How to Cook With Fresh Herbs

How to Cook with Fresh Herbs
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

My fresh herbs are planted and they are growing like crazy. Most weeks my meal plan starts out by assessing which herb is growing the most out of control and choosing recipes that feature that herb. For a long time, I avoided cooking with fresh herbs because I couldn’t justify the extra expense at the grocery store. Which is why I was so excited to start a fresh herb garden. I have all of the fresh herbs I could ever want at a really great price. Fresh herbs are a great way to finish a dish and add a burst of fresh flavor to every bite. Here is a guide on how to cook with fresh herbs.

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Washing Fresh Herbs

To prepare your herbs simply cut the amount you need, rinse and then pat them dry or use a salad spinner. I like to cut my herbs a few hours before I need them so they can lay out on the counter to air dry.

Storing Fresh Herbs

Refrigerating Fresh Herbs

  • Towel Method: Hardier herbs such as chives, dill, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, and thyme should be wrapped in a damp paper towel, placed in a zip-top bag, and stored in the refrigerator. Herbs will last up to two weeks using this storage method.
  • Planting Method: Tender herbs such as cilantro, parsley, mint, and tarragon should be stored using the “planting” method. Trim the base of the stems with scissors or a knife and remove any wilted leaves. Fill a glass jar with an inch of cold water. Place the herbs stem down into the water and cover the tops with a plastic bag. Secure the bag with a rubber band and place in the refrigerator. Herbs will last up to three weeks using this storage method.
  • Use the planting method to store basil, but leave uncovered and place on the counter-top.

Freezing Fresh Herbs

If you will not be able to use all of your herbs before they start to wilt, you can freeze them for later use.

  1. Wash, dry, and chop the herbs.
  2. Place the chopped herbs into an ice cube tray.
  3. Add a small amount of olive oil to each cube.
  4. Place the ice cube tray in your freezer and let it sit overnight. Once the herbs are frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a plastic zip-top bag and return them to the freezer.
  5. Add the frozen cubes of herbs as you are cooking your meal.

Herbs Tips and Tricks

  • Use a sharp knife or herb scissors to chop fresh herbs. A dull knife will crush instead of cut the herbs which will cause bruising.
  • Dried herbs should be used during the cooking process. They need time to infuse the dish with their flavor. Dried herbs are also great for rubs.
  • Fresh herbs should be added towards the end of the cooking process or sprinkled on top of a finished dish.
  • Fresh herbs will provide more flavor than dried herbs, especially in quick-cook dishes. If you are replacing dried herbs with fresh herbs in a recipe, use 3-4 times more fresh herbs than the recipe calls for and add at the end of the cooking process.

Fresh Herb Pesto

My number one way to use up any fresh herb is to turn it into pesto. Traditionally pesto is made with basil. But it can be made with pretty much any herb or even leafy green vegetables. Spinach is one of my favorites.

  • 2 cups of fresh herbs or leafy green vegetables
  • 2 tablespoons or your favorite nut
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  1. Place the herbs or leafy vegetables, nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese in a blender.
  2. Blend until combined.
  3. Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days or in the freezer for up to six months.

Common Fresh Herb Pairings

Basil

Photo by monicore from Pexels

Basil (Sweet, Peppery, and Licorice)

  • Bell Peppers, Chicken, Beef, Eggplant, Fish, Mozzarella, Tofu, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

Try adding it to curries, pestos, soups, stews, stir-fries, and tomato sauces. Add basil at the end of cooking for maximum flavor and to prevent browning.

Recipes to Try

Homemade LasagnaTastes of Lizzy T
Crispy Bacon Pasta Salad with Fresh HerbsHow Sweet Eats
Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Fresh HerbsIt’s a Veg World After All

Chives

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Chives (Mild Onion)

  • Asparagus, Chicken, Cucumbers, Eggs, Fish, Onions, Potatoes, and Shellfish

Try adding it to dips, garnishes, omelets, potato salads, rice, risottos, sauces, and soups. Chives are best when they are used raw or added at the very end of cooking so as to not lose their delicate flavor and vibrant hue.

Recipes to Try

Buttermilk Ranch DressingFood Folks and Fun
Mini Cream Cheese and Chive BiscuitsHow Sweet Eats
Garlic and Chive Mashed PotatoesNatasha’s Kitchen

Cilantro

Photo by Lindsay Moe on Unsplash

Cilantro (Bright and Citrusy)

  • Avocado, Bell Peppers, Chicken, Fish, Lentils, Lamb, Tofu, and Tomatoes

Try adding it to chutneys, curries, guacamole, salads, salsas, and soups. Cilantro is best when added after a dish has been cooked. Some people do not like the flavor of cilantro (myself included I often use parsley instead) and think it tastes soapy.

Recipes to Try

Mango SalsaTastes of Lizzy T
Thai Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Lime VinaigretteOnce Upon a Chef
Cilantro Lime RiceSpend with Pennies

Dill

Photo by Jay Jay on Unsplash

Dill (Tangy and Grassy)

  • Cabbage, Carrots, Cucumber, Fish, Green Beans, Lemon, Potatoes, Shellfish, Tomatoes, and Yogurt

Try adding it to omelets, potato salad, salad dressings, sauces, and yogurt dishes. Remember a little bit of dill will go a long way.

Recipes to Try

Dill Pickle DipDinner at the Zoo
Cheddar and Dill Pickle Pasta SaladYellow Bliss Road
Dill and Maple Roasted CarrotsIt’s a Veg World After All

Lemongrass
Fresh lemongrass on wooden texture in cooking concept.

