Fresh herbs enliven many dishes, but it’s not always practical or even possible to use them. Dried herbs are the logical substitute, but how well they work depends on the herb and the dish.
The best herbs for using dried are sturdy ones, such as marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. They’re most effective when added at the beginning of recipes that contain ample liquid. For example, you can successfully swap dried thyme for fresh in a beef stew or dried rosemary for fresh in a tomato sauce.
Dried tender herbs, including basil, cilantro, dill, tarragon and chives, don’t have the appealing fragrance and impact of fresh. But in a pinch, dried versions can often be used, as long as they’re added toward the end of cooking.
There are times when dried herbs simply aren’t suitable. Quantity is often an indicator. For best results, use these substitution guidelines:
--Substitute 1 part dried for 3 parts fresh (1 teaspoon dried = 1 teaspoon fresh).
--Make sure your dried herbs are fresh. The recommended shelf life is 1 to 3 years from the date of packaging. Check the expiration date (generally stamped on the bottom of the bottle). And do a freshness test: Rub the herb between your fingertips. If it lacks full-bodied aroma, it’s time to toss it.
--To release their flavor, rub dried herbs between your fingertips or crush with a mortar and pestle.
--To lend a fresh hit to a dried tender herb, such as tarragon, dill or cilantro, mix it with chopped fresh parsley.
--To finish a dish with basil flavor, stir in purchased pesto.
Look for innovative herb products in your supermarket, such as freeze-dried herbs, tubes of herb paste and frozen herb cubes.