Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

So you started an herb garden. Or you have a ton of dried herbs in your cabinet. Or you are genuinely interested (kudos to you). But now what? Let’s dive into the different kinds of herbs and how to use them. And, by the end of this, you too will understand how herbs are super sup(herb). Now, try saying that fast six times. I just gave you a tongue twister and a fun twist to add to any dish– you’re welcome in advance. 

If you are a college student looking to elevate your cooking skills, knowing how to use herbs is the best way to impress those around you and even yourself! Herbs are an easy and economical way to induce flavor and complexity to any dish. Change your game when it comes to pasta sauces, soups, breads, noodle dishes, vegetables, and more. Ok, now I’m done making this sound like an infomercial.  

What’s up with dried vs fresh herbs?

Whenever you have fresh herbs, they are not as strong as the dried herbs. Dried herbs are much more strong and concentrated than their fresh counterparts. The ratio I usually use is one tablespoon of fresh herbs to one teaspoon of dried herbs. Whatever the fresh amount is, I do ⅓ of that for the dried amount. 

However, do note that some recipes call for fresh herbs, and sometimes there is no way around that. Dried herbs are not that edible and are best when cooked into a dish. For example, when I make my creamy tomato pasta sauce, I like to add oregano, thyme, and basil. In this case, I can use dried herbs. Soups or anything that is being cooked on the stove top works well for dried herbs. You will need fresh herbs if you are making guacamole or salsa. Then you will most definitely want to use fresh cilantro versus dried coriander seeds. 

I totally understand that not everyone can just start an herb garden or buy the plant. Try going to your local farmer’s market to pick up some herbs. Or, you can even buy some herbs like cilantro and chives in the section of the grocery store where they mist the vegetables. I still like to have the dried herbs on hand because they are helpful to add to anything that I am simmering. I usually have dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, and bay leaves in my cabinet. Bay leaves are probably one of the only herbs that I always use in its dried form. Fresh bay leaves can be expensive, harder to get, and they do not last as long. I opt for buying whole dried bay leaves to elevate my chicken broth or any simmering sauce.

Best Fresh

It really depends on what you are making, but here are a few herbs that I prefer to be fresh. Definitely check for what your recipe calls for because sometimes you cannot get around having fresh herbs. 

  1. Basil 

l really makes a difference when basil is fresh. I love fresh basil compared to dried basil. Out of all of the herbs, I would highly recommend getting a basil plant because basil is definitely one of the fresh herbs I used the most. I love to use basil with any Italian or European dish. Basil is wonderful on pizzas, bread, over pasta, and in pesto. Basil pairs very well with tomatoes and mozzarella, which is an amazing side dish. Try making a sandwich with tomato sauce, ricotta (or any cheese), some meat, and basil– delicious! 

*Tip: Basil is best when it is in its raw form. Do not refrigerate basil since it will change the aromatics. Also, I suggest ripping basil rather than chopping it with a knife. Add basil in the later steps of cooking since if you add heat to basil, the flavor becomes a bit more pungent and dulls

  1. Cilantro 

 I love fresh cilantro, which I use the most out of all of my herbs. You can even buy cilantro at your local grocery store if you cannot grow it. Cilantro is often used in Mexican cooking as well as many East Asian cuisines. 

I like to add cilantro on top of noodle soups, any noodle dish, with ramen, or even on sandwiches for a fresh flavor. Cilantro also pairs very well with lime, and this combination is unbeatable when it comes to taco filling. Try adding cilantro to soups, pico de gallo, guacamole, and any salsa. 

  1. Chives

I don’t even think there is a dried version of this. But you can usually buy these at the supermarket in the section where they mist the vegetables. Also, what’s up with chives and green onions? They are quite similar and sometimes can be used interchangeably. Chives and green onions are different because chives are an herb, but green onions are a vegetable. I like to add chopped chives as a garnish to finish my pasta dishes or on top of my omelets. 

  1. Parsley 

I am just not a huge fan of parsley flakes, and I cannot really taste the parsley through the dried version. I always love putting chopped parsley on my pasta or garlic bread. Parsley goes wonderfully with lemon and minced garlic. This is actually called Gremolata.  

Some blurbs on some herbs 

  1. Rosemary 

Rosemary goes well with oregano, basil, and thyme. I like to add rosemary to garlic breads, and I have even made a parmesan rosemary pull-apart bread. Rosemary goes well over mushrooms, potatoes, onions, and more. Try using rosemary to season your meats, like chicken.   

  1. Thyme

I don’t use thyme a ton on its own, but I do like to add it to Italian dishes. I always add some thyme to my garlic bread or tomato sauces. Thyme goes really well with oregano, basil, and rosemary. 

  1. Oregano

Oregano is the classic Italian herb. I love to add oregano into tomato sauces, garlic bread, Italian breads, and meats. If you ever want to get that “Italian spice” taste, definitely add some oregano. Whenever I am roasting vegetables, I like to add some olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Then, I sprinkle some parmesan at the end. 

  1. Dill 

Ever heard of dill pickles? Dill can be used to pickle different vegetables. It is also a main component of tzatziki, which is a greek sauce. Try adding dill into yogurt or sour cream sauces. I like to add dill to salad, eggs, or salmon. I also have made a lemon vinaigrette where I add in some dill. 

  1. Bay Leaves

This is best in soups or sauces to add flavor because they are not eaten. Before serving, remember to take out your bay leaf. I usually put a bay leaf in whenever I am making a broth. For example, my chicken tortilla soup calls for a bay leaf. 

  1. Mint 

There are many different types of mint, but I usually like to use sweet mint. I love to add mint into my tea or water. A great combination for water is lemon and mint or cucumber, strawberry, and mint. Try adding some mint to your fruit bowl as well. 

I have even made a couscous salad with chickpea, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette. I sliced some basil, parsley, and mint to go with it. Basil, parsley, and mint is a great zingy combination to add to any dish. 

  1. Marjoram 

Marjoram is in the mint family but doesn’t really taste very minty at all. I actually couldn’t find this herb at my local greenhouse, and I honestly haven’t worked with it much. It is very similar to oregano, but marjoram is milder and much sweeter to taste. You can use marjoram in salads, with eggs, bread and in meatballs.  

I am the Lifestyle and Wellness Staff writer and editor for Yale's Her Campus! I also am a writer for the Beauty and Style column. I am a prospective physics and East Asian studies major. Now let me rattle off some facts to seem cool (kidding of course): I’ve gone backpacking around the world, like the Himalayas and the Alps. I love to read— I’ll read nonfiction science (for when I want to feel smart and want to kill some brain cells) and thrillers + cheesy romcom to imagine a little. I also play piano, run, do calligraphy, and eat way too much ice cream (but is there really such a thing as too much ice cream? The deeper questions on life that eat away at you or you can just eat ice cream). I might as well say I also am a lover of parentheses (and perhaps an abuser with how much I use them– apologies in advance).
Similar Reads👯‍♀️