Okay, so we’ve heard this debate thyme and thyme again: fresh herbs vs. dried herbs – what’s the better option? But the truth of the matter is, there shouldn’t be one true winner because these two are used in completely different ways depending on what you got cooking in your pot. So let’s find out how to use fresh herbs and dried herbs accordingly to make one bomb-ass herbaceous dish!
Common Herbs for Cooking
Now before we get into the proper usage of fresh vs dried herbs, let’s get to know first the common herbs that we see in a lot of dishes. If you’ve just successfully grown your first ever herb garden and have no clue what to do with all the fresh herbs lying around, this table below might just help you out.
Best Paired With
Subtle hints of pepper and mint
Add at the end of cooking to maximize flavor
Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano, pasta, onions, chicken, eggs, pizza, green leaf salads, bell peppers, zucchini, apricots, berries, figs, peaches, plums
Herbal and floral
Mostly available dried, fresh is significantly less pungent than dried. Put in at the beginning, remove before serving.
Slow-cooked sauces, soups and stews, stocks, beans, game, chicken, lentils, potatoes, risotto, shellfish, tomatoes
Light oniony taste
Use raw, or at the end of cooking
Eggs, potatoes, sauces, stews and soups, salads, mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, vegetables, stir-frys, breads
Bright and citrusy; might have a distinctive “soapy” taste to others
Cilantro root (or Coriander) is usually used at the beginning while Cilantro leaves are used at the end
Spicy dishes, salsas, chiles, curries, salads, soups, chicken, fish, vinaigrette, apples, bananas, mangoes, pears, summer melons
Combination of celery, fennel and parsley
Fresh has greater flavor than dry. Add at beginning or end of cooking
Fish, beans, hard boiled eggs, beets, soups, sour cream, cream cheese, dressings, yogurt, chicken, potato salad, meats
Sweet, fresh, slightly astringent
Peppermint has a stronger flavor over spearmint. Could be added at beginning or end of cooking
Lamb, chocolate, pork chops, jellies, sauces, cocktails, berries, figs and dates. oranges and limes, summer melons, cherries, apricots, plums, apples, pears
Hint of sweetness with some spiciness
Strong, robust flavor especially if dried. Add at beginning of cooking; if adding in an herb bag, do not strip leaves from stems
Pizza, tomatoes, pastas, eggs, cheeses, eggplant, meats, dressings, oil and butter, pesto
Flat parsley has a peppery bite and curly parsley is relatively bland
Flat parsley holds up better in longer cooking, curly looks great as a garnish. Stems have the strongest concentration of flavors and can be added diced finely or in a bouquet garni
Fish, vegetables, salad, rice, soups, stews, meatballs, pesto, sauces, marinades, bananas, coconuts, grapefruits, mangoes, pineapples, summer melons
Add whole stems at beginning and remove before serving; great for the grill. Leaves can fall off so might want to use in bouquet garni. If chopping then dice very finely as it can be quite tough
Lamb, potatoes, marinades and oils, eggs, fish, poultry, pork, tomatoes, onions, ice cream, oranges, apricots
Slightly peppery with touch of mint
Robust flavor best with heavy foods. Add at the beginning of cooking
Meats, sausage, cheese and cream based items, sweet and savory breads, stuffings, beans, potatoes, risottos, tomato sauce
Peppery flavor, winter savoury is more pungent than summer
Can be added at beginning or end or cooking
Beans, meat, poultry, grilled vegetables, game
Licorice, fennel, sweet
Can easily overpower dishes. Heat releases flavor, cook with at beginning
Chicken, shellfish, eggs, bérnaise sauce, potatoes, vinegar
Sweet, mildly pungent
Great paired when cooked with parsley and bay. Can be added at the beginning. If using stems, prepare for stronger flavor but remove before serving.
Broths, soups and stews, flatbreads, meat, poultry, potatoes, stuffings, marinades, cherries, figs, grapes, honeydew melon, peaches, pears
How to Use Fresh Herbs
Most chefs would always recommend you to use fresh herbs as they offer a pop of brightness and vividness to a dish that dried herbs just can’t give. This is especially true when you’re making a nice fresh garden salad, a zesty dressing, a delicate pasta or a deliciously cheesy pizza.
Certain herbs like parsley, basil, chives, dill, cilantro, and tarragon are always better fresh and lose their distinctive flavor when dried. The science behind this is that these herbs contain volatile flavor compounds that are easily lost when exposed to heat. That’s why it is also better to add these herbs at the end of cooking or as a garnish before serving.
Another way to maximize the flavor of fresh herbs is by chopping them as finely as possible. The finer you chop your herbs, the more oils are released and the more fragrant your herbs will become. It’s usually best to chop delicate herbs like chives, parsley, cilantro, and basil right before you use them so that their aroma and flavor stays intact.
How to Use Dried Herbs
If you’re looking to make a thick and hearty soup, then dried herbs would be the perfect addition for some depth of flavor. When you dry herbs like oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, bay, and sage – they tend to have a deeper and more seasoned flavor than their fresh counterparts. The reason for this is because their flavor compounds are non-volatile and therefore don’t evaporate when drying or exposed to heat. This makes the dried herbs flavor more concentrated, and that is also why you should use less amount of dried herbs in cooking than if you were to use them fresh. The normal ratio is 1:3, so if a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, then you can substitute it with 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary and vice versa.
Another thing to note is that dried herbs have less oils because they are dehydrated. The oils are all condensed inside, and in order to bring those fragrant aromas and flavors out, you can try rubbing them in your hands, grounding them with a mortar and pestle, or cooking them on low heat. Dried herbs are perfect for soups and stews because the ample amount of liquid will hydrate the herbs and release all those delicious aroma compounds that will make for a savory dish.
However, you must keep in mind that dried herbs will also lose their potency over time and should be thrown out after a year. They will taste especially dusty and stale because of the oxidation from the drying process.
So remember, fresh herbs taste best when you add them at the end and dried herbs work best when you add them early on. And now that you’re equipped with all this knowledge of cooking herbs, there’s nothing stopping you from making a delicious homemade meal from all the herbs you grew (or will grow) from our Herb Starter Kit or Herb Seed Collection.