Cilantro or coriander, also known by its botanical name Coriandrum sativum, is more than just a herb—it’s a culinary staple. Found in kitchens and dishes from Mexico to Southeast Asia, its unique flavor and fragrance can make a dish truly stand out. But there’s a catch: its tender leaves and stems are notorious for wilting and losing their vibrant green hue rather quickly. So, how to store cilantro longer? The answer is to prepare it properly and store it with water/paper towels or freeze/dry cilantro leaves.
But what if you could prolong the freshness of this green delight? Understanding how to store cilantro properly can make the difference between a wilted, flavorless bunch and crisp, aromatic leaves ready to elevate your next dish.
1. Preparing Cilantro for Storage
Cilantro, with its delicate leaves and distinct aroma, plays a pivotal role in many culinary dishes worldwide. Before tucking it away for later use, it’s vital to prepare it correctly to retain its freshness and flavor.
Why it’s Essential
- Dirt and dust: Fresh cilantro, especially if it’s farm-fresh or not pre-washed, often carries small bits of dirt or sand nestled between its leaves.
- Pesticides and chemicals: If you’re unsure whether your cilantro is organic or conventionally grown, it’s always safe to wash off any potential chemical residues.
How to Gently Wash Cilantro:
- Fill a large bowl with cold water.
- Immerse the cilantro bunch in the water, gently swishing it around.
- Allow it to sit for a few minutes; this helps any dirt or sand to settle at the bottom.
- Lift the cilantro out of the water, ensuring not to disturb the settled dirt at the bottom.
- Repeat if necessary, especially if the water appears particularly dirty after the first wash.
Before storing cilantro, it’s essential to ensure it is entirely dry. Wet cilantro deteriorates faster, leading to a mushy texture and a weakened flavor profile.
Methods to Dry Cilantro
- Salad Spinner: This is the most efficient way. After washing, place the cilantro in a salad spinner and spin until dry.
- Paper Towels: Lay the cilantro out on paper towels and gently pat dry. Make sure to turn the leaves and stems over to dry both sides.
- Air Dry: Another option is to let it air dry naturally. Spread the cilantro out on a clean kitchen towel in a well-ventilated area, ensuring it’s not clumped together.
With your cilantro cleaned and dried, it’s primed for storage.
2. Short-Term Storage Techniques
For those moments when you’ve got a surplus of cilantro and plan to use it within a week or so, short-term storage solutions are your best bet. Implementing these methods can ensure that your cilantro remains vibrant and flavorful until you’re ready to sprinkle its magic onto your dishes.
Storing in a jar/bowl with water:
This method mimics the way you’d display fresh flowers in a vase, which can keep cilantro lively and crisp.
- Fill a glass jar/ or a small bowl with a couple of inches of water.
- Trim the ends of the cilantro stems slightly.
- Place the cilantro bunch in the jar or bowl, ensuring the stems are immersed in water.
- Cover the leafy part with a loose plastic bag. This creates a mini greenhouse effect, maintaining humidity and freshness.
- Store in the refrigerator, and remember to change the water every couple of days or if it starts to appear cloudy.
Using a plastic bag with paper towels:
The paper towels help in absorbing any extra moisture, preventing the cilantro from getting soggy.
- Spread out cilantro on paper towels and roll it up gently.
- Slide the rolled cilantro into a resealable plastic bag.
- Seal the bag, pushing out as much air as possible without squashing the herbs.
- Store in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.
2.2. Counter Storage
Storing in a glass of water on the counter:
This method works similarly to the refrigerator jar technique but is meant for those who will be using the cilantro more quickly.
- Fill a glass with a couple of inches of water.
- Trim the cilantro stems and place them in the glass.
- Keep the glass on a kitchen counter away from direct sunlight.
- Remember to change the water daily.
Using these short-term storage techniques, your cilantro will be ready to jazz up your meals at a moment’s notice. Whether it’s a zesty salsa, a refreshing smoothie, or a comforting soup, the retained freshness of your cilantro will make a delightful difference.
3. Long-Term Storage Solutions
When you’ve managed to get a bumper deal on cilantro or have a surplus from your garden, you might wonder how to preserve its freshness for weeks or even months. Thankfully, there are long-term storage techniques that can come to your rescue.
3.1. Freezing Cilantro
Freezing is an excellent way to lock in the flavor and color of cilantro for extended periods. Here’s how you can do it:
Using ice cube trays with water or oil:
- Finely chop the cilantro leaves.
- Fill each compartment of an ice cube tray about half full with the chopped cilantro.
