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Sometimes I see a recipe call for dried herbs. If I have access to fresh herbs, should I go fresh instead? Is there any benefit in using dried herbs with some recipes?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Dry rubs are one case that I can think of where dry is specifically necessary, so you can grind them up properly.

The main advantage to dry herbs is that they're available year round. When you're dealing with winter dishes, dry herbs would've been the norm to have used at that time.

If you are going to substitute, you'll need to add more (typically about 3x as much, as the dry is usually more concentrated), and you'll want to add it late in the cooking process, while dry herbs are usually added early.

One exception to the rule is bay leaves -- you'll still need to add them early, and you'll want to reduce the number.

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Certain herbs are very mild when fresh and do not develop their full smell and flavour until dried; e.g. bayleaf, oregano.

Fresh herbs generally have short storage times. When substituting you typically need to add much more of the herb, as drying shrinks it concentrating the flavour.

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I disagree about oregano... fresh oregano is much more flavorful than dried one. – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 9 '10 at 21:47
@Vinko: I think it's a palate thing. I agree with you, but I also can't really taste dry oregano. I mean, I taste it, but it's more like "dry herby green stuff", and I can't tell the difference between oregano and marjoram. – hobodave Jul 13 '10 at 20:55

I tend to go fresh whenever possible.

Some useful tips:

  • When using dried, crush them first. I typically smash them with my thumb a few times into the palm of my other hand. This helps release the essential oils in the dried herbs.
  • When using fresh in place of dried use slightly more. I'm not an herb-measurer, I eyeball, but I always use roughly 25% more. The fresh herbs tend to have a fresher, yet milder flavor. They also give up their essential oils much easier than dried, so the oils can evaporate and cook away quicker.
  • When using fresh in place of dried, add later in the cooking process if possible. This depends a lot on which herbs in particular. The reason behind this is similar to the previous tip, fresh herbs are tenderer and can do a flavor dump very early in the process.
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