Test Kitchen tip: Fresh vs. dried herbs and spices (and a recipe)

Test Kitchen tip: Fresh vs. dried herbs and spices (and a recipe)
Fresh herbs are generally best to impart flavor quickly or when added at the end of cooking. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

So when should you use fresh herbs in a recipe? And when do you go for the dried? It can be a perplexing question, especially if the recipe is not specific.

I usually use fresh herbs and spices in recipes where I need them to impart flavor quickly, such as salads and recipes where there is no cooking involved, or when the herb or spice is added at the very end (folded into a sauce before serving, or added at the last minute to a slow-simmered stew). I tend to stay away from fresh herbs if I have a recipe that requires them to cook for longer than 45 minutes.


The flavor of dried herbs and spices is concentrated because the moisture has been removed. Dry herbs and spices shine best when they've had a chance to rehydrate and slowly infuse a recipe with pronounced flavor. I love to layer them when I'm doing a recipe that requires long cooking times -- toward the beginning of a stew or a long-cooked sauce, even in marinades.

As always, keep in mind that dried herbs and spices will lose their flavor over time, and should be replaced at least once a year.

Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you've been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it's a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef's knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.


Total time: 25 minutes | Serves 4

    1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
    1 1/2 cups Italian parsley leaves
    1 cup cilantro leaves
    3/4 cup basil leaves, preferably purple basil, torn into pieces
    4 cups chilled baby salad leaves
    2 to 3 radishes, thinly sliced
    3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
    1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    Juice of half lemon
    Juice of half orange
    1 teaspoon honey
    1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Black pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, toss together the mint, parsley, cilantro and basil, along with the salad leaves and sliced radishes.

2. Toast the sunflower seeds and sesame seeds separately in a dry frying pan over low heat, stirring frequently until just golden. Mix them together and add three-fourths of the mixture to the salad (save the rest for garnish), and toss to mix.

3. Combine the olive oil, lemon and orange juice, honey, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a screw-top jar and shake until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. This makes about one-third cup dressing.

4. Just before serving, transfer the salad to a large platter, sprinkle over the dressing, and garnish with the remaining sunflower and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 141 calories; 4 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 176 mg sodium.

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