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How to Use Fresh Herbs in Cooking

Collage of fresh herbs such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, and parsley.

If you’re curious about how to use fresh herbs in cooking, this comprehensive guide has it covered!

Learn all about selecting, preparing, and storing fresh herbs and enhancing a variety of everyday dishes, drinks, and more with fresh herbaceous flavors.

Have you ever wondered what distinguishes an ordinary dish from a culinary masterpiece?

The secret might just be hiding in your herb garden or grocer’s produce section.

We’re talking about fresh herbs!

They aren’t just for adding a pop of green to your plate; they’re a powerhouse of fresh flavor!

Fresh herbs retain moisture, essential oils, and nutritional content, imparting an aromatic note that their dried versions simply can’t match.

Moreover, fresh herbs boast an array of health benefits, including potent antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to support your overall well-being!

Join me as we explore the unparalleled versatility and upgrade your kitchen endeavors with fresh herbs!

The Basics of Fresh Herbs

Before we dive into what to do with fresh herbs, here’s how to select herbs, prep them for cooking, and store/freeze for later:


Choosing high-quality fresh herbs is key.

Look for vibrant colors, crisp leaves, and strong aromas. Before adding the herbs to your dishes, wash them under cold water to remove dirt and debris, pat them dry gently with a paper towel, and they’re good to go!


I have tested several ways to store fresh herbs and extend their shelf life.

I’ve concluded that the best way is to cut off the bottoms of the stems, place the herbs in a glass of water, and put them in the fridge (like flowers). Don’t forget to change the water every couple of days.

Or, you can wrap the herbs in damp paper towels, place them in a plastic bag, and store the bag in the fridge.


Fresh herbs can also be frozen.

It’s better to wash and chop the herbs before freezing them in a sealed plastic bag. Do not defrost the herbs before using them—add them directly to soups, stir-fries, and sauces, or blend them into salad dressings.

Common Herbs Used in Cooking

Here are my favorite culinary herbs to use in cooking:


Basil adds a fresh, slightly sweet flavor to dishes and is a staple in Italian cuisine.

Use it in pasta sauces, pesto, salads, and on top of pizzas. I love sprinkling fresh basil over sliced tomatoes and cucumbers for a healthy snack.


Parsley has a mild, slightly peppery taste and is versatile in fresh and cooked dishes.

Use it as a garnish, in salads, soups, sauces, and as a flavor enhancer in various recipes. Keep in mind that Italian parsley has more flavor than curly-leaf parsley.


Rosemary has a robust, pine-like flavor and pairs well with meats, potatoes, and roasted vegetables. Use it to season lamb or chicken or in bread and focaccia recipes.

Fresh rosemary is a great addition to mocktails and infused water.


Thyme has a subtle earthy flavor with hints of lemon and mint. It’s great for flavoring soups, stews, sauces, and roasted meats like chicken or pork.

Cilantro (Coriander)

Cilantro adds a fresh, citrusy flavor to dishes and is commonly used in Mexican, Thai, and Indian cuisine. It can be used in salsas, guacamole, curries, and stir-fries and as a garnish for tacos and salads.


Mint has a refreshing, cool flavor and is popular in both sweet and savory dishes. Use fresh mint in fruit salads, herbal teas, cocktails, desserts, and to flavor lamb or yogurt-based sauces.


Fresh oregano has a bold, slightly bitter flavor and is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine. It can be used in tomato sauces, pizza, grilled meats, and as a seasoning for vegetables.


Dill has a delicate, feathery texture and a slightly sweet flavor with hints of anise. It can be used to flavor seafood dishes, salads, soups, sauces, and pickling recipes.


Chives have a mild onion flavor and are commonly used as a garnish.

They can be used to add a subtle onion taste to salads like egg, potato, or tuna salad. You can also use them for dips, baked potatoes, or as a topping for soups and omelets.

You can also add chives to cream cheese or yogurt to make a creamy, flavorful spread.


Sage has a strong, aromatic flavor with earthy undertones.

It pairs well with fatty meats like pork and duck. Use it in stuffing, pasta dishes, risotto, and as a seasoning for roasted vegetables.

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Discover the potential of using herbs for cooking with these delightful ideas:

Soups and Salads

Salads – Fresh herbs are a great way to step up your salad game, adding a burst of flavor and freshness to every bite! Toss them directly into the salad or incorporate fresh herbs into homemade dressings.

Soups – Instantly enhance the depth of flavor in your favorite soups and stews by adding fresh herbs during cooking or as a garnish before serving.

It’s worth noting fresh herbs retain more nutrition if they are not heated. Therefore, it’s better to use them in salads.

If you add fresh herbs to soups, add them towards the end of cooking to preserve flavor and nutrients.


Tea – Steep fresh herbs in hot water for a fragrant, soothing herbal tea that offers flavor and potential health benefits. Thyme tea and ginger mint tea are my favorites.

Cocktails/mocktails – Impress guests by garnishing cocktails or alcohol-free mocktails with fresh herbs. They add complexity and freshness, elevating your mixed drinks to new heights.

Infused water – Create refreshing infused water by adding fresh herbs to water or fruit juices.

Condiments and Sauces

Compound butter – It’s made by mixing softened butter with finely chopped fresh herbs. You can use it as a spread, melted over cooked vegetables or meats, or incorporated into various dishes for a rich, savory flavor.

Marinades – Combine extra virgin olive oil and an acidic element, such as lemon juice, balsamic, or red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and fresh herbs (like rosemary, thyme, or parsley) to marinate meat and seafood.

Infused olive oil – To infuse olive oil with fresh herbs, simply heat the oil gently with herbs until fragrant, then strain. I love using it to drizzle over salads, dip fresh bread, and season veggies before roasting.

Pesto – Blend fresh herbs with nuts, cheese, garlic, and olive oil to create a vibrant and flavorful pesto sauce, perfect for pasta, sandwiches, roasted vegetables, and spaghetti squash.

Garnish – Sprinkle fresh herbs on top of finished dishes as a visually appealing and flavorful garnish.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve reached the end of our journey into the wonderful world of using fresh herbs in cooking, I encourage you to unleash your creativity and experiment with fresh herbs in your kitchen endeavors, elevating everyday meals to extraordinary heights!

Have questions or want to share your herb-infused creations? I’d love to hear from you!

Feel free to leave your feedback and queries in the comments below. Let’s herb it up!

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