From simple garnishes to complex sauces, using fresh herbs add versatility and pack powerful punches of flavor into every bite. It can be as simple as sprinkling torn leaves onto prepared entrees and soups or chopping up to mix in salads and marinades.
If you aren’t used to keeping fresh herbs on hand, try starting a few that are extremely versatile, like cilantro, which works in Mexican and Thai dishes, salsas, and as garnish on soups and dips. Rosemary has a good shelf life for an herb and can be used in marinades and dressing, a garnish on roasted vegetables, breads, and cocktails, or even dessert. Another popular herb perfect for Italian dishes from pesto and caprese salad, to a garnish for pizza and soups (hello, tomato basil), you can nearly always find a meal to use basil in. Other common herbs include:
Looking to amp up your herb game? Try one of these less common varieties in your next meal:
Soft herbs are best stored like a flower bouquet—upright in a glass jar with about an inch of water at the bottom. Keep in the refrigerator. If your herbs are starting to wilt, consider a recipe like this Extra Herby Tabouli Salad that calls for a hefty portion.
Hard herbs, characterized by a woody stem, can simply be rolled up in a damp paper or dish towel and best kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Some herbs can simply be washed and stored in an airtight container in the freezer—rosemary, sage, and thyme in particular. Slice lemongrass and chives before freezing.
Herbs in water
This technique is best for softer herbs, such as basil, cilantro and parsley. Wash and chop the herbs as if you are going to use them in a dish. Add to an ice cube tray or a small mason jar and mix with water.
Works great for soft herbs as well. Basil can be turned into pesto; oregano and parsley can also be blended. Puree about one cup of fresh herbs with 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor and transfer to an ice cube tray or mason jar. Use in any dish that welcomes oil.
Creative Uses For Herbs
Replace regular olive oil with an infused version. Blend basil and olive oil together in a food processor or blender then simmer briefly over the stove, strain, and store in an airtight jar. For a rosemary oil, follow the same steps minus the blending.
Steam garlic cloves and herbs, lightly saute with olive oil, then stir in salt and other desired seasonings for a savory spread. Go even further with this savory herb jelly.
Muddle soft herbs such as basil or mint for cocktails or mocktails by gently mashing them with sugar at the bottom of the glass (use the end of a wooden utensil). Boil leaves in water to make tea or simply add fresh herbs to sparkling water for a spa-inspired refreshment.