Your Guide to Cooking With Herbs

June 25, 2018
by Nicole Gulotta for Thrive Market
Your Guide to Cooking With Herbs

Wanna know the fastest way to recreate global flavors at home? Herbs! Every bunch has the power to transform your dish, and can do a lot more than serve as garnish. To celebrate all things green and leafy, here’s your definitive guide for cooking with herbs all year long.

All About Herbs

Ever wondered why cilantro tastes like soap? Read on for this answer, plus even more with this Herbs 101 crash course.

Why does cilantro taste like soap?

Let’s get right to it! Cilantro is one of those herbs that truly divides people. You’re either on team cilantro or you aren’t, and it often comes down to genetics. After conducting separate studies, scientists recently determined that cilantro-haters have the olfactory-receptor gene OR6A2 that picks up the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which are found in both cilantro and soap. Mystery solved!

How should I store cilantro?

Keep this herb stored in the fridge (it loves cold temps). Here are two ways to do it:

  1. Fill a glass jar or glass partially with water, and place the stem ends into the water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag, and just remove it before snipping the leaves off.
  2. Wrap stems in a damp paper towel, and store the bunch in a plastic bag.

Pro tip: This works for basil and mint, too!

Is basil a perennial?

Nope! Basil plants are annuals, which means they’ll only live for one year and won’t survive the winter like perennials will.

What are chives?

Chives are alliums, and a close relative of shallots, leeks, scallions, and garlic. The slender stalks are delicate, which is why they often serve as a garnish to top potatoes, soups, and salads.

How can I grow my own herbs?

If you have an outdoor space that gets lots of sunshine, you can grow herbs. Depending on the plant, you’ll need anywhere from one to four feet (cilantro, chives, dill and parsley need one foot; basil, thyme, and tarragon need two feet; and rosemary, sage, mint, and oregano need three to four feet). Prepare the soil by loosening it with a large garden fork—this helps the water drain and creates space for the roots to take hold. You don’t want to over-water the plants so use this guideline: Poke your finger into the soil, if it’s dry a few inches below the surface, then it’s time to water!

You can buy herb-growing kits from Back to the Roots! They come with everything you need, including a pot, organic soil, and seeds. Just add water and sunshine!

Fresh herbs

40 Fresh Herb Recipes

Get to know our top herbs, plus get recipes you won’t want to miss.

Recipes With Basil

Basil is best known for being the darling herb of Italian cuisine, but there are plenty of other uses, too! Pair it with strawberries or stone fruit, try Thai basil in your next curry, or seek out opal basil for a pop of purple.

Bruschetta on a Grilled Baguette

Bruschetta is an Italian classic. When tomatoes aren’t in season, just grab a can! Fresh basil, garlic, and salt bring the flavors together. Spoon over crunchy slices of bread, or stir into scrambled eggs or quinoa.

Italian Breakfast Scramble

This hearty breakfast has a Mediterranean spin thanks to cherry tomatoes, EVOO, basil, and zucchini. You’ll feel like you’re vacationing in Italy without leaving the kitchen!

Habanero Mint Tuna Salad

What’s for lunch? The answer is in a can of tuna! This tin comes packed with tuna that’s flavored with habanero and mint. To pump up the flavor even more, just add basil, cilantro, lime, fish sauce, and mayo for the ultimate desk lunch.

Pistachio Pesto

It’s hard to beat a traditional pesto recipe, but this nutty version is worth a whirl. Whizz up parmesan, pistachios, and mint and basil for a fresh take on this versatile condiment. Add it to pasta or drizzle a spoonful over a bowl of polenta topped with a fried egg!

Gluten-Free Skillet Pizza

Go gluten-free for pizza night. (The crust comes together with an easy flour blend featuring tapioca, brown rice, and arrowroot flours.) Top it with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and plenty of torn basil.

Baked Meatballs With Fresh Mozzarella

These tender meatballs absorb even more flavor when baked with a robust tomato sauce. Melted cheese and chopped basil finish the dish.

Recipes With Chives

Chives taste mildly of onion and add delicate flavor to any dish. When in doubt, more chives always make a plate look extra beautiful. They play well with other herbs like parsley and tarragon, but stand out on their own, especially in potato salad or scattered over dips.

Sweet Potato Latkes

Enjoy this classic holiday dish anytime—each patty is crisp and herbaceous with the candied flavor of sweet potatoes and a grassy note from celery root.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Make your own Ranch with healthier swaps! We use soaked, raw cashews, apple cider vinegar, and plenty of herbs like chives and parsley. Pour it on your favorite salad or use it as a dip for crunchy veggies like carrots and cucumbers.

