Pairing and Combining Your Fresh Grown Herbs With Food

Fresh grown herbs on white surface next to small bowls and scissors

The Spruce / Alyson Brown

When cooking with the fresh herbs you grow, the only rule is to please yourself and your guests. The following table lists flavorful herb and food combinations and herb substitutions if you should find yourself suddenly out of your favorite herb. Use it to experiment and learn which herbal flavors you enjoy most.

General Rules of Thumb When Cooking With Fresh Herbs

  • Flavors will vary. Taste your herbs before you add them to your cooking.
  • Freshly picked herbs will start losing their flavor if stored for days.
  • Tender herb leaves, like basil, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, and parsley should be shopped just before use and added at the end of cooking, to retain their flavor.
  • Thicker and woodier herbs, like bay, oregano, sage, thyme, and rosemary can be adding during the cooking process to allow them time to meld with the other flavors.
  • Thicker herb leaves, like rosemary and sage, can be very pungent and should be finely chopped and used sparingly or added whole and removed before serving.
  • To substitute dried herbs for fresh, the general rule is:1 tbsp. Fresh Chopped =
    1 tsp. Crumbled Dry or
    1/4 tsp. Ground Dry.

Herb Pairings

Basil Most vegetables. Anything to do with tomatoes. Marjoram, Mint, Anise
Bay Used mainly in soups and stews, where the flavor can develop. Thyme
Chives Salads and Cold Plates Scallions / Green Onions
Cilantro Salsa, Asian and Caribbean Dishes Flat-leaf Parsley. Spicy Basils.
Dill Fish, Chicken, Eggs, Salad, Beans, Carrots, Cucumbers, Cabbage, Potatoes, Pickles & Sour Cream or Yogurt Dips. Caraway
Lemon Grass Thai Dishes, Chicken, Beef, Curry, often combined with coconut milk. Lemon Zest
Lemon Verbena Fish, Poultry, Marinades, Salad Dressing, Jams, Sauces, Teas. Lemon Grass, Lemon Zest
Mint Lamb, Eggplant, Desserts, Teas, Salads, Vegetables, Fruits. Spicy Basils
Oregano Beef, Chicken, Pasta, Tomatoes, “Blacken” Rub Marjoram, Mint, Basil
Parsley Salads, Tabbouleh Cilantro
Rosemary Chicken, Fish, Lamb, Pork, Potatoes, Stews Oregano, Spicy Basils
Sage Poultry, Beans, Stuffing, Pasta Thyme, Summer Savory
Savory (Summer) Vegetables, Fruits, Cheese Winter Savory, Marjoram
Tarragon Chicken, Eggs, Fish Anise, Fennel
Thyme Poultry, Eggs, Stews, Vegetables Lemon Basil