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How to Store and Preserve Fresh Cilantro

Discover three different ways to keep this herb garden viable, longer

Experiment 1 tested how long cilantro would stay fresh when placed in water and left on the counter. Photo: Jodi Torpey

I have a love-hate relationship with cilantro. I love to use it in my cooking, but I hate for it to go to waste. That’s what spurred me to find the best way to keep the cilantro garden fresh for several weeks.

The broad lower leaves of the coriander plant are known as “cilantro.” Cilantro is typically sold in bundles of fresh leaves and stems or grown in the garden. I use cilantro in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. It’s also a key ingredient in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking.

The problem I’ve always had with this slightly pungent herb is that the fresh leaves don’t stay fresh for long and can turn mushy when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Even though cilantro is inexpensive to buy at the grocery store and easy to grow in the garden, I was tired of having to toss it on the compost pile instead of on top of a salad.

I decided to conduct a simple experiment to see if I could find the best way to keep cilantro fresh for more than a week or two. I bought one bunch of cilantro and divided it into three smaller bundles.

Three ways to store fresh cilantro

Experiment 1: I placed the first bundle of cilantro in a small jar of water and left it on the counter, similar to the way I keep sprigs of basil fresh.

Experiment 3 tested how long cilantro would stay fresh when placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Photo: Jodi Torpey

Experiment 2: I placed the second bundle in a small jar of water, covered it with a plastic sandwich bag, and placed it in the refrigerator.

Experiment 3: After trimming the third bundle, I placed it in a plastic container with an airtight lid.

I waited to see which bunch of cilantro would stay the freshest for the longest amount of time. I checked on each of the containers every few days and made sure there was plenty of water in the two jars.

What I discovered

The cilantro in the jar of water on the counter (Experiment 1) was the first to go. It lasted just over seven days.

The cilantro in the plastic container (Experiment 3) lasted about 10 days longer than that in Experiment 1. The leaves didn’t get mushy, but they did start to turn an unappetizing color.

cilantro in the fridge
Experiment 2 tested how long cilantro would stay fresh when placed in water, covered, and refrigerated.

Experiment 2 was the clear winner. The cilantro stems placed in water, covered, and refrigerated remained fresh for just over four weeks.

Previous: How to Grow Coriander Next: How to Grow and Cook With Chervil
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