Beetroot Ravioli With Cashew Cream Sauce

This is no ordinary ravioli! Author Kris Carr created this plant-based stunner of a meal using cashews as a dairy-free alternative to cream cheese that’s laced with chives, shallots, nutritional yeast, and parsley. (You’ll probably want to lick the spoon after filling the thinly sliced beet rounds.)

Mushroom Turmeric Crepes

A savory breakfast or easy supper—these earthy crepes are made with Paleo-friendly wraps that’ll satisfy your stomach. Chives take the stage as a garnish, but you could add them to the pan while the mushrooms cook, too.

Sautéed Veggies With Orange Brown Butter

Here’s a simple side that’s ready for summer! Crisp snap peas, tender green beans, and creamy purple potatoes bring a rainbow of color to this simple sauté. Top it with chives for a pretty presentation.

Recipes With Rosemary

Rosemary comes from sturdy stalk and although it’s available year-round, thrives in the cooler months. That’s a big reason why it’s often married with rich stews, sauces, and roasts, and used liberally during the holidays. From Thanksgiving sides to easy appetizers, here’s your rosemary round up.

Gluten-Free Focaccia Bread

Many recipes take hours for dough to proof and bake, but this recipe gets a warm loaf of gluten-free focaccia on the table in just 30 minutes! The flaky salt and minced herb topping makes every bite extra flavorful.

Pumpkin-Swirled Mashed Potatoes With Vegan Rosemary Gravy

Here’s a side that got all dressed up for your holiday table! It’s vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, and smothered in a pumpkin sauce. Sounds just right as-is, but we take it one step further with a drizzle of rosemary gravy. Double up, because everyone will ask for seconds!

Olive Oil and Chocolate Rosemary Popsicles

Kids and adults will devour these superfood-powered treats. Olive oil, cacao powder, rosemary and coconut sugar combine for a sophisticated popsicle everyone will love.

Rosemary and Lemon Spiced Nuts

Here’s an appetizer to really go nuts for. Not only are the flavors irresistible—fresh rosemary, lemon zest, garlic powder, cayenne, and ginger—but you can make big batches in advance so there’s one less thing to think about on party night.

Rosemary Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise can be tricky to master, so we came up with a simplified take on the classic French recipe. Fragrant rosemary, a burst of lemon, and a dash of cayenne pepper lend bold flavors. Drizzle it over eggs, smear some on a sandwich, or even dip veggies in it.

Dark Chocolate Rosemary Tart

Did someone say chocolate? We’re all ears for this decadent tart that blends rosemary, walnuts, and decadent chocolate cream for a perfect, not-too-sweet filling. Serve a slice with champagne, if you’re feeling fancy!

Rosemary Popcorn

Turn movie night into the best night of the week! We’re pretty sure you’ll love noshing on the combo of fluffy popcorn, roasted cashews, rosemary, melted butter, and just a touch of brown sugar.

Recipes With Mint

Mint leaves love hanging out with zucchini, cucumbers, and just about any cocktail—here are our most refreshing recipes!

Matcha Mint Julep

If matcha and bourbon had a baby, it would be this mint julep. Make the matcha honey simple syrup in advance so it’s ready to shake up when the party starts.

Blueberry Mint Beauty Spritzer

When you don’t have a spa day on the calendar, try this refreshing spritzer to get the infused water vibes at home. Enjoy the aroma of energizing mint, sweet blueberries, and fresh cucumber swirled with a scoop of beauty elixir that uses fermented greens like wheatgrass and alfalfa.

Brown Rice and Lentil Salad

Brown rice and lentils go glam alongside dried cranberries, apricots, and pistachios for the perfect sweet-meets-salty combo. An herb trio of mint, parsley, and cilantro liven up every bite. This dish is perfect for picnics, barbecues, or as a vegan main course (just add tofu!).

White Bean and Herb Zucchini Noodles

Here’s a dish that’ll beat the heat! Spiralized zucchini “noodles” stand in for pasta so you can slurp them down all summer. They’re a great base for creamy white beans and a medley of Mediterranean herbs.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Traditionally made with bulgur, we swap in quinoa for this light, summer-ready side where mint and parsley are the real showstoppers.

Harissa Carrot Salad

This spicy side is inspired by Moroccan flavors like smoky harissa paste, chickpeas, salty feta, and fresh cilantro and mint. It sounds spicy, but natural sweetness from the carrots helps balance every bite.

Recipes With Cilantro

If you’re in the camp of folks who love cilantro, these recipes are for you! Cilantro is truly a versatile herb that spans the globe. Mix it with cumin for Latin American dishes, top Indian curries, and add it to coconut milk for Thai-inspired meals.

