Using herbs in your cooking is a great way to add a burst of fresh flavor and depth to your food. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of fresh herbs.
To get more flavor into your meals, start with fresh, quality ingredients. Whether you have an herb garden or you’re choosing herbs at the store, look for these three qualities.
- Bright color
- Crisp texture
- A pleasant aroma. Your nose knows!
How to Prepare and Store Fresh Herbs
Save yourself from throwing out a soggy bundle of herbs later by taking a few minutes to clean and properly store them. They’ll last longer and be ready to use when you’re cooking.
First, wash the herbs by submerging them in a bowl of cold water and swishing them around. Then blot the herbs dry with a paper towel. A salad spinner also works well for gently removing excess water.
How you store herbs depends on the type you’ve purchased or harvested. Most herbs fall into one of two categories—delicate or hearty. An herb keeper that can accommodate both types of herbs is a good option. Here’s a quick primer on storing both types of herbs:
How to Store Delicate Herbs
These herbs are softer and have grass-like stems like parsley, mint, chives, cilantro, basil, and dill. They can be stored in the fridge but keep better at room temperature. They should sit with the stems in a small amount of water like a flower bouquet.
To help these herbs last longer, trim the stems at a diagonal. This type of cut allows the plant to stand at a point and exposes more of the stem’s surface area to the water for better absorption. To keep the water fresh, remove dead leaves and lower leaves that might get into the water and change the water daily.
How to Store Hearty Herbs
Like their name suggests, these herbs are tougher and have woody stems. Examples include rosemary, oregano, and thyme. These herbs should be kept dry in the fridge.
When to Add Herbs to a Recipe
When to Add Delicate Herbs to a Recipe
These herbs work best when you add them at the end of a recipe. Their bright and mild flavors can get lost during long cooking times.
- Mint. The fresh aroma and pop green gives Gnocchi With Spring Vegetables even more vibrant appeal. Plus, mint can help with digestion.
- Cilantro. Slightly citrusy and grassy, cilantro is used frequently in salsas. Cilantro can also help brighten flavors and has a cooling effect that pairs well with spicy heat. That’s why it works so well on our Thai Chicken Pizza. It’s is also a source of fiber and iron, too.
When to Add Heartier Herbs to a Recipe
Add heartier herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, or sage at the start of your recipe to enhance the recipe’s depth of flavor.
- Sage. Known for its strong aroma and earthy flavor, sage is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s robust enough to hold up to searing and simmering alongside Brussels sprouts in this recipe for Butternut Squash Pasta With Brussels Sprouts & Bacon.
- Thyme. This herb has essential oils with tons of uses from homemade mosquito repellent to herbal tea for a sore throat. It’s packed with vitamin C and is also a good source of vitamin A. But in your cooking, thyme’s subtle, earthy, and slightly minty flavor pairs well with savory rosemary and oregano. It also goes with brighter tasting herbs like parsley and basil. Try adding fresh thyme into the grilled flatbread crust in this Grilled Mushroom, Thyme And Goat Cheese Flatbread.
Substituting Dried Herbs for Fresh
Many recipes call for dried herbs, but you can always swap in fresh. In general, dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh herbs. Use two to three times more fresh herbs than dried herbs. If you’re unsure, start with less and add more to taste.
What to do With Extra Herbs
When you buy herbs at the store, they frequently come in bundles that are larger than what your recipe calls for. Storing herbs appropriately helps them last longer, but may not help you solve the challenge of how to use them all up. Here are a couple of ideas on things you can make when you have just a few extra herbs.
Try Herbs in Cocktails
Make your beverages look extra special and taste flavorful with herbs. Muddle herbs like mint to release the aroma and flavor into a Mojito. Add it as a garnish to a Cranberry Collins. Herbs are also a lovely addition to simple syrup for a variety of cocktails and mocktails. Our Citrus Berry Smash features a basil syrup that enhances the muddled blueberries—a perfect summer flavor combo.
Flavored Butter, Anyone?
There are so much fresh herbs can do to liven up the meals you already love. Having fresh herbs on hand in the kitchen can also encourage you to try new dishes that you might not have considered. So, pick out some leafy, bright, green herbs with a lovely smell and try them out. Share your favorite tips for cooking herbs or helpful tricks in the comments below.