How long does cilantro last? If stored improperly, it will only keep fresh for 2-3 days before wilting. With proper storage in the fridge, you can extend the life of cilantro and other fresh herbs for weeks. And in the freezer for months.
Now, I’ll answer all your questions and breakdown the simple secrets you can use today to keep cilantro (also known as Coriander, Chinese Parsley, and Mexican Parsley) fresh for a long period.
How long does cilantro last in the fridge?
If you bring this fresh herb home from the farmer’s market or grocery store and toss it in the fridge, it will likely only stay fresh for 3-4 days max.
Here’s the good news…if you store that same herb in a glass of water or paper towel, you’ll be able to keep it fresh for 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
It’s all about proper storage!
How long does it last unrefrigerated?
This delicate herb will last for a couple of days, max, if kept unrefrigerated at room temperature, before it begins to wilt and decay with the leaves turning yellow.
It lasts the longest in the coldness of the refrigerator, which is why it’s best place for cilantro long-term.
What causes cilantro to go bad?
Bad cilantro will have an unpleasant smell, with yellow or brown leaves and slimy black spots. It won’t have the classic fresh, citrusy, almost-peppery taste and scent that so many of us love.
Instead, it will have an “off smell” just like rotten lettuce (how to store lettuce and other leafy greens).
Limp leaves don’t mean the herb has gone bad; it just needs moisture!
The most common causes of bad cilantro
- Excess water on the leaves: causes spoilage and slimy, dark leaves.
- Dry air: causes the leaves to go limp and shrivel up, sometimes the cilantro can be revived by soaking the leaves in ice cold water.
If a portion is going bad (slimy leaves, yellowing and browning), remove the decayed leaves before storing the rest. This goes for all fresh herbs: parsley, basil, mints, rosemary, etc. Discard bad spots before they spread and cause premature spoilage for the whole bunch.
Best Ways to Keep Cilantro Fresh for Weeks
The simple way to avoid bad cilantro is to store it properly and use it within a few weeks of storage. There are 2 ways to keep this popular herb fresh for weeks.
Both methods will give you the best results out of all the different methods out there. We talked about these methods in How to Store Cilantro and I’ll share the details here.
Method 1: In a Glass of Water
Fill a large mason jar or drinking glass a 1/4 the way full with cool water (about an inch of water, enough water for the stems to take a drink). Place an unwashed bunch of cilantro, stems down, in the jar of water (like a bouquet of flowers).
Place a Ziploc bag (or a reusable silicone bag) over the leaves. Secure the plastic bag at the mouth of the top of the glass jar with a rubber band. Store in the refrigerator.
Shelf Life: Will stay fresh for about 2-3 weeks. Change the water as needed. This easy trick is my favorite of the different methods.
Method 2: In a Paper Towel & Ziploc Bag or Airtight Container
Place 1-2 layers of paper towel on the kitchen counter (or use a lightweight cloth towel, like a flour sack). Add the unwashed cilantro in a single layer over the top of the paper towel. Roll up the herb in the paper towel (like a jelly roll).
Place the rolled-up cilantro in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. Seal and store in the fridge. If you have a large bunch, you may need to separate the bunch into two portions and use multiple paper towels.
Shelf Life: Will stay fresh for about 2 weeks. Change the paper towel if it becomes too wet.
Should you wash before storing?
You can wash cilantro before storing in the fridge; however, I don’t recommend doing so.
It’s very difficult to ensure the delicate leaves don’t have excess moisture left behind before storing. This moisture will cause the cilantro to rot prematurely.
Instead, tear off as much of the herb as needed for a meal, wash under cold running water (or soak for a few minutes in a large bowl of cold water), then dry in a salad spinner or using a kitchen towel.
I share more about washing and drying this herb in How to Store Cilantro.
Can You Freeze Cilantro?
Yes, you can! You can freeze both the leaves and stems. This is a great way to preserve fresh cilantro for a long time (up to 6 months). There are two ways to go about this:
- Freeze it whole, both stems and leaves in a freezer bag.
- Puree the leaves and stems with olive oil (or water) and freeze in an ice cube tray.
How to Use & Recipes
This herb is so incredibly popular because there are many different ways to use it. Personally, I always have cilantro on my grocery list and in my farmer’s market basket. It can take any meal from good to AMAZING!
How to Use Fresh Cilantro
Chop the leaves and stems (yes, both are edible), then add to your favorite recipes or garnish on your favorite dishes…
- Garnish Meals: Adds a fresh, citrusy finish to dishes like enchiladas, quesadillas, black bean soup, sheet pan chicken fajitas, refried beans, “fried” rice, or chicken stir fry.
- Add to Dip: Mexican-inspired dips use cilantro for its fresh, vibrant flavor. Mash with avocados for a homemade guacamole. Try a homemade salsa recipe: mix with tomatoes for a homemade fermented salsa or fresh blended salsa.
- Add to Slaw or Salad: Add fresh flavor to a slaw for tacos or add to a salad. Make a cucumber, feta, and chickpea salad with zesty cilantro flavor. Make a slaw (great for tacos).
- Flavor Rice: Take plain rice to the next level by adding chopped cilantro to warm, home-cooked rice (about 1/2 cup chopped for every 2 cups of cooked rice). Add the juice from 1-2 limes for extra flavor.
How to Use Frozen Cilantro
Frozen cilantro is best added to cooked meals; not as a garnish or salad ingredient. Add to soups, curries, or add to meat when making tacos (for extra flavor).
Add frozen cubes (blended cilantro with olive oil or water) while cooking soup (like black bean soup), stews, sauces, or curry dishes for a flavor enhancer.