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Best Kitchen Herbs For Cooking

Updated on July 2, 2011

What Will Kitchen Herbs Do For My Cooking?

Using kitchen herbs for cooking gives your foods a fuller, more enhanced flavor. Both fresh herbs and dried herbs will add to your culinary skills. You will find that your food will taste better when you add kitchen herbs to your recipes.

Fresh herbs are more fragrant. If you crush the leaves between your fingers you will be able to take in the scent. If you use dried herbs you will find that the flavor is more concentrated.

Cooking With Kitchen Herbs

When you are using fresh herbs for your cooking you should add the herbs at the end of the cooking time so the the freshness of the herb stays intact. If you use a dried herb in your cooking you will find that the flavor it adds is intense. As a rule of thumb, you should use about 3 times more fresh herbs than dried herbs. That would be about a tablespoon of fresh herbs to every teaspoon of dried herbs. Whichever type of herb you use in your cooking, you need to know which herb is better suited for certains foods.

Which Kitchen Herbs?

Certain herbs are better paired with specific foods. The individual herb will enhance the taste better and bring out hidden flavors.

  • Basil - Basil is good when used with tomatoes. It also goes well with pasta sauces.
  • Chives - Chives are very flavorful. They go great in potatoes and can also be added to salads and spreadable items like cheese or butters.
  • Cilantro - Cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley. Cilantro is used for Asian or Mexican cooking.
  • Dill - Dill has a light flavor. It is a flavorful addition to seafood such as scallops and trout. It also great added to dips, salads, dressings and vegetables. Dill is best used without cooking and simply added as an ingredient after the dish is finished.
  • Marjoram - Marjoram is part of the oregano family of herbs. It is often used in italian cooking and works well when cooking bean soup or lentils.
  • Mint - This is a very fragrant herb that is commonly used in Greek cooking. It is tasty in drinks and rice dishes. It adds a savory flavor to lamb.
  • Oregano - Oregano is a common kitchen herb and it goes well in tomato based sauces.
  • Rosemary - Rosemary is an extremely fragrant kitchen herb. You will find when you are cooking with it that not only does it flavor the food but it fragrances the ktichen. It is a very good herb to use with poultry.
  • Sage - The traditional use for sage is with stuffing but it can also be used for pork and sausages.
  • Tarragon - Tarragon has a slight hint of sweetness to it. It goes well with meat and vegetables.
  • Thyme - Thyme is a very savory herb. It goes well in soups and sauces.

How To Clean Kitchen Herbs

Grow Your Own Kitchen Herbs

Storing Kitchen Herbs

The best way to dry herbs is to allow fresh herbs to dry in the air so they retain their oils along with their flavors. Make sure you use the leaves from the herbs before they flower. Rinse the herbs and remove any dead looking leaves. Pat dry so they do not rot. Dried kitchen herbs should be stored in an air tight container preferably glass for the longest shelf life.

You can buy fresh herbs in a grocery store but the best way is to grow them yourself.  Fresh herbs can be used directly from the herb garden. If you buy kitchen herbs from a farmer's market or grocery, make sure they are dry and store them refrigerated in a ziploc bag. You can also freeze them if you want them to last longer.

What Your Favorite Kitchen Herbs To Cook With?

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Cooking With Kitchen Herbs

Other Uses For Kitchen Herbs

Kitchen herbs can be crushed up and added to products to create distinctive flavor combinations.  Flavorful herbs can be used to add to vinegar and then the vinegard is aged and is able to be kept for months. The flavored vinegars can be used for salads and also given as gifts. You can pour the vinegar in a pretty bottle and tye a ribbon around it.

Herbs can also be added to butter and oils. Kitchen herbs add a lot of flavor to butter for spreading on bread or cooking with flavored oils. 

Another use for herbs is to add them to sugars for baking and drinks. Rosemary, mint and thyme are great for infusing with sugars.

