Flavoring meat can all be down to personal preference, however matching the strength of flavor in beef is key to a tasty dish.
Beef can be a heavy and robust meat, requiring equally as strong flavors to match it. Herbs like rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, tarragon and bay go very well when cooked with the meat, however fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley do very well as a garnish to lighten the meal.
Whether you are looking at herbs to match roast beef or rib eye steak it is important to get the blends and ratios right to not smother the natural flavors.
Herbs That Go Well With Beef
This is by no means an exhaustive list as I know we will keep experimenting and trying new herbs all of the time. However when it comes to bringing out the best in your beef, these herbs are pretty much guaranteed to work!
1. Rosemary Goes Well With All Beef Dishes
Rosemary has a real kick and can be used dried or fresh or even as sprigs to lay the beef on in the roasting pan. Piney and aromatic rosemary offers a pungent flavor to stand up to the roasting process. Some herbs fade when cooked but the needle like leaves of rosemary actually release more of their essential oils when heated.
For more on how to grow a virtual hedgerow of rosemary click here.
2. Oregano As A Herb Rub Or Flavoring For Beef
Oregano is the flavor of Italian cuisine with it’s herbaceous and earthy flavors it is more than a match for beef. Used as a herb rub or added to stews in sprigs that are removed, oregano has a real zing to add to dishes. Usually combined with rosemary and thyme it can form the basis of a very simple herb rub for many meats.
Used almost interchangeably with marjoram when it comes to cooking. If you have run out of oregano do feel free to use marjoram as a suitable substitute. For more on growing your own pot of oregano have a read of this article.
3. Tarragon Not To Everyone’s Taste With Beef
Tarragon is not to everyone’s taste as it offers an anise or light licorice flavor to your dish. Some find it too sweet in savory dishes but when combined with other herbs like thyme and rosemary it can form a nice layer of flavor with your beef. Perfect in a herb rub and left to marinate in the fridge overnight the sweetness counters the richness of your beef.
For more on how to grow tarragon have a look at an article here.
4. Thyme A Classic With Roast Beef
Thyme is a robust herb that has an earthy and herbaceous flavor and aroma. Perfect when the leaves are used fresh or dried in meat rubs for roast beef. You will also find that thyme works well as a bouquet garni, tied together with sprigs of rosemary, oregano and some bay leaves.
Thyme is an easy herb to grow in pots or hanging baskets and as a drought tolerant herb it can be a great low maintenance herb! When we look at what herbs to grow we look at what recipes we like and then decide how much space to give over to each herb. WE have several varieties of thyme as lemon thyme is so refreshing when used as a herb rub for meats. Here is our how to grow guide.
5. Bay Leaves Perfect Ingredient For Beef Stews Or Casseroles
Bay leaves go so well with beef in casseroles or stews. The leaves are sharp to the bite so we tend to let them steep in the juices and then remove them before serving. The robust herbaceous and piney aroma and the sharp earthiness of bay leaves really stand up to robust flavors of beef. Bay can be a little astringent and combining it with other Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and thyme will help.
For more on how to grow your own bay tree have a read of this article here.
6. Parsley A Great Garnish To Beef
Parsley is a great herb for using as a garnish with beef. Chopped finely the earthy and almost grassy flavor of parsley will help to cut through the richness of beef. Perfect on steak or stews just as you are serving. We also love to use parsley in salads and this works well with a warm steak salad. When cooked parsley will wilt and become unsightly, however it can be added as a flavor enhancer and then removed if you use a bouquet garni. You may want to think about adding a chimichurri while cooking steak.
A bit of a low maintenance herb to grow, parsley can be an essential for your herb garden.
7. Cilantro Can Be A Good Garnish
Cilantro or coriander leaves offer a light zestiness to any dish when used as a garnish. Slightly citrus and slightly grassy cilantro can help to lift the heavy flavors of steaks or roast beef. Make sure to add sparingly as it can become an overwhelming flavor. Some people possess the soap gene that turns the flavor of cilantro into a unpleasant one. Double check before piling it on!
