Cooking Questions: Spices and Herbs Article -
Add a Comment

Cooking Questions: Spices and Herbs

Browse our collection of frequently asked cooking questions for advice on cooking with spices and herbs.

  • How do I substitute fresh herbs for dried?

The general rule of thumb is to convert teaspoons of dried herbs into tablespoons of fresh ones: for example, use two tablespoons of fresh basil instead of two teaspoons of dried basil. Note that fresh herbs should be added at the end of the cooking process to preserve their flavors.

  • What is the difference between a spice and an herb?

Spices are pungent or aromatic seasonings obtained from the bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds or stems of plants and trees, whereas herbs are the fragrant leaves of various annual or perennial plants that grow in temperate zones and do not have woody stems.

*Spices were prized long before recorded history. Though they've always been essential for flavoring food and drink, throughout the ages spices have been used in crowning emperors, making medicines and perfumes, in religious ceremonies and as burial accoutrements for the wealthy. More than 3,000 years ago the Arabs dominated the spice trade, bringing their rare cargo back from India and the Orient by arduous camel caravans. During the Middle Ages the demand for spices was so high that they became rich commodities--a pound of mace could buy three sheep and the same amount of peppercorns could buy freedom for a serf. By that time Venice had a tight hold on Western commerce and controlled the incredibly lucrative European spice trade. That Venetian monopoly was an important catalyst for the expeditions that resulted in the discovery of the New World. Today, the United States is the world's major spice buyer.

*Information about herbs and spices is based on The Food Lover's Companion, 2nd Edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst, published by Barrons Educational Series Inc, August 1995.

  • What is the best way to prepare fresh herbs?

First, submerge the fresh herbs in water, then rinse well. Blot dry with a kitchen towel, and spread out to dry. The herbs need not be completely dry to use. Once the herbs have been cleaned and dried, pick the leaves off of the stems. The leaves are now ready to be torn, chopped or used whole, tossed into a salad or pasta, or used to garnish a soup or sauce. Discard the stems or save them for flavoring soup stocks.

  • Are my spices and herbs still good?

Smell is a good indicator. Rub a small amount between your fingers. If the spice or dried herb is not fragrant, or has only a faint smell, then it is probably time to replace it. Taste is another good test. If you find you are using a larger amount of a spice or herb than usual in your favorite recipes to get any flavor, replace it.

  • What is the best way to store my spices and herbs?

Store dried herbs in a cool, dark place. Dried leaves and ground spices can be stored for up to six months. Whole spices can last longer. Fresh herbs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. For storage up to 10 days (depending on the type and freshness), place the bouquet of herbs, stem end down, in a tall glass and fill with cold water. Change the water every two days to maintain freshness.

See 10 Spice and Herb Storage Tips for more information.

Want to Save This Article to Your Recipe Box?

It's easy! First, copy the article's web address (Url). Then click My Recipe Box at the top right corner of this page. Click Weblink at the top of your Recipe List and paste the Url in the space provided. (Note: If you get a "Sorry...broken link" message, ignore it! Enter a Weblink Title, click Preview, then Save Weblink. Done!)