- Top up with water or olive oil, ensuring the cilantro is submerged.
- Freeze until solid, then transfer the cilantro cubes to a resealable freezer bag, labeling with the date.
- When cooking, simply pop a cilantro cube into your dish for that fresh herb flavor.
Storing in resealable plastic bags:
- Wash and thoroughly dry the cilantro. You can cut it into smaller pieces for later use.
- Spread out the cilantro on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for a few hours until it’s completely frozen.
- Transfer the frozen cilantro into a resealable freezer bag, pressing out as much air as possible.
- Store in the freezer, and use as needed.
3.2. Drying Cilantro
Drying cilantro allows for an even longer shelf life, although it will lose some of its punchy flavor. Here’s how:
Traditional air drying:
- Bundle cilantro stems together and tie with a string or rubber band.
- Hang upside down in a well-ventilated, dark place.
- Allow to dry for several weeks until the leaves are crumbly.
- Store dried cilantro in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Using a dehydrator:
- Spread cilantro leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator trays.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying herbs. Typically, it takes about 4-6 hours at 95°F (35°C).
- Store dried cilantro in an airtight container.
- Preheat your oven to its lowest setting, ideally no more than 170°F (77°C).
- Spread cilantro leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Place in the oven, leaving the door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape.
- Check every 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cilantro is completely dried.
- Store in an airtight container.
By implementing these long-term storage techniques, your cilantro will remain a readily available ingredient in your kitchen, ensuring that you can enjoy its unique flavor even off-season or during unexpected cilantro cravings.
4. Tips and Tricks
Cilantro, with its delicate structure and vibrant flavor, demands attention when being stored. However, knowing some insider tips can make the process smoother and more effective, ensuring you get the most out of your cilantro stash.
4.1. Determining if Cilantro Has Gone Bad:
- Odor: Fresh cilantro has a distinctive aromatic smell. If it starts to emit an off or sour odor, it’s time to discard it.
- Appearance: Look out for yellowing or darkening leaves, which indicate the cilantro is past its prime. Slimy texture is a clear sign of spoilage.
- Mold: If you notice any mold or mildew, discard the affected parts immediately or consider throwing out the entire bunch if the contamination is widespread.
4.2. Reviving Wilted Cilantro:
At times, even with the best storage practices, cilantro can wilt. Don’t fret; there are ways to give it a second life.
- Cold Water Bath: Immerse the wilted cilantro in a bowl of cold water for several minutes. This can often rejuvenate the leaves and stems.
- Trimming the Stems: Like flowers, cutting a small portion off the bottom of the cilantro stems and placing them in cold water can perk them up.
4.3. Storing Cilantro/Coriander vs. Coriander Seeds:
While cilantro refers to the fresh green leaves and stems of the plant, coriander usually denotes the dried seeds. Their storage methods differ:
- Coriander: As previously discussed, cilantro benefits from methods that preserve its freshness and moisture.
- Coriander Seeds: These should be stored in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. They can last for up to a year or more if stored properly. Before use, you can toast them for enhanced flavor in Chicken Pho.
4.4. Always Label and Date:
When freezing or drying cilantro, always label and date your storage containers or bags. This ensures you can rotate your stock and use the oldest herbs first.
5. Using Stored Cilantro
5.1. Frozen and Dry Cilantro
Cilantro Ice Cubes in Soups: Those frozen cilantro cubes can be dropped into broths or soups such as chicken herbal soup, Vietnamese beef ragu, releasing a burst of cilantro essence into the dish. With cilantro stored in resealable plastic bags, just take a bit from the bag to garnish the dishes like fried rice, chicken pho, baked sweet potato, etc.
Rehydrating Dried Cilantro: While dried cilantro doesn’t have the punch of its fresh counterpart, rehydrating it in a little warm water can help revive some of its flavors, making it suitable for stews and casseroles.
5.2. Innovative Cilantro Uses
Cilantro in Smoothies: For a detoxifying green smoothie, blend fresh cilantro with green apple, spinach, lemon juice, and a touch of honey.
Cilantro Infused Oil: Use those cilantro ice cubes with olive oil to create a cilantro-infused oil. Drizzle over salads, roasted vegetables, or grilled fish.
5.3. Culinary Note
While cilantro is loved by many for its refreshing flavor, it’s worth noting that a small portion of the population perceives the taste of cilantro as soapy. This is due to genetic factors affecting taste receptors. Always check with guests before heavily incorporating cilantro into shared dishes.