to pick fresh cilantro
You can find a cilantro bunch in the vegetable section of the grocery store. It is usually next to parsley, so you really have to pay close attention. Parsely usually has darker shinier leaves while cilantro has a sharper aroma and taste. Don’t be afraid to take a whiff of the bunches!
Look out for fresh cilantro leaves that are bright green with no yellow or black spots. Immediately drop the cilantro bunch if it isn’t all green and has wilted leaves. It quickly goes downhill from there and you will not get the most out of it.
How to wash cilantro
The simplest way to wash cilantro is to place it under the faucet and gently run your fingers through it to ensure there isn’t any soil on it. Then dab it with paper towels to get any excess moisture. Moisture is cilantro’s enemy if you plan to store it! If you’re cooking with it, you can leave it on your counter until you need it. Alternatively, you can use a salad spinner to wash and dry cilantro.
How to chop cilantro
Depending on your recipe, you can pluck the cilantro leaves from their stems. The fastest way to do this is to hold the bunch with both hands – one had over the leaves and the other over the stems. Then twist the section with the leaves until it breaks free from the stems. Otherwise, use a knife to cut and separate the fresh cilantro leaves from the stems. You don’t have to be too precise since the stems are soft.
If you plan on using the leaves and the stems, lay the cilantro sprigs on a chopping board perpendicularly and gather them together before slicing them with a sharp knife. I always rough-chop the leaf and finely chop the stem. Sometimes I use kitchen scissors if I don’t want to be bothered with using a knife and chopping board!
Tips on how to properly store cilantro
How to store fresh cilantro in the fridge
One way to store cilantro is to treat it like a bouquet of flowers. Get a jar and place it in with a little bit of water. Cover it with a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator. Unlike basil, the soft cilantro leaf has to be stored in a cold refrigerator.
If you have a big enough mason jar, place the bunch with fresh water and loosely cover it. I liked this way over treating it like a bouquet and covering it with a plastic bag. It didn’t take up as much space, and I feel like it kept the fresh leaves green longer. This is the only way that you can store cilantro without plastic.
You can also store cilantro in a Ziploc bag or the bag that it came in. It is important that you wrap the bunch with a paper towel before storing it in the veggie bin. Stored cilantro should last a couple of weeks and up to a month. Check on it every so often to remove wilted leaves and swap out the paper towel.
How to store cilantro with roots
If you are lucky enough to find cilantro with roots then plop it into a glass jar with some water before placing it in the fridge. If you have a big enough jar then loosely cover it or treat it like a bouquet and cover the leaves loosely with a plastic bag.
How to store chopped cilantro
Place chopped cilantro in a paper-lined airtight container, like deli cups or plastic containers. I don’t really recommend storing chopped cilantro. If you prepared too much for a recipe, it wouldn’t hurt your dish to use all of the fresh herb!
How to store cilantro in the freezer
For those times when you have a lot of fresh cilantro, you can store it in the freezer. Separate the leaves from the stems, place them in a freezer bag, press the air out before sealing, and then place that in another freezer bag (double bag it) before storing it in the freezer.
If you have more time, make cilantro cubes – chop up the cilantro, place it in an ice cube tray with water, and freeze. Pop out a cilantro cube or two for soups or stews; it will not work for dishes that aren’t cooked. You can also make a cilantro pesto with some olive oil and store that in the freezer too.
What’s the verdict when it comes to keeping cilantro fresh?
I do not recommend freezing cilantro. It takes a bit of preparation and the flavor isn’t the same as with fresh cilantro. So it’s a lot of effort but not a lot of flavor!
I found that one of the best ways to store cilantro is in a ziplock bag. It is also the simplest and takes up less space in the fridge. Remember to wrap it in a paper towel before storing it in the fridge, and you’ll have cilantro for about a month if it lasts that long!
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