12 New Ways to Use Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen

I don't know about you, but each spring I get this itch to grow my own herb garden. I tend to the plants all spring and summer long. But I am often stuck on what to actually do with the fruits of my labor. Here are some simple ideas for what to do with herbs in your kitchen. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments! (Related: 12 Herbs and Spices Every Pantry Should Have)

1. Pesto

Try whipping up a tasty pesto spread with your fresh herbs. This cilantro pesto comes together in a flash. Simply pulse almonds in a food processor before adding the herbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. You could substitute basil for the cilantro in this recipe (and try pine nuts instead of almonds).

2. Salad Dressing

Jazz up standard salad dressing by adding herbs. Here's a recipe for cilantro lime ranch dressing — just add the herbs, lime juice, jalapeño pepper, tomatillo, and garlic to store bought ranch. Process until smooth and creamy.

3. Hummus

This lemon-dill hummus recipe will take your chickpea spread to another level. The recipe calls for dried beans, but you can also substitute canned if you're in a hurry. It's best to let the flavors mingle overnight if you can. Feel free to experiment with your favorite herbs.

4. Salad

If you don't love lettuce in your salads, try this plum Caprese with buffalo mozzarella. You'll slice tomatoes and cheese before arranging on the plate. Tear fresh basil leaves over everything and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

5. Pizza

Herbs make homemade pizza gourmet without much effort. The key is to wait until your pie is done baking (or — in this case — grilling) before adding basil or other herbs. Otherwise the leaves will wilt or dry up.

6. Cocktails

There are numerous adult beverages that rely on herbs for their zing. Take this delicious mojito recipe, for example. You'll bruise fresh mint leaves by placing them on your hand and clapping to release their flavor and aroma. Then toss in your glass before adding the liquor and other ingredients.

7. Infused Water

Add zero calorie flavor to water and other beverages by infusing them with herbs. The process is about as basic as you can get. Fill a container with water. Then take whatever fresh herbs you'd like to use and crush them gently. Add to your container and let sit for several hours or overnight.

8. Cake

Lavender is wonderful inside and outside this lemon-lavender cake. Pulse fresh lavender in your food processor with sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt. Transfer to a large bowl and add eggs, flour, and ground almonds. After baking and icing, garnish with more fresh lavender flowers.

9. Biscuits

We can thank Julia Child for this herb biscuits recipe. Take fresh parsley and chives and mince them. Mix the dry biscuit ingredients together, toss in the herbs, and then add the wet ingredients. Bake to golden brown perfection. Tip: I use a ball jar ring to cut my biscuit dough into perfect portions.

10. Butter

Create your own steak butter using fresh herbs. This recipe combines roasted garlic with rosemary, parsley, and sage. Add everything to the softened butter before rolling into a log and chilling. And the concept doesn't need to stop with meat. Mince up your favorite herbs and use the butter on biscuits, toast, or whatever else needs a kick.

11. Soup

You can also incorporate herbs into soup for added flavor. This lemongrass and ginger soup is light and relatively easy to make. You'll simmer chicken stock (use veggie stock if you're vegetarian) with the lemongrass and ginger to release all the aromatic goodness. Remove herbs and sprinkle in chopped mushrooms before serving.

12. Preserve

If keeping up with the garden is just too much, try preserving your herbs for later use. My favorite method? Freezing herbs olive oil. Clean and coarsely chop herbs. Place them in an ice cube tray and then cover with olive oil. Freeze overnight, then transfer to labeled bags. The flavors will infuse right in your freezer. (Related: How to Store Herbs to Make Them Last Longer and Taste Better)

What fresh herbs do you grow? How do you use them?

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Guest's picture

We use herbs to do two things. First we focus on the herbs we use most to reduce grocery costs. This includes rosemary, basil, and thyme.

Second we let our kids pick out herbs at the beginning of growing season that they are going to take care of the plant and then use in a recipe. This way they learn the responsibility of the whole process.