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Test Kitchen tips: Fresh vs. dried herbs and spices

September 18, 2011 |  7:30 am


So when should you use fresh herbs in a recipe? And when do you go for the dried? It can be a perplexing question, especially if the recipe is not specific.

I usually use fresh herbs and spices in recipes where I need them to impart flavor quickly, such as salads and recipes where there is no cooking involved, or when the herb or spice is added at the very end (folded into a sauce before serving, or added at the last minute to a slow-simmered stew). I tend to stay away from fresh herbs if I have a recipe that requires them to cook for longer than 45 minutes.

Dried herbs and spices have had their moisture removed, and the flavor is concentrated. Dry herbs shine best when they've had a chance to rehydrate and slowly infuse a recipe with pronounced flavor. I love to layer them when I'm doing a recipe that requires long cooking times -- towards the beginning of a stew or a long-cooked sauce, even in marinades.

As always, keep in mind that dried herbs and spices will lose their flavor over time, and jars should be replaced at least once a year. And consider toasting dried spices (and nuts) before using to give them extra depth of flavor.

Michaeldarterforthetimes If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.


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