When looking to make new and exciting recipes for the family I sometimes see these two ingredients almost used interchangeably, so I wanted to understand the difference between Italian herbs and herbes de Provence! I hope that our substantial research can help you too!
Italian herbs refer to a mix of herbs more suitable to the Italian cuisine and the Mediterranean climate. Think about Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano. Dried and crumbled together sometimes with dried Basil. Herbes de Provence refer to the mixture of Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Savory and Thyme.
In more modern times you really are not as restricted in this and I hope to show you how you could get a bit more creative and think more outside the box!
What Are The Main Differences Between Herbes De Provence and Italian Seasoning
|Herbes De Provence||Italian Seasoning|
|Lavender (In North America)||Pepper|
You can see that both include Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano. When making our own mix we do include these in equal measures.
The reason to include those fabulous three is that they hold their aroma and flavour when dried. They are among the most reliable herbs to dry as they have an essential oil that will not be overly diminished in the drying process.
When creating dishes that are more suitable for heavy thick tomato sauces we can easily think to add Italian Seasoning, whereas when we are making rubs for meat or lighter dishes then the robustness of Herbes de Provence would be ideal.
You will see that the main differences lie in the inclusion of marjoram and savory, both of which have mild earthy flavours. You could argue therefore that these dried herbs are interchangeable in these basic forms. Lets look more closely at the flavour and aroma of each individual herb to get a better idea of how you may want to tweak for each dish.
We talk a lot about growing your own herbs as they will give you a freshness of flavour, however these premixed herbs can be great as well. It is all about matching your dish with the taste and aroma that will be most beneficial to the main body of the dish.
Rosemary is a hardy perennial shrub loving poor quality soil and surviving long drought periods. It grows in full sunshine and will happily absorb 12-16 hours or sunshine a day. Making it a real taste of summer.
This is a strong astringent flavour with lemony pine notes to it. That bitterness means a little goes a long way! Perfect with any meats or in olive oil on top of an artisan bread.
It releases its flavour in the form of oils and this means it can be a great herb to use in a rub. We have written about drying and preserving rosemary if you would like further guidance.
TOP TIP – If drying your own Rosemary make sure to use clean hands to break down the dried leaves. This way your herbs will last longer.
Thyme is easy to grow as it does not require much maintenance, once it is a mature shrub. Wild thyme is common throughout the Mediterranean and is common to both Eastern France and Italy.
For me the flavour and taste profile of thyme is almost earthy. It feels like a warm kitchen on a cold night. I know it sounds overly poetic but it has such happy memories of homely cooking for me.
Thyme is also very easy to grow and dry.
TOP TIP – Herbs that grow well together, go well together in any dish!
Oregano provides fantastic ground cover and will happily grow wild beside both Rosemary and Thyme. This will be a strong reason why it is so prolific in all Mediterranean cuisine.
Oregano has a taste similar to marjoram as it is earthy, but gently savoury. I think it is that musty scent that give Oregano it’s place in the trio. It is not over powering and will sit nicely with the same dishes as Rosemary and Thyme.
In the UK it is much more seasonal to grow basil, unless you have a grow lamp set up indoors. So realistically drying basil will provide you with year round flavour.
Basil is from the mint family and so has that familiar zingy aroma, but with a peppery taste thrown in. Gentle in flavour and a firm favourite of children all over!
TOP TIP – just because you are using Basil in your Italian dried herbs does not mean that you can’t then add a garnish of fresh basil to really develop that taste profile.
Similar to Oregano in so many ways including where it grows. It is also a perennial herb that will hug to the Mediterranean landscape. Loving dry sunny conditions. It can be a spot harder to kick off in the UK but once established will be a great companion plant.
Marjoram is from the mint family but has a more subtle, gentle almost flowery scent alongside the taste. More family friendly than Oregano and less distinctive as a result.
TOP TIP – Marjoram and Oregano can be great ground cover for flower beds as well as providing fabulous taste they can cover an area meaning the weeds are put off!
This is a bit of an optional one. In many regions of Northern America they skip this one and actually add Lavender. It allows for a sweeter flavor profile.
Sage – the secret weapon
We love to grow sage, it is a real winner in the gorgeous leaves front!
Sage is not the easiest to grow and will take up to two years to be mature enough to be harvested.
I would describe the flavour and aroma as more like a grown up version of mint, pungent and earthy. Plus it works so well with a range of meats and roasted vegetables.
There are many different varieties of Tarragon and this one grows prolifically in Provencal in France.
If you want the same results try growing Russian Tarragon but use it a bit more sparingly! Tarragon adds a strong aniseed flavour.
If you grow your own herbs then rather than drying you have several options for storing fresh herbs, however there are advantages to using dried herbs in your cooking. If you were to visit Italy you may rather find that the locals use fresh herbs in a Bouquet Garni.
What Can Be Used Instead Of Italian Seasoning?
I am not a food snob, however in Italy you are unlikely to find the use of Italian Seasoning as such. You will find fresh herbs that grow together being used together.
You could also think about an oil infusion or even herby butter. A favourite for us when pan searing meats.
What Can Be Used Instead Of Herbes De Provence?
People often ask if they can substitute dried Oregano for Herbes de Provence and the answer must be a yes. The reason for this in my mind is that both Marjoram and Oregano share similar taste profiles.
Italian Seasoning Uses
The only place in Italy that you will find this dried herb mix is Bologna, so any deep, rich tomato based sauce would suit the inclusion.
Taste Of Home includes fifty recipes with Italian Seasoning and there is an abundance of gorgeous pasta, potato and pizza recipes. As you wold happily expect!
Herbes De Provence Uses
We love making up our own mix and using as rubs for meats. With a few bulbs of smoked garlic it can absolutely elevate the Sunday roast to new heights! With roasted root vegetables as the main element for your Sunday dinner these herbs can be included as oils or with coconut oil!
Whilst making your own mix will guarantee that you get the exact right flavour match for each dish, you will also benefit from trying each of these dried herbs. So by all means shop around and get the one you prefer, but overall the main three ingredients will be shared. So if you love Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme try either Herbes de Provence or Italian Seasoning in your cooking. If you are looking for something slightly different you may prefer mixed herbs with oregano, basil, thyme and marjoram.
TOP TIP- final top tip, don’t just add dried herbs into your dish at the start of cooking, why not add a teaspoon before you serve?
Thanks and do please let me know how you get on with your culinary creations!