How To Make Flavored Herbal Oils for Cooking

Bottles of olive oil flavoured with tarragon, rosemary, and red chilli
William Reavell / Getty Images

Flavored oils for cooking are widely available at high-end grocery stores and specialty cooking stores, but they are very expensive. Fortunately, they are very easy to make yourself from herbs you grow or purchase. They are wonderful to cook with and are always welcome as gifts. 

Caution: Homemade oils do not stay fresh as long as processed oils, and they will need to be used within a couple of months.

Always start with clean, ​dry herbs and sterilized jars or bottles. And remember: When preserving any type of food, always follow processing instructions specified in the recipe and to adhere to the USDA guidelines on how to sterilize products for canning.

Difficulty Level

  • Average

Time Required

  • About 1 to 2 hours to make, 1 week to steep

Materials You Will Need:

  • Sterilized glass bottles or jars (the more attractive, the better)
  • Bottle corks or jar lids
  • Herbs as desired
  • Cooking oil (extra virgin olive oil is a good choice, but any cooking oil will work)
  • Large cauldron for sterilizing jars. 
  • Sauce pan for heating oil
  • Jar labels and decorative ribbon

How to Do It

  1. Rinse off your fresh herbs and allow them to dry thoroughly.
  2. Sterilize attractive glass bottles or jars by boiling them in water for several minutes.
  3. Allow the bottles and jars to dry thoroughly.
  4. Slightly bruise your herbs with a wooden roller, then stuff them into the bottles. You don’t need a large quantity of herbs. A sprig or two will sufficiently infuse the oil.
  1. Heat the cooking oil on low heat, just until warm, then pour the oil into the bottles, over the herbs. Allow the contents to cool.
  2. Strain out any fresh herbs by pouring the oil from the bottle, through a strainer or coffee filter, and into a new bottle. Dried herbs can remain in the oil, but the oil will stay fresh a bit longer if these are also strained out. 
  1. Seal the bottle with lid or cork, and allow the to sit in a cool spot out of direct sunlight, for about 1 week before using.
  2. Label the jars, and attach decorative ribbons if you intend to give them away as gifts.

Flavored oils should be used within two months, at most. Straining out the herbs and refrigerating will help the oil last longer. Many gift recipients won’t want to use something so beautiful, so remind them the oil won’t stay fresh for long,  and promise to make more next year.

Tips

  • The lighter the oil flavor, the more pronounced the herb flavor will be.
  • Good choices for herbal oil infusions include: basil, bay, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory, tarragon, and thyme.
  • Include printed favorite recipes when giving as gifts.