Converting easily between fresh and dried herb measurements will mean you can adapt any recipe to suit the time of year. Fresh ingredients are not always available!
For the majority of herbs the ratio of dried to fresh is 1:3 for every 1 cup of dried herbs required you need to replace with 3 cups of quite compact fresh herbs. We use the example 1 teaspoon of dried to one tablespoon of fresh as this is more realistic. Pound for pound dried herbs pack more flavor as the drying removes moisture but not taste.
However there are a large number of herbs and spices that vary from this basic ratio, I wanted to look at the most popular in more detail.
Converting Fresh To Dried For Specific Herbs & Spices
- Basil. When converting dried and fresh basil we use a ratio of 2 cups of dried to 3 cups of fresh. Or 2 teaspoons of dried to one tablespoon of fresh.
- Bay leaves are different from most herbs as they lose flavor and aroma when dried. Meaning that when we use dried bay leaves we will need to double the quantity required. Dried bay leaves have a ratio to fresh of 2:1 meaning you are converting up. We have a love of growing herbs and have a much loved bay tree, for tips on common issues have a look at our article here.
- Chervil is a herb that looses a lot of it’s flavor when dried. So we recommend a 2:1 ratio in any recipe. 2 tablespoons of fresh chervil to one tablespoon of dried. It has a subtle flavor of parsley crossed with fennel, so try to bring that delicate flavor to the fore of your dish.
- Cilantro / Coriander leaves are a herb that has no intensity of flavor when dried. Therefore go bold when converting from fresh to dried and use 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro to 1 tablespoon of dried.
- Garlic can be an awkward one when converting as the way you cook fresh cloves has a massive impact on the flavor profile. For example you may be using 40 whole cloves with a roast chicken. The process will sweeten the garlic and dull down the sharp allium taste. Therefore you would happily eat those cloves without feeling you were trying to ward off a host of vampires. If the recipe calls for a clove of fresh garlic chopped, you can replace this with 1/2 teaspoon of dried garlic powder.
- Ginger has a simple conversion of 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root to 1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger. The one difference is if you are growing ginger from seed and harvest when it is still pink. In this situation, converting is not so straightforward. The pink ginger is sweeter and more gentle than the older root we know from the market. There isn’t really a substitute as such.
- Onion is simply 1 teaspoon of dried to every medium sized onion. This is a great healthy option for family meals. Onions are easy to grow and store well, so are readily available. But a great way to sneak more nutritional value into family meals, without fussy eaters picking the pieces of onion out! There are only so many meals you can use the hand blender on!
- Parsley is not always great when dried. It can mold if you air dry it, so you will have to use a dehydrator and this process ill need to be slow and low to retain as much flavor as possible. Therefore we recommend 2 teaspoons of fresh to one teaspoon of dried.
- Rosemary tends to be used fresh in sprigs so the conversion is a little clumsy. When converting fresh sprigs to dried we use the ratio of 4 fresh sprigs to 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary. There really isn’t much moisture in rosemary as it is more of a pine like leaf. So when we dry the herb it is not greatly reduced.
- Sage can be an easy herb to convert. 1 teaspoon of dried to around 2 teaspoons of fresh. 2 teaspoons of fresh sage works out to roughly 7 leaves of your more common sage. Just be aware that sage is one of the strongest herbs in terms of flavor and aroma. We grow many different varieties as we find it such a useful herb. You may want to grow your own and dry yourself.
- Thyme can be tricky when converting directly as we tend to use fresh sprigs and not the leaves individually. roughly speaking 6 sprigs of about 4-6 inches in length for every teaspoon of dried thyme is correct.
- Vanilla can be a tricky one. There is a definite cost implication in which type of vanilla you purchase as well. If you are using fresh vanilla beans, one of those cut open and the beans extracted is about the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
When To Use Dried And When To Use Fresh Herbs
Essentially both fresh and dried can offer a massive boost in flavor and aroma. However adding dried herbs as a garnish is a big turn off as the leaves will remain dried and crunchy. Therefore we do still need fresh herbs to be added towards the end of cooking, often to keep their vibrancy and color as much as flavor. Dried herbs should be added towards the start of cooking.
Dried herbs need to be added towards the start to allow them to infuse the dish with their taste and plump up a bit. Fresh herbs will look distressed if they have been wilted in your dinner.
Now we can look at simple ideas and solutions such as sachet d’epices to solve this issue. For all details about a bouquet garni vs sachet d’epices you may want to read our article here. Essentially you are removing the dried or twiggy parts of the herb prior to serving, but leaving it in the cooking long enough to impart flavor and aroma.
Speaking honestly I’m not always up for trekking out into the wind and rain to gather fresh herbs. Some nights after a hard days work, you do want convenience. With dried herbs, you still get the taste and aroma but it is a lot easier. So knowing how to convert measurements in recipes is key, but sometimes just tasting as you go is also a good idea.
If your dried herbs are more than a year old, just give as much as is needed. I try and be accurate in my recipes but there is a difference between freshly dried herbs and dusty old pots of herbs that have moved house with you since you first left home.
Some recipes, though do call for fresh herbs. Any recipe that needs a Fines Herbes mix is looking for fresh! But there are ways around it!
What Does The Drying Process Do To Herbs
By drying your herbs you are removing the moisture that bacteria so love to live in. This is one process in preserving food, but you need to also preserve the integrity of the flavor. When removing the water content, using a dehydrator, you retain the essential oils that contain the flavor plus the nutrients.
This means you can have fresh flavors from dried herbs. As long as you store them in airtight containers, in a dry and cool, dark cupboard they should last for up to 2 years. This is the important bit, they will outlast us all in these conditions. Mold will not touch your dried herbs, however the quality of flavor will be lost over time.
We would recommend drying your own herbs annually. We give dried herbs as gifts in containers or in homemade spa treatments. This way we will always have herbs to hand, but then we dry new herbs as we harvest through the growing season.
I have my own go-to guide for herb drying that I have popped on to our site for free via this link here. Print it out and keep somewhere handy for as and when you prune your herbs.
You may like to read our article on using a dehydrator to dry your own herbs available here.
You may also be interested to read about herb and spice mixes and how to make your own at home.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article and I hope this becomes a useful resource for you in your cooking. Whether it be a weekday family meal or a special occasion, herbs and spices have a lot to offer!