When You Should Actually Use Dried Herbs (and Which Ones to Avoid)

Some herbs work well dried but others… not so much.

Published Apr. 26, 2022.

Sometimes when you’re in the kitchen, all you want is a convenience item to make your life a little easier. Dried herbs can be just that. In a pinch it can be great to substitute in the dried herbs from your pantry instead of pulling out a cutting board and knife to chop fresh ones.

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Or, if you’re like me and are mostly cooking for one, you don’t want to be forced to buy a whole bunch of herbs, only to use just a couple of sprigs before the rest withers away in your fridge.

However, no matter how much we want a shortcut, there just isn’t a good substitute for certain fresh herbs. That’s the key word here: certain. Here’s a guide to which herbs work well dried and which ones are worth having fresh.

Dried Herbs Worth Having in the Pantry

  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram

These hardier herbs dry well and work as great substitutes for fresh. The flavors in these herbs stay stable at high temperatures, which helps them maintain their flavor as they’re being dried. 

These herbs are especially useful in recipes where they will be cooked in liquid, such as soups and sauces. Because the flavor of these herbs is much stronger than fresh versions, only use one-third the amount if substituting, and add them at the same time you would if they were fresh.

But, if you happen to have some of these herbs fresh and want to dry them for future use, it’s really easy.

How to dry fresh herbs in the microwave

  1. Place washed and dried herbs on paper towel and microwave for 30 to 40 seconds.
  2. Crumble dried herbs and store in airtight container for up to 3 months.

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Herbs That Are Better Fresh

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Cilantro

Since these herbs are so delicate, they are much weaker in flavor when they are dried. Also, if you’re using dried versions of these herbs to garnish a dish, the dryness can add an unpleasant texture to your meal (and taste pretty dusty). These are worth buying and storing fresh, even if that bunch looks really big in the grocery store. If you know you won’t use all of them, you can always freeze them in an ice cube tray!

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