Greens, Eggs, and Ham

Dr. Seuss definitely approves of this spin on green eggs and ham. This breakfast (or brunch) starts with a rich flavor base thanks to pancetta, leeks, and onion, then the eggs bake with aromatic herbs and spices—everything from turmeric and cumin to cilantro and parsley.

Tri-Colored Quinoa Salad

This beautiful salad really delivers. Dried fruit brings the sweetness, fresh veggies add a bit of crunch, and chopped cilantro makes it extra fresh. For a pop of color, use tri-colored quinoa!

Vegan Kale Nachos

This is nacho average vegan dish. No chips or cheese here! Instead, we layer spicy vegan “queso” sauce on top of crispy kale chips for the ultimate snack. Top it off with avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro for the perfect party app.

Grilled Romaine Salad With Avocado Lime Dressing

Ever grill salad? You’re missing out! Sturdy romaine hearts can really take the heat and absorb smoky flavor that makes this side a winner. Drizzle it with an avocado-lime dressing all summer long.

Creamy Avocado Dip

Avocado and cilantro go together like two peas in a pod. This is guacamole upgraded, and it all comes together in a food processor for a five-minute snack. Just set out a bowl of tortilla chips and you’re good to go.

Green Curry Coconut Bowl

This gluten-free and dairy-free bowl is inspired by Southeast Asian flavors like green curry paste, coconut milk, and ginger. Ladle the curry over a bed of fragrant jasmine rice, and don’t forget the toppings! Cilantro, basil, and tender shrimp are definitely a must.

Recipes With Sage

You know the time of year—cozy fireplaces, warm beverages, and twinkle lights can only mean one thing. Although sage isn’t only reserved as a holiday herb, it thrives in cooler temps and is always ready to warm up your fall and winter recipes.

Hasselback Squash

Need a side dish for the Thanksgiving table? Hasselback squash is always dressed to impress. Baked until tender, the deep slits soak up a rich coating of olive oil, fresh sage, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Sage-Chile Chicken

When you need an easy chicken dinner, just slather the bird with ghee, sage, garlic, and chili for the most flavorful roast yet.

Turkey-Sage Meatballs With Spaghetti Squash

Here’s a new twist on spaghetti night! Spaghetti squash stands in for the noodles, and the strands are topped with tender, turkey-sage meatballs that are rolled up with flecks of pine nuts, cranberries, and garlic powder.

Hazelnut Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Brown Butter, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Sage

We highly recommend this sweet potato gnocchi for your next dinner party. Why? It’s deceptively simple to make but looks extra fancy, which means your guests are sure to be impressed. The gnocchi can be made in advance and frozen (score!), then just melt the sage and brown butter sauce and sauté the mushrooms for a perfect presentation.

Recipes With Parsley

Parsley is always appropriate for any culinary occasion, which basically makes it the little black dress of the herb world. It’s always good for garnishing and adding a pop of green, but you can also utilize its flavor, especially in dishes like salmon cakes, omelettes, and pasta with only a few ingredients. Get cooking!

Shakshuka

Hop on the Moroccan flavor train with shakshuka, a North African staple that simmers cracked eggs in a rich tomato sauce. To make things extra easy, we used a jarred sauce from Mina that’s flavored with peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, cilantro, parsley, and a secret blend of spices. It’s one of the few dishes that can stand in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Vegan Mushroom Bolognese

This meal is pure magic thanks to low-calorie shirataki noodles (aka “wonder noodles”) that soak up a rich mushroom sauce. Three-ingredient vegan parmesan is a must (even for non-vegans!), and a sprinkle of parsley tops off each bowl.

Salmon Cakes

This elegant and easy lunch comes together with a can of wild Alaskan salmon, a dollop of mayo, and we can’t forget the crackers. A few fresh ingredients like shallot, bell peppers, and parsley—plus a deliciously creamy remoulade sauce—add extra flavor.

Sweet Potato Spanish Omelette

Try this Paleo-friendly version of a traditional tortilla española (or Spanish tortilla). Caramelized onions, potatoes, plus nutmeg, parsley, and thyme really turn up the volume. Make it a weeknight dinner fave with a simple salad alongside.

Chicken Wrap With Vegetables and Turmeric Sauce

It might be shaped like a tortilla, but this wrap is nothing like the bagged kind. Made from Brazilian tapioca, a bag of this mix can make your next dinner gluten-free and Paleo-friendly. We love chunks of tender chicken and veggies with a bold turmeric sauce that’s blended up with parsley, lime, and garlic powder.

Gluten-Free Spaghetti With Bagna Cauda

Bagua cauda is a flavorful recipe from Piedmont, Italy. Our version of this dish opts for spaghetti made with chickpea flour and a bright sauce of lemon, garlic, capers, and parsley.

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