Choosing which herbs go with which food is, in part down to personal taste. However there are some classic combinations that work time and again with chicken dishes.
Chicken is a lighter meat and goes well with tarragon, cilantro, rosemary, garlic, sage, oregano, marjoram, lemongrass, ginger and thyme. How you incorporate these herbs can change their taste profile and how intense the flavor is. From rubs, marinades and butters to roasted and sautéed.
Let’s look at each herb individually and some recipe ideas for your chicken dishes.
Top Herbs To Go With Chicken
When you are cooking chicken you want to use herbs that sort of bring out the light flavor of the meat. Nothing too overpowering or pungent. So how you cook these herbs and flavorings will make all the difference.
For some the flavor of cilantro (or coriander) is light and zesty, for others it is overpoweringly soapy. This is due to the way we each receive the flavors and can change over years. Cilantro is a tender leaf herb and as such will wilt if stewed with the chicken, so a great way to use it and keep it fresh is in wontons. This way you have the great zingy of the cilantro, mixed with ginger and chicken.
Cilantro also works very well with other zesty flavors like lime and chili. So a dish like Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken works very well served with spiced rice or quinoa.
For a complete guide to growing cilantro click here.
We love to grow our own garlic and as such that allium flavor is even stronger. It is important to note though that the way we cook garlic plays a massive part in it’s intensity. Fried with onions it can be pungent and strong, roasted with chicken it can sweeten and become gentle.
This recipe for honey garlic chicken uses crushed cloves that are pan seared for only a few minutes. Giving a contrast to the sweetness of the honey and helping to keep the chicken moist.
A 40 clove garlic roasted chicken would sound impossible to imagine if it wasn’t for the softening of the garlic during the roasting process. With a whole 1hour and 10 minutes of roasting in a wine and butter baste your garlic will sweeten and help to keep the chicken moist and succulent.
For a complete guide to growing garlic click here.
Ginger can be a strong flavor and when cooked with chicken it will be the dominant flavor. So choose your recipes well and go for Winter warmers.
Sticky soy ginger glazed chicken is a nice weeknight treat that is actually quite quick and easy to make. A basic ginger chicken stir fry will actually keep the kids pleased and make a nice weeknight meal.
For a full guide to growing ginger have a look here.
Lemongrass has the background note of citrus but also has a herbaceous and earthy flavor. It works very well in tandem with ginger and chili in Thai dishes, this Thai Lemongrass chicken also includes kaffir lime leaves which can be hard to get hold of. Have a read of our article on replacements and alternatives here.
It is possible to buy dried lemongrass and this can also make a great herb rub for your chicken.
For a full guide to growing lemongrass have a look here.
Marjoram & Oregano
Both oregano and marjoram share a very similar taste profile and have been mistaken for one another over the years. A bold and pungent taste with earthy overtones and a real sense of herbaceous loveliness.
Both oregano and marjoram go well with citrus flavors and this lemon and oregano tray bake is a perfect weeknight meal idea. It uses chicken thighs which are particularly moist and flavorsome.
Rosemary can be a pungent herb and care will need to be taken to ensure you follow quantities in recipes closely. Rosemary is piney, earthy and herbaceous with a strength of flavor that is not often matched by other herbs.
When using rosemary with chicken you can think outside of the box and go for something a little more unusual like Chicken, Lemon and Rosemary Artichoke Risotto. The delicate lemon matches the anise of the artichoke and is lifted by the rosemary. I particularly like this dish for it’s inclusion of leftover chicken. Top marks for becoming a great weeknight meal with a special twist.
For a complete guide to growing rosemary click here.
Sage is another one of those herbs that has a strength of flavor that is hard to match. Sage is pungent but also earthy and musky. This leads to it overpowering more gentle flavors so care must be taken to add it in a good ratio with other herbs.
A good way to offer sage with chicken is as the classic sage and onion stuffing. This way people can choose how much they would like and it doesn’t run the risk of overpowering or subduing other flavors.
Sage works well in a stew with chicken and can hold it’s own when cooked. You may wish to include it as a bouquet garni and remove the wilted leaves before serving though.
For a complete guide on growing sage click here.
Tarragon is one of the most closely linked herbs to chicken and the strong anise or licorice flavor can bring out the gentle flavor. However it can be a bit of bully in the flavor department so needs to be matched with other herbs and flavors carefully.
Whether it is chicken with a creamy tarragon sauce or made into tasty finger sandwiches for high tea, the combination works. Tarragon even works well in mid week meals like chicken pasta with leeks. The allium of the leek really kicking through the anise of the tarragon.
For a complete guide to growing tarragon click here.
Thyme And Lemon Thyme
Thyme is one of those herbs that we use in so many recipes but don’t stop to think about it’s individual taste profile very often. Earthy, piney and herbaceous with a warmth associated with the Mediterranean. Combined often with citrus, but you can also grow lemon thyme to really give it that lemony edge.
A creamy lemon thyme chicken will be great midweek and you can up the level of your cooking by including lemon thyme here as well! Garlic pairs well with thyme in this creamy garlic thyme chicken dish. Using garlic carefully like this can be a gentle push for the thyme to match it flavor wise, it seems to work well!
For a complete guide to growing thyme click here.
What Next & Further Reading
If you have any other favorite herbs to cook chicken with let us know in the comments!
- Herbs That Go Well With Pork & Recipe Ideas
- What Herbs & Spices Do Not Go Well Together In Cooking
- What To Do If You Add Too Much Rosemary To Cooking