Photo by Toeytoey on Adobe Stock

Lemongrass (Zesty and Citrusy)

  • Beef, Bell Peppers, Chicken, Fish, Pork, and Tomatoes

Try adding it to Asian soups, curries, marinades, rice, and tea. When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm, pale-green stalks with bulbous bottoms and fresh-looking tops. Most of lemongrass’ flavor is found in the bottom four inches. Its flavor becomes more intense as it is cooked.

Marjoram
fresh raw green herb marjoram on a wooden rustic table

Recipes to Try

Kiwiberry Green Fruit Salad with Lemongrass SyrupFuss Free Flavours
Lemongrass Chicken with Cashews and EdamameFoolproof Living
Crispy Pan Fried Lemongrass ChickenI am a Food Blog

Photo by Nblxer on Adobe Stock

Marjoram (Grassy and Sweet)

  • Beef, Carrots, Chicken, Mushrooms, Peas, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

Try adding it to brown butter sauce, risottos, salad dressings, soups, and stuffing. Fresh marjoram is less flavorful than the dried version. For the most flavor add marjoram at the end of cooking.

Recipes to Try

Crock-pot Lasagna SoupCrock-pot Ladies
Quick Italian Bean SoupConfessions of an Overworked Mom
Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb ChickenCooking Classy

Mint

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

Mint (Sweet and Cool)

  • Beans, Carrots, Eggplant, Fruit, Lamb, Lentils, Mushrooms, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Watermelon, and Zucchini

Try adding it to cocktails, cream sauces, curries, fruit salads, lemonade, marinades, and soups. Mint adds a nice cooling flavor to spicy dishes. Spearmint has a sweeter flavor while peppermint has a much stronger flavor.

Recipes to Try

Grain-Free Pomegranate Hemp Seed TabboulehFrom Pasta to Paleo
Spring Shrimp Zucchini Noodles with Mint PestoLively Table
Cool Smashed Cucumber and Minted PeasFuss Free Flavours

Oregano
Oregano spices

Photo by Dionisvera on Adobe Stock

Oregano (Peppery and Bitter)

  • Artichokes, Beef, Bell Peppers, Chicken, Eggplant, Fish, Lamb, Mushrooms, Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

Try adding it to pizzas, tomato sauces, and salad dressings. Fresh oregano has a stronger flavor than its dried counterpart. Because of its strong flavor oregano can be added at the beginning of cooking.

Recipes to Try

Crock-pot Creamy Italian Sausage Soup with PastaCrock-pot Ladies
Tomato Salad with Cucumber Dressing The Honeycomb Home
Crockpot Baked BeansMy Recipe Confessions

Parsley

Photo by pintando la luz on Unsplash

Parsley (Fresh and Grassy)

  • Beef, Butter, Chicken, Cucumbers, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Lemon, Mushrooms, Pasta, Peas, Potatoes, Tofu, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

Try adding it to garnishes, salsas, and sauces. Parsely has a subtle flavor and you can use both the leaves and the stems. Raw parsley also acts as a breath freshener.

Recipes to Try

Grilled Marinated Chicken Skewers with Fresh HerbsThe Forked Spoon
Mediterranean Potato SaladAmanda’s Cookin’
Cheeseburger Bites Crescent Roll AppetizersThe Honeycomb Home

Rosemary

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Rosemary (Woody and Pungent)

  • Chicken, Fish, Lamb, Mushrooms, Peas, Pork, Potatoes, Rabbit, and Tomatoes

Try adding it to focaccia bread, pizzas, roasted vegetables, sauces, soups, stews, and tomato sauces. If you are not using whole springs, chop rosemary finely. Its needle-like leaves can remain tough even after being cooked for a long time. Rosemary’s flavor can be quite strong so use it sparingly.

Recipes to Try

Garlic Herb-Crusted Roast BeefTastes of Lizzy T
Lemon Garlic Herb Grilled SalmonCooking Classy
Crispy Baked Goat Cheese over Roasted Rosemary Squash and Garlicky FettuccineThe Foodie and the Fix

Sage

Photo by Matt Montgomery on Unsplash

Sage (Woody)

  • Beef, Brussel Sprouts, Chicken, Eggplant, Peas, Pork, Turkey, and Winter Squash

Try adding it to brown butter sauce, risottos, roasted vegetables, salad dressing, soups, and stuffing. Sage has a strong flavor so use it sparingly to avoid overpowering your dish. When buying sage look for leaves that are brightly colored and not wilted.

Recipes to Try

Crock-pot Pumpkin RisottoCrock-pot Ladies
Sage Butter BiscuitsHow Sweet Eats
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and SageFood Folks and Fun

Tarragon

Photo by Daniel Vincek on Adobe Stock

Tarragon (Sweet and licorice):

  • Artichokes, Beef, Carrots, Chicken, Fish, Lamb, Leeks, Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Spinach

Try adding it to garnishes, gazpachos, omelets, and salad dressings.

Recipes to Try

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Tarragon SauceDomestic Superhero
Sheet Pan Salmon DinnerAmanda’s Cookin’
Asiago Parmesan Cheese Spread My Pinterventures

Thyme

Photo by  Ruslan Mitin on Adobe Stock

Thyme (Floral and Minty)

  • Beef, Bread, Carrots, Chicken, Duck, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Peas, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Turkey, and Winter Squash

Try adding it to dips, rice, roasted vegetables, stews, and tomato sauces. Thyme should be added early in the cooking process to give it time to release its flavor.

Recipes to Try

Roasted Carrots with ThymeOnce Upon a Chef
Smoky Chorizo, Kale & Squash SoupFrom Pasta to Paleo
Crock-Pot Acorn Squash SoupCrock-Pot Ladies

Want even more fresh herb recipes? Check out my post on beverages made with fresh herbs.

How to Cook with Fresh Herbs

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