How to Become a Better Cook: A Guide to Basic Herbs

We’re rolling now! Welcome to the third post in our series on how to become a better cook. In this series we’re learning new skills, as well as ways to improve old skills to help beginner and experienced chefs alike make more magic in the kitchen.

Today we’re going to talk about fresh herbs.

Tapenade Crusted Lamb | StrictlyDelicious.com

Fresh herbs are, without a doubt, one of the quickest, easiest, and most delicious ways to add flavor to any dish. And whatever your dietary restrictions (gluten-free, paleo, AIP, vegan, or none), fresh herbs fit within almost any diet.

Today we’ll talk through five of the most commonly found herbs. We’ll run through what they look like, what they taste like, and how to cook with them.

Do keep in mind that these descriptions are subjective and are based on my opinions alone! You likely have different thoughts and uses for each of these fresh herbs.

Healthy Mediterranean Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake | StrictlyDelicious.com

Let’s get started!

How to Become a Better Cook: A guide to Fresh Herbs | Rosemary

Rosemary (definitely my favorite herb)

What it looks like: Strong, woody stem with many long, thin, flat green “leaves”. These leaves look almost like pine needles.

What it smells like: Warm, strong, aromatic, and woodsy, like evergreen

What it pairs well with: Strong, warm flavors. Think meats, citrus, and hardy vegetables like potatoes, root veggies, and squashes

How to use it: Rosemary Salt (my favorite seasoning in the world), Bruleed Grapefruit with Vanilla Rosemary Sugar, Crispy Chicken Livers with Rosemary Gravy, Rosemary Grapefruit Margaritas, Tapenade Crusted Lamb, Better-Than-Grilled Filet with Rosemary Red Wine Jus and Bleu Cheese Butter, Slow Cooker Stewed Rosemary Garlic Chicken, Rosemary Orange Creamsicle Soda, Cranberry & Beef Stuffed Acorn Squash, Blackberry Rosemary Infused Sparkling Water

How to Become a Better Cook: A guide to Fresh Herbs | Thyme

Thyme

What it looks like: Long, thin, delicate stems with lots of tiny, ovular green leaves

What it smells like: Lemony, warm, and woodsy

What it pairs well with: Savory comfort food dishes, cream sauces, and citrus

How to use it: Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken, Boiled Cauliflower with Turmeric Thyme Browned Butter and Capers, Mustard Braised Short RibsSparkling Lemon Thyme Cocktail, Easy Jerk Chicken, Pumpkin Soup with Browned Butter and Thyme, Easy Pickled Garlic & Herbs

How to Become a Better Cook: A guide to Fresh Herbs | Basil

(Yes, I will absolutely get you a better photo soon…)

Basil

What it looks like: Green, fibrous stem with large, wide, delicate, veined green leaves.

What it smells like: Slightly earthy, fresh, sweet, and minty

What it pairs well with: Light, fresh dishes. Basil is best used fresh or almost fresh, as its flavor can disappear quickly or be quickly overwhelmed.

How to use it: When cooking with basil, it’s best to use it in no cook recipes or to add it right at the end of cooking. Try basil in Blueberry Basil Lemonade, Zucchini Noodle Beef Pho, Healthy Mediterranean Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake, Mushroom Herb Baked Meatballs, and 5-Minute Nut-Free Pesto.

Note: Store basil like you would store fresh flowers- with the stems in a glass of water. Cut basil does not have a very long shelf life, so buy it very close to when you plan to use it!

How to Become a Better Cook: A guide to Fresh Herbs | Oregano

Oregano

What it looks like: Strong green stems with medium-sized round, veined leaves

What it smells like: Warm, peppery, lemony, and sweet

What it pairs well with: Cultural dishes, especially those with a west European flavor. Also pairs well with other herbs.

How to use: Mushroom Herb Baked Meatballs, Tapenade Crusted Lamb, Healthy Mediterranean Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

How to Become a Better Cook: A guide to Fresh Herbs | Mint

Mint

What it looks like: Thin green stems with textured, lacy green leaves

What it smells like: Cool and refreshing. Like mint!

What it pairs well with: Fruit (I use it most with berries and lime) and red meats

How to use: Frozen Mojito Margaritas, Mint Berry Fruit Salad with Ginger Lime Dressing, Sparkling Lavender Mint Limeade, Tapenade Crusted Lamb, Strawberry Mojito Martini, Peppermint Lime Infused Sparkling Water

How to Pickle Garlic in Olive Oil | StrictlyDelicious.com

And there you have it! Five of the easiest to find herbs that will give a surprising dash of flavor and fragrance to any dish! Consider cutting down on some of the salt and processed sauces in your dishes and try using some of these delicious, healthy fresh herbs in your meals instead!

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Do you have a question about cooking or a recipe you’d like to see? Is there a recipe you’re trying to adapt for your diet? Let me know! I LOVE helping readers answer their questions and find recipes that work for them!

Sissa, my love, this post is dedicated to you. Thank you for the request!