How to use fresh herbs

Most of us have been faced with a surplus of herbs. Maybe you were overzealous at the farmers market, or maybe you were blessed with a bumper basil crop. And who among us hasn’t wondered what to do with all that parsley when the recipe called for a sprig? Whatever your situation, here are a ton (ha!) of ideas to save your herbs from the compost bin.

Zhuzh up to your butter

How to use herbs

Photography by Belle Morizio

Toss finely chopped herbs into softened butter with a pinch of salt (and a bit of citrus zest if you feel like it). Roll it over a sheet of plastic wrap, then squeeze it into a log, twisting the ends closed. Refrigerate until solid and voilà! Think of it like you would regular butter, so spread it on toast, rub it on chicken before grilling, or even use it to bake aromatic cakes. You can cut thick disks for fancy dinners, or even use a crinkle cutter, if you have one, to make wavy slices.

Freeze in “flavor cubes”

How to use herbs

Photography by Belle Morizio

Flavor cubes (fresh frozen herbs) are money in the bank when it comes to one-pan meals – just toss them in a pan while you’re sautéing veggies, cooking eggs, or making pasta sauce. Thawed, they make a fantastic starter for salad dressings or flavor enhancers for cooked cereals. To make flavor cubes, chop the herbs and fill the holes of an ice cube tray (I like these) about three-fourths full (a silicone mold works best here). Drizzle on enough olive oil to submerge the herbs and freeze until solid, at least four hours. Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags, where they will keep for up to six months.

Hang them up to dry.

This old-school method feels a bit medieval, but if you live in a dry climate, it’s a proven way to keep herbs from going bad. Working with small bunches, tie the stems of the herbs together with kitchen twine. Hang them upside down, out of direct sunlight, and in four to seven days they should fall apart easily; that’s how you’ll know they’re ready to go. Herbs with larger leaves, such as basil, take longer to dry, between two and three weeks. Use dried herbs to make spice mixes or salves that make great gifts.

make flavored salt and sugar

Now that you have dried herbs in the pantry, use them to infuse salt or sugar to further extend their shelf life. Crumble dried leaves in a food processor with granulated sugar or kosher salt. (I like a ratio of ½ cup herbs to 1 cup salt or sugar.) Pulse until well blended, then add more salt or sugar if desired and pulse again. Herbal salt will keep in an airtight container for up to six months, so let your imagination run wild. A sponge cake made with basil sugar: why not? Mint sugar brûléed in a little grapefruit: That’s self care. The possibilities are endless.


Certain herbs have a floral or citrus scent, which means they make wonderful natural flavor enhancers in a variety of desserts. Rosemary pairs well with chocolate and citrus, while thyme and tarragon complement stone fruits such as peaches, plums and nectarines very well. Basil and mint go well with berries, and sage and apples are a perfect match. Add these herbs to your batter or dough the next time you bake, starting with a tablespoon or two.

Herb your salad

How to use herbs

Photography by Belle Morizio

Add new dimensions to green salads by adding handfuls of tender-stemmed herbs like mint, parsley, cilantro, dill or chervil. For once, forget about cutting or ripping the leaves! Herb salads make great, textured toppings for pizza, frittatas, and sandwiches.

make (anything but) simple syrup

The confusion is messy. Enhance your libations with an herbal syrup. Add a handful of washed herbs (stems too!) to a pot with equal amounts of sugar and water. Bring the liquid to a boil, give it a little stir, then remove from heat and cover to soak. As soon as the syrup has cooled, you can strain and discard the herbs, leaving you with a magic potion that you can use in cocktails, tea, or iced coffee. Better yet, the next time you bake a cake, while it’s still hot, drizzle or drizzle with a little herb syrup to add another layer of flavor. Bonus: this technique keeps the cake moist.

Reconsider your pesto strategy

Drown yourself in basil? Make pesto! For experienced cooks, this is a no-brainer, but many forget that the pesto matrix is ​​huge. There’s no need to limit yourself to one herb (or one nut, for that matter). Use your favorite pesto recipe as a framework and swap in any herbs you have lying around. Mint pesto is the perfect complement to grilled lamb and roasted carrots; tarragon pesto mixed with greek yogurt makes a great base for chicken salad. I like the chunky parsley and walnut pesto, which makes a quick and tasty sauce for spaghetti. Lastly, don’t forget the scallions, which can be mixed into a sauce that is delicious with baked potatoes.

Go Cuckoo by Kuku

Kuku sabzi is a Persian frittata that calls for so much coriander, parsley, and dill that it is completely green. Leeks, aromatic spices and barberries add even more complexity.

Learn to Salsa (Green)

This all-purpose seasoning elevates roasted vegetables, grilled meats, potatoes, you name it. To make salsa verde, blend 2 cups of mixed herbs (such as basil, parsley, and mint), a clove of garlic, a splash of red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of capers, and a few anchovy fillets in the food processor until smooth. coarsely chopped. . Transfer to a small bowl and add ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, season with salt, and you’re done.

Store herbs long-term

How to use herbs

Photography by Belle Morizio

Storing herbs properly is essential. Start by removing any brown or soft leaves, then wash the herbs in cold water to remove grit. A towel or salad spinner is helpful to remove moisture. Hardy herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, you name it), best kept wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a zip lock bag. Tender herbs (parsley, coriander, tarragon, mint, dill, basil, etc.) are best stored as a bouquet: stems are cut off and immersed in a glass of water. Cover the package loosely with an overturned plastic bag. Most herbs should be stored in the refrigerator, but basil can be left on the counter. Change the water every few days as needed. Some herbs will stay fresh this way for up to three weeks. Product Mention: OXO Greens Saver

final thoughts

If you cook at home, leftover herbs are unavoidable, but these tricks will help you combat the bounty and reduce waste. The most important step is proper storage, which can extend shelf life from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, long enough to try the recipes on this list.

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