Dry Herbs vs. Fresh Herbs: Advice from Chef Neil

It’s a thyme-less debate, and we can’t hold our thoughts at bay any longer.

Okay, so we might have been planning those puns for a while, but this is some serious business: dry herbs vs. fresh herbs.

We asked Chef Neil Fusco for his advice on using dry and fresh herbs. It turns out that there’s actually more to it than dehydration – or rather, there’s more to dehydration than just well, dehydration. Drying out herbs can actually change their flavor, resulting in a much different effect on your dish.

Chef Neil recommends using fresh herbs whenever possible, as they will provide you with the greenest, “herbiest” flavor. Of course, there are times when fresh herbs just aren’t available. Maybe they’ve gone out of season, or you just haven’t had the time to run to the store. Either way, you’re still going to want to enhance your meal with those subtle flavors. Chef Neil offers some facts and tips about herbs to help you make the most of them.

  • Dried herbs tend to have a deeper, spicier flavor than fresh herbs. For that reason, you can usually add less dry herbs than you would fresh herbs. That way, those strong flavors won’t overpower your dish. A good ratio is 1 to 3. For example, if a recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of fresh rosemary, use 1 teaspoon of dried.

  • Dried herbs tend to have less oils because they are dehydrated. However, those oils tend to be trapped deeper inside the herbs. To make the most out of them, try rubbing them in your hands to release more of the oils. It is also best to add dry herbs during cooking to release those flavors. Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking because they will retain their fresh flavor from stove to plate. 

  • Sometimes, it’s never okay to substitute dry for fresh. Herbs like dill, parsley, and basil lose or change flavor when dried. Parsley, when dried, loses all of the fresh flavor that makes it worthwhile as an herb. Dehydrated basil, on the other hand, tastes more like mint than fresh basil -- a flavor that won't complement your pasta dish very well. Other times, it’s better to use dry. Go for dried oregano for deeper, longer lasting flavor. You can also rarely go wrong with dried bay leaves.

  • It’s important to note that even when they’re dried, herbs can still go bad. Most dried herbs don’t last more than a year; check to see if they have lost all of their green color. Old herbs will just taste dusty.

    When it comes down to it, knowing when to substitute dry for fresh, and vice versa, is just as important as using herbs when you want to enhance the flavor of your meals.  



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