Jul. 27, 2009 5:48 pm
Aug. 9, 2009 7:51 am
Simple seasoning: salt,pepper,garlic powder,onion powder,paprika,cleaned herbs for fresh desired taste. closed tight container .
Sep. 3, 2009 10:39 am
I have never heard of the spice carob power could you tell me what it is ??
Sep. 21, 2009 7:48 am
I planted my first ever herb garden this year and have been learning recipes with fresh thyme and basil. Amazing the difference the freshness makes!
Sep. 23, 2009 3:03 pm
This year I have grown my own sage and oregano,marjoram,Rosemary,dill,tarragon and basil.Just to try it I have two kinds of some of them. I have been told to clean them and put in isce cube tray with water and the put frozen in bag in the freezer. Aldso to dry then upside down,in my attic. Then to complicate me more to dry them out in my microwave? Well, I was going to dry them,but then neighbors told me so many ways,other than my Great Aunt's way. Which is better or safer. Also I don't want to loss any of their wonderful flavors in any process. Any advice? I am open.
Dec. 13, 2009 12:03 pm
How do make bread crumbs
Jan. 7, 2010 6:35 pm
Its so great cooking with fresh herbs. I grow basil, parsley, lemon balm, garlic chives, sage, rosemary and a few more. Did you know you can steep basil leaves in hot water for a hair rinse for brunettes? It actually covers the gray without all those chemicals. I love my herbs. This year I am going to grow a field of lavender.
Jan. 7, 2010 6:38 pm
Hey Joe. I make my own bread. then after a day I process in my food processor with some dried parsly. Sometimes I throw garlic powder. It depends on what I am cooking.
Jan. 23, 2010 10:53 am
I have a foodsaver vaccum.Would it be good for storing spices & herbs in canisters or mason jars? or would it be better to freeze in a bag filled with water?
May 30, 2010 10:25 am
re: Carol, Carob powder is made from the ground Carob Nut, also sometimes called Carob Bean. Its essentially a Cocoa substitute, and like the Cocoa Bean, the Carob Nut can be ground into a paste with a chocolate-like flavour. And since most commercially available chocolate is mixed with dairy products, carob is a great vegan and allergy friendly alternative to chocolate. Use just like you would chocolate or cocoa powder. :) Hope that helps.
siti sara 
Jun. 7, 2010 10:49 pm
on the topic of paprika, I would make my own since the supermarket one is quite expensive and my children tends to add a pound of that stuff to what ever they fancies. i would select high quality dried chilies (about 40 pieces and wash them lightly and sun-dried them again. when they are throughly dried, discard the stalk if any and cut lenght wise to get rid most of the seeds. put the chilies on a heavy skillet and fry(without any oil)on low heat for about 2 minutes. when it started to smoke a bit take it of the flame and let it cool a bit. blend the chilies in a dry mill of your blender together with 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoon of dried oregano (optional) until it became powdery . can keep about 2 weeks at room temperature. please comment if anybody have any other way of making it. TQ.
Sep. 9, 2010 8:49 pm
Try some of the middle eastern blends. Sumac chicken is yummy. My local coop has small packets of seasoning from all over the world which I use for my fiendish experiments with food.
Oct. 12, 2010 7:46 pm
I have no Idea if it's right or not but for years now I have grown my own herbs, and I hang them upside down in a dark dry place then pull all the leaves off the stems and put them in quart sized canning jars. They always last the whole year till the next crop is ready. but remember store in dark cool cupboard or pantry. Never overheat your herbs and spices,
Oct. 18, 2010 3:08 pm
does the same go for substituting dried herbs for fresh?
Oct. 24, 2010 8:03 am
Does anyone have any opinion on buying spices in bulk or store brand names rather than name brand? Like a lot of you, I go through a lot of spices and it can get expensive.
Jan. 7, 2011 3:17 am
I have been buying spices in bulk for over a year now. I started after paying for an overpriced spice in grocery and came home to find it stale!! Spices purchased online are amazingly fresh. My favorites are Bulk Foods and Spice Barn.
Jul. 24, 2011 7:51 pm
what is the difference between white powder and black powder?
Dec. 28, 2011 11:25 am
What can I use as a substitute for marjoram in a soup recipe?
Jan. 29, 2012 3:40 pm
How can you tell from a herb and spice????
joyce lepes 
Feb. 18, 2012 6:04 pm
I was looking for a chart maybe, that would give suggestions on optional seasonings to use if you're out of the one called for. example: what can be used in place of thyme?
Mar. 27, 2012 9:10 am
I made a casserole with and broccoli that is way too salty. What can I do to save it?
Jun. 7, 2012 2:53 pm
hi, does anybody know of a substitute to use for any of the pepper spices, such as black, white, red, cayenne, paprika, sage,poultry seasoning, or some mixed spice blends that contain pepper spices. Deadly allergic to them. So far I've been using Clubhouse Italian seasoning-the one that doesn't have pepper in it. Check the labels.I can have and use the pepper vegetable such as red, green, yellow and orange colored vegetables in my recipes instead of hot peppers. Please help, any suggestions. Can't use ginger in either vegetable or spice form, any suggestions for substituting it. Also instead of watermelon use cantaloupe, or mush melon. For crab meat substitute lobster or shrimp. Sometimes even the canned I have used for substition. ex-crab cake-change to lobster cakes or shrimp cakes or canned chicken, turkey, ham, or even salmon. Even used lobster tails on sale at different times.
Jun. 7, 2012 3:26 pm
