Preserving Herbs with Salt or Sugar

Capped jar of salt-preserved sage

by Catherine Haug, September 17, 2011

Photos by C. Haug

As our gardens are winding to a close for the season, we are elbow deep in preservation. Dehydration is the most common method for preserving garden herbs. Freezing is another fairly common method.

But have you ever thought about preserving them in salt or sugar? Both of these crystalline substances are anathema to bad bacteria but provide an environment favorable to good bacteria (lacto-bacteria).


Salt preservation:

Use the flavored salt for salad dressings, roast meat, or wherever the flavor of herbs is needed. Or remove the herb, shake off the salt, and use in recipe.

Salting works especially well with basil, chives, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. For this illustration, I used fresh sage from my garden.

  1. Use canning jars with sealable lids (I used a wide-mouth half-pint, which allows long sage leaves to be placed diagonally), and non-iodized coarse-grained salt such as Kosher salt.

    Fresh sage and kosher salt

  2. Harvest herbs at their peak. Rinse well and pat dry, or allow to air-dry.
  3. Put a good layer of salt in the bottom (about 1/4 inch or so), then make a single layer of herbs.

    Bottom layer of salt

  4. Add just enough salt to cover the leaves (much thinner than first layer), then make another layer. Repeat with as many layers as needed, pressing down before adding another layer. I made 5 layers of sage leaves. They tended to curl when I placed them top-side up; much better luck placing them upside-down.

    Sage with thin layer salt

  5. Then finish with a final, thick layer, about 1/4″ thick).

    Top layer of salt

  6. Screw on lid and store in cool place (fridge or root cellar). Should keep well for 9 – 12 months.

    Capped jar of salt-preserved sage

You can use fresh leaves as in the instructions above, or dry them first and then mix with salt in a jar. This latter method works great for making favorite herb combos (2).

  1. Use equal amounts of each herb, separate leaves from stems, combine leaves only in a sieve and allow to dry.
  2. Mix the dried herbs with salt in the following proportion: 1 – 2 Tbsp herbs to 5 Tbsp salt. Put this mix into a food processor or mortar and pestle. Mix until they combine to form a powder, then add 1 juniper berry for every tablespoon of herbs.
  3. Store the herbal salt in a glass jar and make sure that it’s tightly closed.

Sugar preservation:

This works for basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme and sage, and also for vanilla beans and edible flowers like nasturtium and pansy. If you typically add a bit of sugar to your tomato sauce, try using sugar-preserved herbs.

Use method similar to preserving in salt (above), if the herb is the main reason for preserving. If the flavored sugar is the main reason, chop or at least bruise just a bit of the herb and bury in a jar of sugar. (3)


  1. Preserving Herbs
  2. Italian cuisine at Suite 101: Italian Herb Salt
  3. Preserving Herbs in Salt or Sugar

One Response to “Preserving Herbs with Salt or Sugar”

  1. Elaine says:

    I am so happy to have found your blog! I just returned with an armful of sage! I have never heard of preserving in salt! Thank you so much!