Fresh herbs have the ability to transform a regular dish into an exceptional experience. A fragrant basil leaf can take a tomato platter to the next level, and a sprinkle of freshly chopped tarragon will breathe new life into a simple vinaigrette. While dried herbs may lack the vibrant qualities of fresh ones, they make up for it with their convenience. If you’re not growing herbs indoors, shelf-stable dried herbs may be your best bet in winter.
The Fresh to Dried Herb Conversion Rate
Dried herbs are a concentrated form of fresh herbs, so you don’t need to use the same quantity when converting recipes. As a general rule of thumb, we like to use a 3:1 ratio of fresh to dried herbs. For example, if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh oregano, use one teaspoon of dried oregano instead. (This is easy to remember if you know your cooking measurement conversions, where three teaspoons equal one tablespoon.)
Of course, this conversion is just a starting point. Dried herbs can be sold in several different forms—garlic can be powdered, granulated, minced or diced—so you may need to adjust the ratio accordingly.
For example, rubbed sage consists of whole dried sage leaves while ground sage is a fine powder. The whole form takes up more volume in a measuring spoon, so a 3:1 ratio might be spot-on. Ground sage, on the other hand, will be more potent in the same quantity, so you may want to use a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio.
The same goes for freeze-dried herbs, which retain more of their original flavor and texture compared to conventionally dried herbs. You may find a lower ratio works best with these types of dried herbs, so start small and taste as you cook to find the right conversion rate.
Cooking with Dried vs. Fresh Herbs
The most important distinction between fresh and dried herbs involves timing. The flavor and aroma are immediately apparent in fresh herbs, so they should be added near the end of the cooking process. Otherwise, the flavor can dissipate as the dish cooks.
Dried herbs, on the other hand, take longer to release their flavor. It’s best to add them early in the cooking process. Blooming dried herbs in a little hot oil or adding them to the recipe while cooking onions and garlic goes a long way to bring out dried flavors.
There are also times when a substitution simply won’t work. Dried basil wouldn’t be the same on a caprese salad or margherita pizza, where the whole, fresh basil leaves are an important part of the eating experience.
Dried herbs don’t work as well in bright, herbaceous recipes like pesto or chimichurri, either. In these instances, we recommend sticking to fresh herbs. Keep them alive and vibrant for up to a month by storing herbs upright in a mason jar filled with water, just like flowers. Once they start to look wilted and sad, freeze herbs in water or oil for use in soups or sauces.
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