Nutrition Articles

Herbs and Spices to ''Spark'' Your Food

Add Flavor Without Adding Calories

Wake up your taste buds! Cooking with herbs and spices will enhance the flavor of healthy foods without adding fat, salt, sugar, or calories. Herbs and spices contribute bright color, savory taste and sensational aroma.

Tips for using herbs and spices:
  • Avoid overwhelming a dish with too many seasonings, and never use two very strong herbs together. Instead, season with one strong flavor, and one milder flavor to complement the food.
  • When cooking, add dried herbs early in the process, but use fresh herbs at the end for optimum flavor.
  • Add herbs and spices to cold dishes several hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
  • Fresh leaves should be chopped very finely. Exposing a greater number of surface cuts will allow the food to absorb more of the herb’s flavor.
  • When necessary, a mortar and pestle can be kept in the kitchen to powder dry herbs.
  • If doubling a recipe, you may not need to double the herbs. Use just 50% more.
  • Dry herbs and spices carry more flavor than fresh. Use this guide when following a recipe: ¼ teaspoon powder = ¾ teaspoon dried = 2 teaspoons fresh  Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Lemon grass,cinnamon,mi
    nts are often used in teas here and just before the dried herbs get too old, I make up a broth to drink through the day. I may use something stronger tasting. Did you know that rosemary and bay leaves have other properties in healings / antibiotic properties? It is all good. - 11/1/2014 11:24:12 AM
    I highly recommend growing an herb garden. Fresh herbs have such great flavor, and some, like dill, diminish in flavor rapidly after picking, so if I have to buy it at the store, it is never as flavorful as homegrown. Fresh herbs also tend to be pricey, but are extremely easy to grow, generally they don't require very good soil. - 9/6/2014 2:11:14 PM
  • MMGAGE1701
    Did you know that the principle fat in eggs, red meat, and bacon is the same monounsaturated fat as is found in olive oil? Fats have been unfairly maligned for 60 years with absolutely NO real science to back it up. - 8/7/2014 7:04:33 AM
  • Never say 'never', lol. There are good combinations for strong herbs. Rosemary is definitely 'strong' but pairs well with other strong herbs. I think immediately of rosemary/garlic (plus black pepper), rosemary/lemon or lemon flavored herbs, a favorite tea is mint/lemon herbs/rosemary. I also am a fan of ginger/lemon or even ginger/lemon/rose
    mary (think gingerbread with a lemon/rosemary sauce - yum!).

    To the person who likes 'Mural of Flavor' from Penzey's - great stuff. They also have their 'Forward' salt free seasoning which is awesome, and several other no-salt or low salt blends. They have a garam masala which is good, but very, very different from the Frontier brand sold at Whole Foods. I like the latter for dishes you would use cinnamon with - a sweet savory.

    And great advice - if you can't smell your herb or spice, you won't be able to taste it, either! - 6/29/2014 6:15:53 PM
  • RTDAVIS1986
    By the way: you have Ginger being added to "Rick" ...unless Rick really is a food that I'm not aware of... - 5/19/2014 12:46:42 PM
  • One of my very favorite "spices" is from Penzey's, called "Mural of Flavor". It's salt free, and sooooooo yummy!! - 11/17/2013 9:14:10 PM
  • Thanks for the article on herb and spices. - 9/9/2013 2:38:59 PM
    Thanks for the great information! - 1/12/2013 8:38:25 AM
  • Very helpful article. I don't use salt in cooking, but I do use spices, and some of these I had no ideal what to use them in. I will use this guide often. - 9/14/2012 8:37:59 AM
  • I always plant Scarborough Fair - Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme together. I sing the song when I look at it. It is in a window box that can be brought in during winter. Believe it or not, it gives me some kind of comfort. Herbs grow quite well in the bathroom. - 8/13/2012 9:39:32 AM
  • having my first garden this year is fabulous! with only a handful of herb choices i can experiment and decide what works for me. maybe try growing new herbs nxt year based on my crop output and recipes this year. thx for the chart, very helpful! - 4/11/2012 9:08:29 AM
  • Someone mentioned coriander and since their Spark Page is not visible, I can't ask them. I want to know where to purchase it as I have been unsuccessful in my area, - 9/10/2011 12:02:40 PM
    umm, one mistake - cilantro is also used in the middle east and in north africa. cilantro is used in lots of palestinian, Israeli, Moroccan and other dishes. So its not just latin and thai food. - 3/9/2011 8:49:11 PM
  • Chervil is one spice I have never tried on fish...great knowing what spices enhance the flavors of cooking. thank you...
    paula from wi - 1/29/2011 7:55:08 AM
    Good article Becky. One spice that Americans don't use that much of is coriander seed. It is a must for me now in so much of my cooking, because of it's earthy, mild citrus flavor, especially on fish. I also go through a lot of cardamom pods in my smoothies. Toss a green cardamom pod into the blender with your fruit and watch the flavor pop. The other spice blend that I can't live without, use in savory and sweet applications, is garam masala and I have started to gather a growing crowd of converts. Sprinkle it on your smoothie as well.
    Another trick with spices that are ground from seeds or pods, such as chili powders, turmeric and black pepper, is to bloom them, i.e. put them into your hot pan just until they become aromatic (seconds) before you add liquids. This keeps the spices from tasting raw. Ground herbs or chopped herbs do not want this kind of treatment - they need to be treated gently. - 5/12/2010 9:38:59 AM

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