How do you keep fresh cilantro from going bad?

Quick Tips to Keep Cilantro Fresh

Cilantro is a flavorful herb that can add a bright, fresh taste to many dishes. However, cilantro also has a tendency to wilt and go bad very quickly. Follow these quick tips to help keep cilantro fresh for longer:

  • Store cilantro in the refrigerator as soon as possible after purchasing. Keep it in the crisper drawer.
  • Trim the ends of the cilantro stems right before storing to remove any damaged parts.
  • Place the cilantro stems down in a container of water, like a glass or jar. Cover loosely with a plastic bag.
  • Don’t crowd the cilantro together too much. Give the stems room.
  • Rinse cilantro lightly before use. Don’t soak cilantro in water.
  • Use cilantro within 3-5 days for maximum freshness.

Proper Storage Methods

The key to keeping cilantro fresh is all about how you store it. Cilantro is very delicate and can degrade quickly with improper storage. Here are some storage methods that will help prolong the life of fresh cilantro:

Refrigerate Promptly

Cilantro will start to decline in quality very rapidly at room temperature. For best results, refrigerate cilantro as soon as possible after bringing it home from the grocery store. The cold temperature of the refrigerator will dramatically slow down the enzymatic breakdown of cilantro leaves.

Use the Crisper Drawer

The high humidity environment of the refrigerator’s crisper drawer is ideal for keeping cilantro happy. Simply place the cilantro (cut stems down in water) in an unsealed plastic produce bag and put it in the crisper. The increased humidity will minimize moisture loss from the leaves.

Cut the Stems

Trim off the very end of the cilantro stems after purchase. Remove any dried or browning parts. This prevents the degradation from spreading up into the leaves. Re-cut the stems every couple of days to maintain freshness.

Store in Water

Like cut flowers, placing cut cilantro stems in fresh water will maximize hydration and keep the leaves perky. Change the water every 2 days to prevent bacterial growth. Make sure no leaves are submerged.

Avoid Crowding

Cilantro leaves tend to break down faster when tightly crowded together. Give cut cilantro plenty of room in the refrigerator to allow for good air circulation. Do not pack the leaves too densely together.

Washing and Handling

Proper handling when washing and prepping cilantro can also prevent excess deterioration. Here are some tips:

Avoid Soaking

It’s fine to rinse cilantro lightly before use. However, do not ever soak fresh cilantro leaves in water. Soaking will damage the delicate leaves and diminish the flavor.

Pat Leaves Dry

After rinsing under cool water, be sure to thoroughly pat the cilantro leaves dry with a towel or paper towel. Any lingering moisture will hasten spoilage.

Use Leaves Gently

When chopping cilantro, use a sharp knife and handle the leaves gently. Tearing or bruising the leaves too much can accelerate deterioration.

Don’t Crowd Chopped Cilantro

As with whole sprigs, chopped cilantro should be spread out somewhat on a plate or bowl. Packing chopped cilantro too densely will cause it to break down faster through enzymatic activity.

Optimal Storage Conditions

To summarize, here are the optimal conditions for maximizing cilantro freshness:

  • Temperature: 32-36°F
  • Humidity: 90-95%
  • Stem cut and placed in clean water
  • Ample space between sprigs/leaves
  • Gentle handling and minimal soaking
  • Prompt refrigeration after purchase

Storing cilantro properly with cold, humid conditions, hydration, and gentle handling can prolong freshness from 3-5 days. Follow these guidelines for best results.

Troubleshooting Guide

Sometimes cilantro can go bad quickly, even with proper storage. Here are some common problems and solutions:

Problem Solution
Leaves are rapidly yellowing Trim stem ends again and change the water
Odd odor Discard cilantro immediately
Slimy texture Discard cilantro immediately
Wilting, limp leaves Mist leaves, refrigerate, and use promptly
Brown, dry leaf edges Refrigerate in sealed bag to increase humidity
White spots on leaves This is oxidation, still safe to use

Storing Specialty Cilantro Products

Beyond fresh cilantro sprigs, there are some other cilantro-based products that also require refrigeration. Here are some tips for these:

Cilantro Pesto

Homemade or store-bought cilantro pesto should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Top with a thin layer of oil to prevent browning. Keeps for 5-7 days.

Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri is an herb sauce that contains cilantro. Store chimichurri in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Cilantro Dressing

Cilantro dressings and vinaigrettes will keep for 3-5 days refrigerated in a sealed container. Shake or stir before using.

Rotisserie Chicken

For rotisserie chicken with cilantro garnish, remove any remaining cilantro before refrigerating leftovers. The limp leaves will degrade quickly.

Freezing Cilantro

While fresh is always best, cilantro can also be frozen to preserve the flavor longer. Here are some freezing tips:


Blanch whole cilantro sprigs for 1 minute before freezing. This stops the enzymatic activity that causes deterioration.

Dry Thoroughly

Dry blanched cilantro very well before freezing. Wrap in paper towels and gently pat dry. Remove as much moisture as possible.

Portion in Ice Cube Trays

Chopped cilantro can be portioned into ice cube trays with a bit of water. Freeze overnight then transfer cubes to a labeled freezer bag.

Avoid Thawing and Refreezing

Only thaw as much frozen cilantro as needed for a recipe. Refreezing cilantro will compromise flavor and texture.

Use Frozen Within 3 Months

For best quality, use frozen cilantro within 3 months. Frozen cilantro is best suited for cooked dishes rather than garnish.

Drying Cilantro

Air drying is another preservation option for surplus cilantro. Here is a simple process:

  1. Rinse cilantro sprigs and pat very dry.
  2. Gather small bunches and tie stems together.
  3. Hang bundles upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area.
  4. Leave for 1-2 weeks until completely dry and crispy.
  5. Crumble dried leaves from stems and store in an airtight container.

Dried cilantro has a more concentrated, intense flavor. It can be stored for months and rehydrated in water prior to usage.

Pickling Cilantro

Cilantro can also be pickled for longer preservation. Here is a simple pickled cilantro recipe:


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro


  1. Bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat.
  2. Pack washed cilantro sprigs into a sterilized jar.
  3. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cilantro to cover.
  4. Tap jar gently to remove air bubbles. Seal lid tightly.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 2 days before using.

Pickled cilantro keeps for 2-3 months refrigerated. The tangy cilantro adds flavor to salsas, tacos, curries, and more!


Cilantro is a fresh, aromatic herb that brings vibrance and flavor to many cuisines. However, its delicate leaves are prone to fast deterioration. Follow these storage tips to enjoy cilantro’s brightness for as long as possible:

  • Refrigerate promptly in high humidity
  • Trim stems and stand in water
  • Allow air circulation between leaves
  • Rinse gently and handle with care
  • Utilize preservation methods like freezing or pickling

With proper handling and the right storage conditions, fresh cilantro can stay green and delicious for 5-7 days post-purchase. Implement smart storage practices to minimize waste and savor cilantro’s flavor.

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