When is it best to use dried herbs? Do fresh spices always work best?
A common question people have is whether you should use dried or fresh spices. And since they both co-exist, is there a particular time when dried spices are more appropriate than fresh, and vice versa.
The answer to that question is that it depends. Both dried and fresh spices have their place in the kitchen, but the most important thing is to learn about their characteristics in order to know when to use them – and when not to.
In this guide, we share everything you need to know about dried and fresh spices in order to get the most out of your cooking.
Basil leaves top the freshly cooked pasta sauce. A bunch of thyme is pulled from the green twig and straight down into the mortar. A leaf mint will be the icing on when mojito is mixed. We are used to watching TV cooks cooking with fresh spices. As an amateur, you can easily get the feeling that fresh spices like basil, thyme, rosemary, and dill are always clearly the best.
But it’s not that obvious. Both fresh and dried herbs have their advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we share everything you need to know about dried and fresh spices, when to use them, and when not to.
Dry your herbs
Herb plants that have strong stems, which may feel a bit bumpy, like oregano, for example, works great to dry. The same goes for classic meat spices like rosemary and thyme, not to mention dragon and sage. These are herbs that can, of course, be served fresh but they are excellent to dry and use in cooking.
Herbs that are more dense and sensitive, on the other hand, are better to eat fresh. This includes herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro, lemon balm with its crisp green leaves, chives, and other plants that we may perceive as more green plants in their appearance.
The juicier they look, the harder they are to dry. But there are exceptions. Dill, for example, which is a very soft plant, also works great as dried. Just like parsley and coriander. They only give a less clear, tasty, and vibrant taste in dried form. You simply need to dose differently if you are going to use fresh or dried spices.
Dried spices need more time
When you cook with dried herbs, you can expect the flavors to take time to develop. If you make a pot of fish, you may need to bring the spices to life in the frying pan first with the help of butter or oil. The food fat increases the taste and opens up the flavor in the herb, the fat makes the food taste more and the kitchen smells fantastic.
The scent is easy to forget. It is an important part of the aroma, the whole taste experience is partly controlled by smell, taste but also the visual impression. Fresh spices, of course, give a lot of scents, while dried almost does not smell anything at all, before they are processed. You may need to rub your dried spices between your fingers to get the scent properly, preferably test with rosemary or oregano. You will notice a big difference!
Does that sound strange? Then think about the job that a good pepper mill does, for example – when you use a mill for your spices, they are crushed and give a much more vibrant and fresh tastes as the flavors are released just when you mill it.
A great advantage of dried herbs, of course, is that they last very long. But keep in mind that they don’t last too long. You should occasionally check the spice shelf at home, smell your spices with spices every year if you feel no scent it may be time to throw and buy new. Over time, the spices will lose their taste and not be as fresh and full of taste as they originally were.
All spices are different, but as a rule of thumb, you can think that a teaspoon of dried spice from the jar corresponds to about a deciliter of freshly chopped fresh spice. Assuming that your dried spices have not become too old in the jar, of course.
Add fresh spices at the end
Dried spices can be browned together with onions at the beginning of cooking. On the contrary, with fresh spices. They should be added right at the end.
Some herbs are actually better in dried form than others. Herbs with more powerful and woody stems such as oregano, thyme, dragon, sage, and rosemary make themselves excellent in dried form while the more dense herbs basil, chives, parsley, and coriander make themselves better in fresh form in cooking.
Add your dried herbs early in the cooking to give the flavors time to settle into the food. If you make a soup or casserole, you may want to let the dried herbs fry slowly together with the onion before adding the other ingredients and liquid. Before adding them, be sure to let the herbs crush slightly between your fingers to get more flavor from them.
Dill on top of the fish sauce, sprinkle freshly chopped cilantro over your favorite Mexican dish or take out the scissors and cut chives and parsley over meat and vegetarian dishes to get a fresh finish! Don’t forget that desserts can also be spiced with fresh herbs.
Waiting with fresh spices to the end means that the plant retains a green lovely look, but both the taste and the springy feel retain better then.
When should you choose fresh herbs in cooking? A basic rule is to use the fresh herbs at the end of cooking to maintain their taste and texture. For example, sprinkle some fresh parsley over the Sunday roast, some fresh basil leaves on the pizza, some fresh thyme in the vegetable soup, or some chopped coriander on your fish tacos. It is also nice and good to have in salads or in a vegetable couscous.
Dried VS fresh – do they taste the same?
Do fresh herbs taste the same as dried? It depends. It ultimately depends on the type of herb. But generally, whilst the taste is the same, it may be weaker when it is dried.
Can you exchange fresh spices for dried, and dried for fresh?
A common question is whether or not you can exchange fresh spices for dried and vice versa. The answer is that yes, generally you can. But the catch is that when you use dried herbs instead of fresh, you will need about three times as much of the fresh herb as you would use of the dry. For example, if you need one teaspoon of fresh Basil, you need three teaspoons of dried basil.
The reason is that the drying concentrates many of the compounds that have the herb’s flavor. Therefore, you compensate by using less of the dried herb.
Fresh vs dry spices?
Generally, it is best to use the fresh herbs at the end of cooking to finish the dish. The dried herbs are best used in dishes that require long cooking times.
Worth knowing is that dried herbs have a deeper and more intense flavor than fresh herbs. Furthermore, dried herbs have less oils seeing they are dehydrated. When the oils are dried, they stay inside the herbs, thus keeping the intense flavor. A tip is to rub the dry spices in your hands to release the oils. Cooking the dry herbs also helps dry the flavors, which is why it is often a good idea to cook them on the stove first.
The primary benefit of using dried spices is that they are convenient to use. It’s easy to keep a wide array of dried spices in the cabinet, unlike with fresh spices. Pre-cut herbs will lose their freshness and ultimately rot after some time. Fresh herbs that grow in a pot will last for substantially longer, but you will have to take care of it – like with all plants – in order to keep it fresh and alive. Using dried herbs requires zero preparation time, unlike fresh herbs. Dried herbs allow you to grab a jar and add it to the dish.
Another benefit of dried herbs compared to fresh is the fact that you only need to use a third of the dried herbs versus fresh herbs.
in most recipes and applications, using dried herbs should be much easier on your budget. Since dried herbs last far longer than fresh herbs too, you don’t have to worry about fresh herbs going bad before you can cook with them.