Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to add flavor and health to almost any dish. Learn more about what herbs and spices to use in the kitchen, and how you can cook with them.

If you are anything like me, you have a cabinet full of herbs and spices that you rarely use because: a) you forget they’re there, and, b) you never remember which one pairs well with the food you are preparing. To help inspire your creativity in the kitchen, I made a list below of herbs and spices that work well with specific meats and dishes.

I would recommend that you buy your herbs fresh from the market, instead of relying on “what’s in the cabinet.” If you plan to cook with fresh herbs, you’ll need a general idea of what you are preparing for the week since fresh herbs do not last as long as dried, bottled herbs. Always try to buy organic herbs, if possible, to limit pesticide and chemical exposure.  Remember, herbs can be frozen and used at later times, as well.

When you first start cooking with herbs, begin with milder types — parsley, chives, and mint — then progress to “medium” herbs — basil, tarragon, thyme, and oregano — and finally to stronger-flavored ones such as rosemary, bay leaves, and sage.  Fresh herbs are best added at the end of the cooking process. Adding them too early dilutes their essence.

Now is a good time to clean out your cabinets of those old spices and dried herbs.  As a general rule, whole spices will stay fresh for about four years, ground spices for about two to three years, and dried herbs for one year.  We recommend you buy herbs in glass bottles, instead of tins or plastic bottles.

The following herbs/spices pair well with these meats/poultry/fish:

  • Beef: thyme, celery, marjoram, coriander, sage, rosemary, oregano, garlic
  • Chicken: garlic, marjoram, tarragon, oregano, coriander, curry
  • Fish, fried: mustard, oregano, tarragon, sage
  • Fish, grilled: dill, thyme, coriander, fennel, rosemary
  • Pork: marjoram, mustard, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, cumin
  • Turkey: basil, rosemary, cumin, oregano, thyme, sage
  • Lamb: mint, basil, rosemary, curry, cumin

The following herbs/spices pair well with these foods/dishes:

  • Basil: tomatoes, peas, squash, eggs, tossed salads, cheese, potatoes, pasta.
  • Bay Leaf: soups, tomato sauces, meat stews
  • Coriander: spice rubs, marinades, chili, sauces, soups, onions, tomatoes and potatoes
  • Cumin: beans, rice, lamb, pork, sausages, eggplant
  • Curry: chicken, chicken salad, lamb, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli
  • Dill: fish, cream cheese, cottage cheese, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Marjoram: fish, vegetable soups, cheese dishes, stew, roast chicken, beef, pork, stuffing
  • Mint: jellies, fruit juices, candies, frosting, cakes, pies, pork, potatoes, peas and chocolate
  • Oregano: tomato sauces, pork, pizza, vegetable salads, chili
  • Parsley: meats vegetables, soups, eggs
  • Rosemary: poultry stuffing, potatoes, cauliflower, fish, pork
  • Sage: stuffing, pork roast, sausage, poultry, hamburgers
  • Tarragon: eggs, cheese, salads, chicken, tomatoes, sauces for meats and vegetables
  • Thyme: soups, stuffing, beef, pork, eggs, cheese, fish

You don’t need a fancy recipe to make healthy meals for your family. Simply rotate through different herb/spice pairings for endless flavor combinations. Happy cooking!