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How to store cilantro the right way to maximize the herb's freshness

Someone chopping cilantro on a cutting board.
Cilantro is used in a wide variety of dishes and can last for weeks when stored properly.
  • If not stored properly, fresh cilantro has a tendency to wilt and spoil quickly.
  • The jar method will keep cilantro fresh for two to three weeks if the water is changed regularly.
  • Also try wrapping the stems in a damp towel and storing in a bag or container.
  • Visit Insider's Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

While usually not the star of the plate, fresh cilantro adds something special to a wide range of dishes. "Cilantro is a leafy green herb used to add flavor to dishes of all kinds from flavoring guacamole to rice, sauces, and meats. It's also often added at the end of cooking as a fresh garnish," says Patty Catalano, a professional recipe writer and tester.

The versatile, bright green herb has crunchy stems and delicate leaves, making it prone to wilting and drying out if you don't store it properly. "Once cilantro wilts, it doesn't really perk up again," says Sophie Pennes, founder of Urban Farms LA, so proper storage is key to getting the most out of the flavorful herb.

Pennes notes that if you want the longest-lasting cilantro, start with freshly picked. She recommends purchasing cilantro as close to the date you'll need it as possible.

In a jar

Fresh green cilantro herb in glass jar.
The jar method involves submerging cilantro stems in water while the leaves, which stick out of the top like a bouquet, are covered with a bag.

One method that will help your fresh herbs last as long as possible is the jar method. After purchasing cilantro, Catalano recommends taking a good look at your bunch. "Pick through the stems, discarding any bruised, blackened, or bent stems," she says. This will help keep the rest of the bunch fresh. Trim the bottom half-inch of the stems using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors — this allows them to more readily soak up water. 

Fill a mason jar or small glass with about an inch of water and stick the cilantro in so that the stems are submerged in water and the leaves are sticking out of the top like a bouquet. Place a clean plastic or zip-top bag over the top creating a makeshift terrarium and transfer to the fridge.

Fresh cilantro can last for two to three weeks using this method, especially if you change out the water every few days. Catalano notes that while the jar method is effective, "it takes up a lot of space in the fridge and I'm always fearful of tipping over the open jar of water."

In a plastic bag or container

If you don't have the space for a jar of water in the fridge, you can also store cilantro in a bag or container. "An airtight container in the fridge is my go-to," says Pennes.

Remove the rubber band or twist tie securing the cilantro bunch and pick through the stems, discarding any that are discolored or wilted. Trim the bottom half-inch of the stems and wrap them in a damp paper towel, leaving the leaves bare. Transfer into a zip-top bag or airtight container, and seal.

Place in the crisper and check the paper towel every few days, rewetting if it becomes dry. Stored this way, cilantro can last at least two weeks. 

While washing the herb just before using will help it last the longest, Catalano says she washes hers before storing it since it's more convenient and she's "more likely to use them if they are ready to go" whenever she needs to cook.

Catalano recommends rinsing with cold water and shaking off as much moisture as possible. After wrapping the stems in a damp towel, she loosely wraps the leaves again in a dry towel before sealing in a bag. "Make sure to label the bag since the herb won't be immediately visible," Catalano says. 

In the freezer

Frozen herbs in an ice cube for cooking.
Store cilantro in the freezer either by lining out the stems on a lined baking sheet and then transferring to a zip-top bag, or in an ice cube tray.

For even longer storage, try freezing fresh cilantro. Lay clean, dry stems out on a lined baking sheet and freeze. Transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, squeeze out the air and store for up to a month. Pennes points out that another effective method for freezing cilantro is to "create little cilantro ice cubes."

Chop the leaves and stems and add them to an ice cube tray. Top with water or olive oil and freeze before transferring them to a zip-top freezer bag for up to a month.

When frozen, cilantro will lose its texture and some of its bright color, but the flavor will remain largely intact. However, avoid using it as a fresh garnish since it will look like a wilty mess, and instead add it to already cooked foods. Pennes notes that frozen cilantro is especially great for soups and sauces.

Insider's takeaway

Instead of tossing fresh cilantro straight from the shopping bag into the crisper, take a few minutes to store it properly and it'll last for weeks. Discard any bad pieces and trim the stems. Either submerge the stems in a jar of water and cover the top with a plastic bag or wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and transfer the cilantro to a container. Freezing cilantro will prolong its flavor but will cause the tender leaves to wilt and lose their texture.

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How to store cilantro the right way to maximize the herb's freshness
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