Kitchen Herbs For Cooking
Kitchen Herbs For Cooking


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    • profile image

      BenGessel 6 years ago

      From my several years of cooking experience on my own (so far), I have learned a few things about spices and herbs, esp. herbs, since I use them quite a bit more than spices. For me, the most important herbs to have on hand are basil, thyme and chives, with rosemary, sage, oregano, tarragon, dill, and summer savory being fairly important as well. I really only use cilantro for making guacamole or salsas, so I prob. need to explore this herb more, and I don't use parsley much, but it is great with fish, butter, potatoes, poultry, anything light and not too meaty. Marjoram goes well with the "chicken" type herbs-basil, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, etc., but it isn't necessarily essential. Mint is also an added plus for lamb and rice, etc. (Indian food, as well as Greek, Arabian, Mediterranean/Mid-East food), but isn't essential. Also, I've found that you can divide herbs into roughly two categories: 1.) Robust herbs, 2.) Mild herbs. Robust herbs are rosemary, sage, oregano, mint, basil, etc., the herbs that REALLY cut through and can be overpowering if you're not careful. These herbs should be cooked with meat, vegetables, etc. Mild herbs are herbs like dill, parsley, marjoram, tarragon, chives, cilantro, thyme, summer savory, etc. Some, like thyme, savory, chives, and cilantro, can be cooked a little with meat/veges, but these kinds of herbs can easily be overpowered, with the possible exception of chives. I've found chives to be extremely versatile, going well with eggs, potatoes, rice, soup, chicken, lots of stuff, its basically a mild green onion or leek flavor. It goes well with dill and parsley, marjoram and tarragon as well. Sage is actually good for your brain/mental health as well, and herbs in general have lots of nutrients, including vitamin K! Thyme is, in my opinion, the most versatile herb, with basil coming in at a close 2nd. Also, make sure not to put too much oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, or mint on your food. Remember, the more you want your food to be more savory/flavorful, use more robust herbs with savory meats (beef, lamb, pork) and poultry, along with spices (Indian and Asian curries, Mid-East/Mediterranean foods, German/East European sausages, etc.), and use mild herbs for mild flavors/mild foods like rice, potatoes, fish, butter, mild cheeses, salads, etc. And fresh herbs are generally preferrable, but dried herbs are infinitely more convenient/durable.

      Garlic is also essential, I consider it to be in between a vegetable and an herb, though it is used as an herb, generally. I like both fresh and dried garlic/garlic powder, I use enough garlic to warrant buying it fresh, and it is cheap/a little goes a long way. Like the robust herbs, garlic can easily overpower, but it is absolutely essential for a good, savory red meat flavor, and is very healthy. Of course, I use salt (iodized salt) quite a bit as well. I also like cooking with fennel seed (kinda in between an oregano-type taste and an aniseed taste), and use caraway and aniseed less often (caraway for German food and hearty stews, aniseed (licorice-like taste) for big/savory stews, etc.). Bay Leaf is great for big stews/corned beef stew as well, but ONLY USE ONE LEAF AT A TIME!!! :D (I use dried bay leaf.)

      As for spices/peppers, I use mostly paprika, turmeric, black pepper, and yellow curry powder. On occasion, I will use a bit of red chili powder, ginger, coriander, cumin, cinnamon (for hot cocoa), chinese five spice, nutmeg, cloves, a few other spices, maybe allspice, but some herbs like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are more sweet tasting, so I use them less often with most meats, etc. They are more used for baking, etc., and I don't eat/make pastries/breads/pies/cakes, etc. for the most part. Careful with the cumin, pepper, and ginger too, a little goes a LONG way. Paprika and turmeric you can use a ton of if you want to, they're both GREAT spices, esp. paprika/not much heat, etc. (paprika only gets more robust if you get Hungarian paprika, etc.) I haven't used mustard seed much (used a lot in French cuisine), but I assume it goes great with meat (I think we are used to just buying mustard in a squeeze bottle). Also, I haven't done much with sesame or flaxseed, some seeds are more for snacking, etc., some for cooking. I've also tried cooking with celery salt before, and it was okay, but nothing spectacular in my opinion. More later.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Great hub! Love it

    • pakpub profile image

      pakpub 7 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Allison, thats a great idea for getting the most out of using kitchen herbs all year long.

    • Alison Graham profile image

      Alison Graham 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks for this useful and informative hub. I freeze surplus herbs, chopped up, with a little water added in ice cube trays. I then take them out and bag them in the freezer and just pop one in soup, stew or casserole in the winter time. Thanks again for all the useful info, voted up!