How long does Cilantro last? 5 ways to preserve freshness

Cilantro is one of those herbs you either love or hate. This aromatic herb with broad leaves can make the perfect garnish for savory dishes and work wonderfully well in green salads. But there is always a problem with leafy green herbs like cilantro; it just doesn’t last very long. You buy it, use it once, and then the next time you want cilantro, it’s yellow and unappealing.

Did you know that your genetics can make cilantro taste like soap? It’s estimated that 4 to 14 % of the population hates cilantro. While cilantroversy continues, this polarizing herb should not be underestimated. It packs a powerful punch when it comes to health benefits.

This article uncovers some of the secrets to keeping cilantro fresh for more than just a day or two. We answer many frequently asked questions, providing factual information you may find invaluable.

Let’s get into it.

Does cilantro expire?

Yes, cilantro expires rapidly. Once you cut cilantro from the garden, it starts to wilt almost immediately, making cilantro a herb that should be consumed while it’s fresh.

But if you look closely at cilantro, the stems are thick and made for transporting water and nutrients to the herb’s leaves. Once the water supply is cut off, the plant withers and wilts fast.

If you leave cilantro at room temperature, the delicate plant can’t survive for more than a few hours. So they answer much lye by throwing the cilantro in the fridge?

Nope, sitting in a dry, cool environment is just as bad as sitting at room temperature, and the cilantro will wilt. This can only mean one thing. Buy less cilantro and eat it fast as a garnish or in a recipe.

But if you are a cilantro lover, the answer is to find a solution to the short shelf life of cilantro.

Does cilantro need to be refrigerated?

Yes, but it is pointless to store cilantro in the fridge and let it wilt in the dry air.

You know cilantro can’t survive more than a few hours without water or moisture, so let’s address the problem.

How to store cilantro in the fridge

Method 1

  • Improvise a vase, and find a suitable receptacle such as glass or cup with some depth. 
  • Ensure the improvised vase is clean and free from detergent residues and grime.
  • Fill with water to about one-third ⅓ full.
  • Take a handful of cilantro and place it in the improvised vase. Treat the cilantro like a beautiful flower. The stems need to be in the water, not the leaves.
  • No need to wash the cilantro at this time.
  • Place a plastic bag over the cilantro vase. You can keep an eye on your herb in a clear bag.
  • Tui the bag to the base of the improvised vase you use a rubber band
  • Place the cilantro into the fridge.

Cilantro stored in the way will last for at least two weeks. You can change the water if it looks cloudy and even adds half a spoonful of sugar. (a florist trick)

Method 2

  • Take your bundle of cilantro and break it into manageable stems, maybe six to ten.
  • Trim the stems to the width of a Ziploc bag or similar.
  • Place the kitchen towel on the countertop and place your desired bunch of cilantro onto the kitchen towel. 
  • Wrap the cilantro as if you were wrapping a spring roll. It needs to be tight but not over-tight. Ensure the stems and the top of the cilantro is also covered in a paper kitchen towel.
  • Place the cilantro parcel into a suitable Ziploc bag.
  • Once the bag is full of the parcels of wrapped cilantro, gently remove as much air from the bag as possible and seal the bag closed.
  • Place the bag of wrapped cilantro into the fridge. The crisper section would be ideal.

Discover other methods of storing cilantro later in the article.

Does cilantro have to be covered?

It helps. You are trying to retain moisture in the cilantro, so covering makes sense if you consider the fridge in a dry environment, dryer than room temperature, as moisture reduces with colder temperatures.

It would be reasonable to expect the cilantro stored in method 1 in the improvised vase to survive with or without a cover.

Can you put warm cilantro in the fridge?

This is a question to be answered in two parts.

Cilantro is mainly used as a garnish; in its raw form, it’s always cool or cold.

However, cilantro is used in many hot dishes, from Mexican to Indian food and everything in between, like soups and warm sandwiches.

In the case of the latter, No, don’t do it.