For the lady asking about how to make bread crumbs I keep and dry my old bvread say the crusts, or even leftover from a loaf of bread. I dry them in my oven for a few days turning them periodically,and checking to see if any is showing mold on them. Don't use them if they have mold on them-throw them out for the birds. When I get an old icecream container with a lid full. I add them to my food processor with Clubhouse Italian seasoning,Clubhouse garlic plus,Clubhouse vegetable seasoning, garlic powder, thyme,oregano, parsley,and onion powder. Blend until everything is a smooth blend and spices are blended throughout bread crumbs. I use white and rye bread. For making my own croutons I use a full loaf of fresh bread, cut up into small pieces about 1/4 inch size. Places them onto a cookie sheet that has sides. Adding Clubhouse Italian seasoning, Clubhouse garlic plus, Clubhouse vegetable seasoning. Turning your oven on to 200 degrees F. Place the cookie sheet into oven for about 8-1
Jun. 7, 2012 3:35 pm
use poultry seasoning instead of thyme-poultry spice I found a recipe for poutry spice which is made of thyme and sage blended together.
Jun. 7, 2012 3:48 pm
wheat flour allergy substition- This can be kept on hand for use in gravies & some quick breads,pancakes & biscuits.Sift together 6 times, 1/2 cup cornstarch, & 1/2 cup of any of the folling: rye flour,potato flour, or rice flour. If you use this combination for baking, you will need 2 tsp baking powder for each cup of the flour mixture. If using cornstarch or rice flour in baking,be sure to avoid the waxy types. COOKED CEREAL SUBSTITUTE: This maybe substituted 1 cup cooked cereal for 1/4 cup flour. But you must also cut the fluid in the recipe by 1 cup for each cup of cooked cereal used. To mix,stir the cooked cereal into the remaining fluid before combing with the other ingredients. This tip is from the JOY OF COOKING COOKBOOK.
Jun. 7, 2012 3:55 pm
to substitute dried herbs for fresh,use 1/3 tsp powdered or 1/2 tsp crushed for every tbsp fresh chopped herbs.
Jun. 7, 2012 4:20 pm
The differences of white pepper & black pepper: Both these peppers comes from berry clusters of the vining piper nigrum,the master spice. There is some differences in flavor,the white being slightly more aromatic,but their use is almost the interchangeable. The white is made from the fully ripe berry, from which the dark outer shell is buffed before the berry is ground. White pepper flavor holds up better in sausages & canned meats. This form is also used in all light colored foods or sausages. Black pepper is obtained from the underripe, fermented, sundried whole berries. The peppercorns themselves,when used in poivrade dishes, are crushed rather than ground, so the oils are not dispersed. And they are added the last few minutes before the sauce is strained. Also avaiable for poivrade dishes are the most flavorful canned green peppercorns. Crush them before adding. But pepper, which can be used in anny food except sweets-and here there is the further exception of Pfeffernuss
Jun. 7, 2012 4:43 pm
A simple substitutions chart: Baking powder-1 tsp dbl acting-1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp cream of tartar; Butter-1 cup-1 cup margaring or 7/8 cup lard + 1/2 tsp salt; Buttermilk-1cup-1 tbsp vinegar + sweet milk to make to 1 cup or 2/3 cup plain yogurt + 1/3 cup sweet milk; Chocolate-1 oz-3 tbsp cocoa + 1 tbsp shortening; Cornstarch(to thicken)-1 tbsp-2 tbsp flour; Cream-1 cup-1/2 cup butter + 3/4 cup milk; Egg-1 whole-2 egg yolks; All purpose flour-1 cup-1 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour; Cake flour-1 cup-7/8 cup all purpose flour; Self-rising flour-1 cup-1 cup flour(omit baking powder & salt); Garlic-1 sm clove-1/8 tsp garlic powder; Herbs-1 tbsp fresh-1 tsp dried; Honey-1 cup-1 1/4 cup sugar + 1/4 cup liquid; Milk,fresh whole-1 cup-1 cup reconstituted dry milk + 2 tsp butter; Milk,whole-1 cup-1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water; Molasses-1 cup-1 cup hone; Mustard,prepared-1 tsp-1 tsp dry mustard; Onion,fried-1 onion-1 leek,chopped & fried; Onion,minced/rehydrated-1
Jun. 7, 2012 4:47 pm
Another way to get your spices cheaper is to buy them in the packages they put out on the spice ile of your grocery store such as IGA OR Safeway. They sell for 99 cents to 1.99 per package. Just buy them, and open tops and reuse your spice jar again.
Jun. 13, 2012 7:43 pm
Jul. 21, 2012 1:19 pm
I couldn't find smoked paprika at my grocery store today and need it for a recipe that I want to fix. Is there a substitution?
Mar. 7, 2013 11:09 am
Does anyone have a good recipe for Ethiopian Babara (spelling changes source to source)?
Mar. 7, 2013 11:12 am
I can`t seem to duplicate this Ethiopian spice blend so it tastes like friend`s mom makes back home.
Mar. 7, 2013 11:16 am
Lynn, smoked paprika is available at Penzey`s online or locally. You could smoke some good quality paprika on grill or stove top. Be careful not to burn it.
Jun. 18, 2013 2:05 pm
I buy my spices on line at Spice Barn or My Spice Sage. Much cheaper than buying in the grocery store. Since I make my own spice blends, I,too, use a lot of spices. I also give spice blends as gifts.
Sep. 20, 2013 7:27 pm
Can I substitute red pepper flakes for habanero pepper when making 'Jerk Chicken'?
Dec. 27, 2013 9:15 am
go to Pensey's - they have the most complete listing of herbs and spices along with suggested uses and recipes! the Best
Jan. 4, 2014 11:48 am
I need a substitute for cumin. I have cumin seeds, but I need ground cumin. Is there a way to make powder from cumin seeds? I only need 1 tsp. help asap, Please!
May 14, 2015 3:37 pm
I am making a chutney recipe of my mother's and it calls for "whole spice" and I can't seem to find it in the store. I've tried to search it on line and can't get any information. Can anyone help me?
Subscribe Today!

In Season

Cool As A Cucumber Salad
Cool As A Cucumber Salad

We have over 100 cucumber salads to help you keep your cool.

Classic Meatloaf
Classic Meatloaf

Meatloaf is the hearty, family-pleasing meal that makes the greatest leftovers ever.

Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

Related Videos

Cooking with Cayenne Pepper

Learn all about spicy cayenne pepper.

All about Italian Herbs

See how to make your own blend of Italian herbs.

How to Season Cast Iron

See how to care for cast iron cookware so it lasts for years and years.

Most Popular Blogs

Recently Viewed Recipes

You haven't looked at any recipes lately. Get clicking!
Quick Links: Recipe Box | Shopping List | More »
Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States