Fresh oregano and garlic chives being grown in a container garden

If you love cooking, try incorporating fresh herbs to take your favorite dish to a gourmet level.

And if you enjoy gardening AND cooking? Then try cooking with homegrown herbs because it can be so satisfying and economical!

The Magic of Herbs

Herbs are truly magnificent plants. They enhance flavors in cooking while packing a nutritional punch. They have been used for medicinal purposes since the beginning of time, and magical ones too.

These utilitarian plants are fragrant beyond belief, and add beauty to any garden. They can be used in floral arrangements, potpourris, and wreaths, and make excellent bath, personal care, and beauty products.

Check out these fabulous energizing herbal bath salts!!

I could easily wax on about the qualities and benefits of using herbs forever, but today we’re going to concentrate on extolling their culinary virtues.

20 best gift ideas for herb gardeners icon

Some Favorite Culinary Herbs to Cook With

For those looking to begin cooking with fresh herbs, there are many different options available depending on what you want to cook and how you want it flavored.

There are such a wide variety of herbs that can be used for cooking. Each has with its own unique flavor and cooking properties.

Some of the most commonly used cooking herbs include basil, thyme, cilantro, and tarragon. These spices have particularly strong flavors that can complement a wide range of dishes, from rich stews to simple grain dishes or soups.

Icon with pictures of cilantro, basil, parsley, sage, thyme, and tarragon for an article about cooking with fresh herbs by thrivingwithless.com

Mint is great for adding a hint of refreshing flavor to sweeter dishes like fruit salads or desserts. And lavender is delicious for enhancing lemonade, teas, and even ice cream.

For an added punch, try making my quick and easy Hot Honey recipe to your favorite herb blend!

Parsley, chives, thyme, or dill pair well with potato or fish dishes, while rosemary is an ideal choice for grilling meats or vegetables. And basil is amazing with pasta, bruschettas, and many Italian and Mediterranean-style dishes.

Try adding herbs to foods that already have strong flavors, like celery with dill, parsley, coriander, or fennel. This will help you figure out which herbs go well with which food items.

TIP: Always do a taste test to see if you even like the flavor! If you don’t like the flavor of the herb in its raw state, then don’t risk using it in your dish. Find one you do enjoy and proceed from there.

Ways to Use Fresh Herbs in Cooking

One of the simplest methods to use fresh herbs is to simply chop them up and add to savory dishes or seasonings. This is a great way to instill your cooking with a delicious, garden-fresh flavor.

Pasta dish topped with fresh parsley and basil

Add finely chopped herbs to salads and soups to heighten the seasonings and senses. A sprinkling of mint over watermelon brings a whole new dimension to this fruity dish. And topping vanilla ice cream with a few crushed lavender petals and a lemon balm leaf is not only beautiful, it’s also delicious!

Alternatively, you can make herb-infused cooking oils by steeping the fresh herbs in oil over low heat and using them in salad dressings or as toppings for cooked dishes to add extra depth of flavor.

I typically use olive oil for my herbal infusions, but you can also use sunflower, almond, or coconut oils.

Some Favorite Culinary Herb Blends

I love to mix and match herbs with some olive oil and vinegars to use as a dipping oil with generous chunks of crusty rustic bread.

You can also mix herbs with various spices and pantry staples for powerhouse seasonings to different dishes. (here is a fabulous laminated chef’s guide to cooking with herbs & spices for under $7.00!)

A few of my favorite herbal blends are:

  • Basil + cilantro + garlic + lime + mint
  • Basil + lemon + olive oil
  • Cilantro + garlic + olive oil + red chili flakes + balsamic vinegar
  • Cilantro + lime zest + basil + mint + red
  • Parsley + red chili flakes + garlic + balsamic vinegar + olive oil
  • Parsley + garlic + lemon zest + olive oil + walnuts
  • Rosemary + garlic + red chili flakes + olive oil + balsamic vinegar
  • Rosemary + honey + lemon zest + red wine vinegar
  • Sage + walnuts + lemon zest + toasted bread crumbs + olive oil over baked brie
  • Thyme + orange zest + oregano + parsley

A Few Final Tips on Cooking With Fresh Herbs

When cooking with fresh herbs, always remember that less is more. It’s easy to add too much and end up overwhelming the dish. Rosemary, sage, and thyme are particularly easy to overseason with. Start with a little bit, and then add more if necessary.

NOTE: Fresh herbs are generally less potent than dry herbs, which means you need more fresh herbs than dry. If you need to substitute dry for fresh herbs, remember: 1 teaspoon of dried herbs = 1 tablespoon of fresh.

The herbs you choose will depend largely on personal preference – so experiment with a few different kinds until you find the perfect herb combinations for your cooking style!

Cooking With Fresh Herbs icon shows herbs and spices in various cooking types of settings

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  1. Thanks for sharing those herbal blends! We have basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, garlic, coriander, lemons, oregano, chillies all growing in the garden – so I think we will be able to try some of those blends!

    1. Your garden sounds lovely and your plants are a culinary feast in the making!

  2. Thank you for this encouragement. It’s my goal to experiment with basil this summer!

    1. Basil is one of my all-time favorite herbs, Michele – I even put a couple of basil leaves in my water with a slice of cucumber. It is so refreshing!

  3. What an awesome article. I have mint every year because it makes the deck smell so good, but I never remember to use it in the kitchen.
    You have sparked an interest. I am going to buy a book and plant others.
    Thank you for sharing at #omhgww. Pinned and tweeted if buttons are available. See you next week.

    1. Thanks Clearissa–and thanks for having me at your party! Looking forward to the next one 🙂 Some bugs decided to take up occupancy on my mint this week, so I’m hoping my efforts get rid of the bugs and revives my mint to where it was when I wrote this article. I love putting some mint leaves with cucumber slices in my ice water – it’s so refreshing!

  4. Probably the most used herbs in my cooking are Basil, Rosemary, cilantro and parsley. I have in containers, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Oh and then there’s the runaway spearmint. I do need to use fresh herbs that you have mentioned. My son is one that is creative.
    Thank you for sharing on Oh My Heartsie Girls #omhgww

    1. Those are my favorite herbs to use too, Karren! I have thyme growing in one of my containers but it’s not thriving though the oregano really took off this year. Thank you for sharing my post on your wonderful blog and enjoy the herbs in your garden!

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