Your fridge temperature will be 40℉ -18℃ or a little lower. Placing warm cooked cilantro in the fridge will elevate its temperature while it radiates heat.

Your fridge may not be as efficient as you might have thought at removing heat. Most fridges take hours to come to 40℉ after being switched on after cleaning.

So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that food sitting at a temperature of 40-140℉ is in the food danger zone. It’s not just your warm cooked cilantro. It is the contents of the entire fridge.

Above 40℉-140℉ bacterial growth on perishable foods will accelerate exponentially. It should be discarded if the food remains at an elevated temperature above 40℉-140℉ for just two hours.

Seems harsh? According to the USDA, after two hours in the food danger zone, perishable foods contain enough bacteria to cause food poisoning.

Furthermore, the warm cooked food should be covered in the fridge so there will be no condensation!

In most cases, you will need to take the explanation at face value, but with cilantro being used as a garnish, you will need to make a judgment call if the temperature of the main dish can sit in a fridge without upsetting the balance.

How long can cooked cilantro sit out?

Two hours. Remember the food danger zone? According to the USDA, perishable goods sitting out for two hours should be discarded, and the bacteria growth on the food has multiplied rapidly, making the food unfit for consumption.

Eating food sitting out for two hours or more could cause food poisoning.

How long does cilantro last in the fridge?

It depends on how it’s stored. If you follow the methods listed in the article, cilantro can easily last for two weeks in the fridge and be as fragrant as the day it was picked.

If you treat cilantro haphazardly, then you may get a couple of days from fresh cilantro stored in the fridge.

Does cilantro go bad in the fridge?

In theory, you should be able to freeze cilantro at 0℉ and below indefinitely. But, food that is high in water content will not freeze well.

Here is how to freeze cilantro.

Cilantro in a plastic bag

Method 1

  • Gather your cilantro that is to be frozen.
  • Wash the cilantro and remove bugs and debris from the garden or the harvesting process.
  • Once clean, place the cilantro into a colander and let it drip dry for 30 minutes.
  • Pat dry the remaining cilantro until it’s dry and ready for freezing.
  • Chop the cilantro as if you were preparing a garnish. The stalks have lots of flavors, so include them.
  • Place the cilantro into Ziploc bags.
  • Remove the air for the Ziplocs and seal the bags.
  • Mark the bags with the freezing date and expiry date.
  • Place in the freezer.

Don’t expect the cilantro to come from the freezer and be good enough for garnish, its texture will change due to ice crystals crushing the structure, but the flavor and aroma will remain intact.

You can break pieces off and use them as flavor bombs in your recipes.

Method 2 

  • Finely chop the cilantro.
  • Place the cilantro into an ice cube holder or plastic egg boxes.
  • Compress the cilantro and clover with water or oil.
  • Freeze and place the ice cube blocks in a freezer bag for convenience.
  • Mark the bag as before and place it in the freezer.

Frozen cilantro will be good for three months and retain its fragrance and aromatics.

Making dried cilantro?

Dried cilantro has the longest shelf life of all the methods of storing cilantro, but it should be consumed within a year.

Dried cilantro

  • Follow the same steps for cleaning cilantro and drying.
  • At the same time, preheat the oven to 250℉.
  • Chop the cilantro finely, including the stalk. For the best results, try to keep the chopped pieces uniform.
  • Place the cilantro on a baking tray, but don’t overcrowd it, so the cilantro sweats. We want it to dry so it’s crispy.
  • After thirty minutes, check the cilantro, and flip it with a spatula until it’s all crispy.
  • Repeat the process until the cilantro is dried.
  • Remove the dried leaves from the baking sheet and place them in a Ziploc bag.
  • Remove the air from the bag.
  • Store in a cool dark pantry.

Final thoughts

Love it or hate it, cilantro can be preserved and has an extended shelf life if it’s fresh or frozen and even dried, making cilantro available to you all through the year.

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