6 essential herbs every home chef needs — and how to use them

Fresh herbs can add a special zip to any dish. They’re plants packed with flavor that can be used by the sprinkle or the handful. Essentially, they’re a must-have for any home chef who wants to add depth and flavor to dishes. Whether you have an herb garden of your own, or store-bought herbs you need to use ASAP, here’s a guide to six popular fresh herbs and how to use them.

1. Basil

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Basil is a sweet herb with a faint flavor of licorice and cloves, and is used to make the delicious savory Italian sauce pesto. Basil can be used in a variety of dishes, including sandwiches and salads, but its best friend is the tomato. Use basil for a caprese sandwich or salad, made with tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil. You can also use basil in pastas and on pizza.

2. Parsley

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Parsley has a mild, grassy flavor that gets along with just about everything. Whether using it as a garnish to add a bit of color or chopping it up for some texture, parsley should be a staple herb in every kitchen. Sprinkle some on grilled fish, steak or roasted potatoes. Parsley makes a great addition to salads like tabbouleh, and is even mild enough to put in a smoothie!

3. Cilantro

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Cilantro is divisive yet versatile. It’s peppery in flavor with some subtle hints of anise. It looks very similar to parsley, so make sure you double-check the label or give it the smell test. (Parsley doesn’t have much of a scent, whereas cilantro is more pungent). Cilantro adds a sharp, distinct flavor to salsas, stews and salads. It also pairs well with fish and chicken dishes.

4. Dill

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Dill’s light leaves offer a fresh, citrusy yet subtly sweet flavor. It’s excellent with seafood — especially salmon — and goat cheese omelettes. Mix dill in cream cheese or cold yogurt to make a delicious dip, or add it to cucumber and potato salads.

5. Rosemary

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Rosemary is one of the most aromatic, flavorful herbs you can use. It has an evergreen, citrusy flavor that’s reminiscent of lemon. Rosemary makes a great addition to roasted lamb, tomato sauces and breads like sourdough and focaccia. But definitely go easy on this herb because it’s flavorful even in small doses.

6. Mint

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Fresh mint is sure to brighten any plate — or cup! You can add it to drinks, including tea and lemonade, or cocktails like mojitos and mint juleps. When it comes to food, mint is a classic pairing for lamb, and can be mixed into a variety of salads.

If you liked this article, you may also want to read about the best containers for storing leftovers.

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