Herbs and spices add fabulous flavor and color to food without adding salt, fat or sugar. Cooking with herbs and spices is also a great way to introduce a variety of flavors to children while helping foods look more appetizing.
The terms “herbs” and “spices” are often used interchangeably and are sometimes referred to as “seasonings,” however they are different. Herbs are the leaves of low growing shrubs and include parsley, chives, thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, and more. Herbs can be purchased dried, fresh or as a paste. When substituting in recipes, use the ratio of 3 fresh to 1 dried. For example, potato salad would use 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon of dried parsley.
Spices come from the bark, roots, buds, seeds, berry, or fruit of plants and trees. Spices include cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic, cloves, black pepper, paprika, and more.
Additional Ways to Add Flavor:
- Seasoning blends include a mixture of spices and herbs such as seasoning salt, Italian seasoning, taco seasoning, and poultry seasoning. Check labels to see if “salt” is listed among the ingredients and opt for salt-free or lower sodium versions.
- Rubs are a mixture of spices and can be wet or dry. Web rubs usually have a bit of oil or other moist ingredients such as mustard or yogurt added. Dry rubs are mixtures of several dry spices and herbs that are worked into the surfaces of meat, poultry, or fish. They are both added to enhance flavor.
- Marinades are used to add flavor and tenderize meats and poultry. They generally contain herbs and spices, oil, and an acid such as yogurt, citrus juice, or vinegar.
Experiment with Herbs and Spices:
- Add fresh mint and lemon to a glass of ice water.
- Omit the salt when cooking pasta and flavor with basil, oregano, parsley and pepper or use an Italian seasoning blend.
- For more flavor, add spices to uncooked dishes, such as salads, several hours before serving.
- Introduce children to herbs and spices with some easy flavor combinations such as apples with cinnamon, bananas with nutmeg and chicken with rosemary.
- Start a small herb garden or grow a few herbs in containers. Children will love watching them grow!
Approximate equivalent amounts of different forms of herbs are:
- 1 tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs
- 1 teaspoon crumbled dried herbs
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground dried herbs
Here are few recipes using herbs and spices:
Add a Little Flavor to Your Kitchen, Nebraska Extension's Nutrition Education Program (NEP)
This newsletter has been peer-reviewed. It was updated in 2023.