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Everything You Need to Know About Fresh Herbs

Baffled by basil? Perplexed by parsley? We’ll help ease your herb worries with this guide on how to buy, use, and store fresh herbs.

In terms of bang for your buck, fresh herbs bring the flavor in a big way. Dried herbs just can’t compete with their vibrant fragrance and gorgeous color in pretty much any recipe. Whether you’re serving a comforting beef stew with thyme or a fresh summer salad with basil and mint, fresh herbs will make the dish sing.

Here’s how to make the most of fresh herbs in your meals and how to keep your herbs fresh as long as possible.

Herb Prep

  • If buying a loose bunch of herbs, remove rubber bands and rinse well in a colander or salad spinner. Wrap in a cotton kitchen towel or thick paper towels and dry well.
  • If buying herbs in a resealable plastic case, leave them there until ready to cook.

Whole or Chopped?

  • Use whole leaves to provide a strong burst of herb fragrance and taste in each bite, as in Caprese salad or layered in paninis.

  • Muddle whole herbs in iced teas and cocktails to infuse the drink with flavor.

  • Chop herbs to incorporate the flavor throughout the dish, as in dips, sauces, and spreads.


  • Chop just before using in a recipe. Herbs oxidize easily, turning brown and wilting quickly once the cut edges are exposed to air.
  • For a subtle, but penetrating herb flavor, add along with aromatics like onion and garlic to flavor sauces and stews, like these:

  • For intense, fresh herb flavor, sprinkle as a garnish, or toss into salads—everything from leafy greens to pasta to potato—just before serving.


For herbs with woody stems, like rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, and mint:

  • Loosely wrap rinsed and dried herbs in a paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

For delicate-stemmed herbs, like parsley, cilantro, dill, and basil:

  • Trim the stem ends and place in a glass of water, changing the water every 1-2 days. Store at room temperature out of direct sunlight, or in the refrigerator loosely covered with a plastic bag.


  • Remove leaves from stems and roughly chop.
  • Place in a zip-top freezer bag with enough olive oil to cover the herbs completely.
  • Flatten and freeze solid in a single layer.
  • Break pieces off as needed for recipes like soups, stews, and blended salad dressings.

So now you know what to do with delicious fresh herbs. What are you going to try to make first?

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