I always mention the soapy flavor or cilantro as I am sadly one of those who hate the flavor. When I was younger it was definitely a much stronger flavor than it is now and some people even report ‘getting over’ this hatred altogether.
For an easy guide to growing your own cilantro have a look at this article here.
8. Chives A Gentle Garnish To Steak
Chives can work really well with beef when used as a garnish. Add to stews just as you are serving or mix in with sour cream and put a dollop on the side of a juicy rump steak. Chives can be used in cooking but will loose a lot of their allium oomph in the cooking process. Far better to keep the mild onion like flavor for fresh and raw garnish.
9. Sage A Robust Herb Rub For Beef
Sage is a pungent herb. Not for the faint hearted and it will match the robustness of a thick rib eye steak. Sage has a herbal and aromatic flavor that is almost musky and will push an earthy wholesome flavor through. It can be overpowering if used fresh, but cooked or incorporated into dumplings it will work well.
I am afraid that our household are non-traditional with our Sunday roasts. We do have one each week, but it must also contain stuffing and Yorkshire puddings. No matter which meat we are having. I can only imagine the revolt if I tried to say that beef shouldn’t have stuffing! But this does mean that I can use the sage in the stuffing and keep the beef with rosemary, thyme and oregano. That way we make the most of all of our herb garden! Sorry for any purist who strongly believe that stuffing is for poultry and pork only.
10. Horseradish With Beef
Horseradish with beef is essential not just with your roast but if you are making a steak ciabatta the next day with leftovers! The strength of horseradish is intensified if you are using fresh from your garden! You can incorporate the root in dumplings, or use as a sauce on the side. It is the heat of horseradish that makes it such a good companion to beef, but use it carefully!
Recipes For Beef With Herbs
- Herb & Pepper Crusted Rib Of Beef With this recipe it calls for rosemary and parsley. You can use as many herbs as you like and try mixing in thyme and oregano to start with. My next tip for taking this to the next level is to then use some of those same herbs in your red wine gravy. Add once the liquid has all been added and the herbs can be fresh or dried. If using dried herbs be aware of their potency when compared to fresh. A ratio of one teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh works well.
- Herb Beef Burgers This is a simple way to take a burger recipe and elevate it with herbs. Using sage, parsley and oregano works so well together. You will see that they are using a very small amount of sage here as we have seen it is pungent and can become something of a bully in recipes otherwise.
- Grilled Sirloin Steak With Herbs This is one of the simplest recipes to follow and really you can use your freedom to choose which herbs you would like to mix together. Try for rosemary, oregano, thyme and maybe a little sage. Then you can use a mixed herb salad to go with the steak, drizzling some of the juices as you go. A few chopped chives as a garnish and you have a lovely meal.
- Hearty Beef Stew This is a herb packed recipe which really focuses on getting the most from each ingredient. The inclusion of paprika is a great one and it will give a spiciness without a chili heat. Meaning it is so warming and lovely to come home the smell of this cooking on your hob.
- Mince & Herby Dumplings This is a Hairy Biker’s recipe and a real weeknight favorite for us. The herbs they use in the dumplings are an absolute star combination and you can try to add any others you like or are growing at the time.
- Tarragon & Vermouth Beef Stew The combination of tarragon and vermouth is a natural one as they share that anise flavoring. Mix this recipe up a bit with using various other fresh herbs in the dish and removing when cooked. This will add a few more savory layers to your stew.
- Roast Beef Salad This is something of a treat in our house and I am guilty of sometimes preferring the leftovers to the main event. Shred the beef and then add to a salad made up of 3 parts leafy greens to 1 part soft leaf herbs and then add any other ingredients like olives, tomatoes, cucumber and pickles as you like. For more ideas for herb salads have a look here.
There are no right or wrong herbs to add to your beef dishes but learning how to combine them and get the most from them is essential. These are a sort of top ten to get you started. So do let us know below if you have any other family favorites to add!
What Next & Further Reading
- Herbs That Go Well With Lamb & Recipes
- Herbs That Go Well With Pork & Recipe Ideas
- Herbs That Go Well With Chicken & How To Use Them