Many people love growing their own herbs. Especially those that are hard to find in stores! But come harvest time, sometimes you have such an abundance of arugula that you don’t even know what to do with it.
If you don’t entirely relate to that scenario, here’s another one. The only bag that you could buy is a bulk bag that always ends up sitting in the back of your fridge, rotting away slowly.
So, can you freeze arugula to solve both of these problems? Luckily, you can freeze arugula, but you’ll have to make peace with the fact that its texture won’t be the same. Once thawed, no matter how you freeze them, arugula leaves will be soft. Our technique will at the very least help you preserve the flavor and color of frozen arugula.
Today, we will look at the best way to preserve arugula long-term to avoid letting it go to waste, a few different storage methods and how freezing affects each, and finally, the best way to thaw frozen arugula.
What Is Arugula?
Arugula is an herb that is more commonly known as “rocket.”
There are many other names for it that differ depending on where you are from. It can be called rucola, colewort, and eruca.
Arugula is a very popular salad vegetable that is well known for its unique flavor profile.
Overall, it is remarkably fresh. But what follows is a rich, peppery, bitter, and somewhat tart flavor. Needless to say, it’s an ingredient that can pack quite the punch!
Other than in salads, rocket is quite versatile. It is a common herb that is used as a topping for pizzas and pasta. It can also be used inside of stews and soups to create a more interesting and balanced flavor.
And of course, as with most other herbs, you can use arugula to make a pesto, dipping sauce, flavored hummus, or even salsa.
Why Would You Freeze An Herb?
So, you may be wondering why you would need to freeze an herb.
Well, in most areas where it grows (and like most herbs), arugula is a very seasonal ingredient. It isn’t naturally available all year round!
And, if you can find some out of season, it is likely imported from other regions or lower in quality. It would then have a bland flavor and overall be less crunchy and refreshing.
Many people prefer freezing their arugula instead of buying flavorless (and more expensive) options out of season.
It could also be that you harvested your arugula batch and it’s more than you can use within a week or two. So again, freezing is a great option!
But, as you probably know, herbs don’t freeze that well. So, the question isn’t really whether or not you can freeze rocket, but rather if you should.
Can You Freeze Arugula?
There are two ways you can freeze arugula. One method is quick and easy while the other requires a little bit more work, but is still easy.
Each method will give you different results. So, always think about how you will likely be using the arugula later before just freezing it.
However, it’s important to know that neither of these methods will preserve the crisp texture of the fresh leaf. Both will make it soft and limp.
The reason many people recommend doing this is to preserve the color and flavor of the leafy green. And, it will help protect the herb from excessive freezer burn, which completely ruins it.
To be honest, there is another method that some people use, but it’s not really designed for arugula leaves.
Many people know that they will be using the arugula for smoothies or soups. So, they simply blend the leaves to form a paste. Then, the paste is frozen in portions that can easily be blended again.
Do You Have To Blanche Arugula Before Freezing?
The opinions on whether or not arugula has to be blanched before being frozen are divided. Some people swear by it while others say it’s an unnecessary step.
From our personal experience with professional chefs and advent cooks — always blanch herbs and leafy greens before freezing them!
It won’t necessarily give them a better-thawed texture than the other method. But, it will definitely help preserve their flavor and color. Plus, the blanched option will fit in a much smaller container than a bunch of fresh leaves.
How Long Can Arugula Stay Frozen?
Many people like to say that frozen ingredients will remain good indefinitely. But that’s just not true.
An ingredient like arugula is especially susceptible to losing its flavor and bright green color.
So, at the most, we wouldn’t recommend keeping it any longer than 3 months. It will be fine to eat for up to a year, but it won’t taste good.
If it is at all possible, try to use the frozen arugula within 1 month of freezing it. The longer you store it, the more flavor it will lose.
How To Properly Freeze Arugula Leaves
Today, we will be discussing the in-depth steps for blanching and freezing arugula. If you prefer the other method, just pop the leaves in an airtight container and leave them in the fridge!
Our method aims to preserve as much flavor, color, and (to some extent) texture of the arugula leaves.
Step 1: Blanch The Arugula
First, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add all the arugula leaves at once. Press them under the water to ensure they are all covered.
Allow them to blanch for about 30-45 seconds, or until they are slightly softened.
Step 2: Drain And Cool The Leaves
Once blanched, remove them from the boiling water and place them in a bowl of ice water. Leave them in the ice water for a couple of minutes so they cool properly.
Step 3: Place The Leaves In A Container
Once fully drained, place the leaves onto some paper towel. This should help drain them of more water.
Once dry, place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Try to remove as much air as you possibly can.
Step 4: Wrap In Foil And Freeze
Wrap the container in a layer of aluminum foil. This will protect it from excess freezer burn.
Finally, label the container and place it inside the freezer.
How To Thaw Arugula
The best way to thaw leafy greens and herbs is slowly.
Unwrap the container from the foil. Then, place it inside the fridge so that it can slowly thaw overnight.
However, herbs usually take a lot less time to thaw. They will likely be ready within a couple of hours.
If you are in a hurry, you can thaw the rocket leaves at room temperature. And, if you are going to use the arugula in a smoothie or soup, simply blend the frozen herb with the other ingredients.
How Does Arugula Change After It Has Been Thawed?
Once arugula has been thawed, the texture won’t be anything close to its fresh counterpart.
Thawed arugula leaves are extremely soft and limp. They will have lost all of their structural integrity.
This is why you should only use thawed arugula in recipes that require blending or cooking — it should never be used as a fresh ingredient or garnish.
The flavor of thawed arugula will have become slightly muted. The longer it is kept frozen, the less spicy and peppery flavors it will have.
And, as with all frozen and thawed ingredients, the color of it will also be more faded.
Now that we’ve learned about arugula, as well as how to freeze and thaw it, let’s look at some related questions we thought you might have.
How do you store arugula in the fridge?
If you have the option to store fresh arugula, do so in the fridge!
Wash and dry the leaves completely. Then, place them on some paper towels inside a loosely closed container. This simple method will help keep the leaves fresh for a long time.
Can you freeze arugula leaves in oil?
This technique is used by some, but it’s not our favorite.
We didn’t mention it specifically because it only really works if you’ll use the oil-soaked arugula for pesto or dressings. The excessive amount of oil will ruin any other type of recipe, which is why we don’t recommend using it at all.
Essentially what it entails is freezing arugula leaves that have been chopped and soaked in olive oil. The oil is meant to preserve both flavor and color. It definitely can do that, but the texture will still be soft when it’s thawed.
Why does arugula get slimy?
Slimy arugula (or slimy herbs or leafy greens in general) is caused by deterioration. It is a clear indicator that the leaves have gone bad and shouldn’t be used.
To prevent this from happening, you should keep the leaves away from any moisture or humidity. It also helps to store them on paper towels, which will absorb any water droplets in the air or on the leaves.