Using Herbs In Salads, How & Which Ones Are Best
How To Include Herbs In Salads
The way I see it is a salad can be as bland as you like, or you can add flavor with nutrient packed herbs. I’m writing this during BBQ season here in the UK and I am living off salads.
You have options when adding herbs to salads, from using fresh soft leafed herbs like basil, lemon balm, mint and sage in the salads. To creating an herb infused oil drizzle, using herby croutons, micro greens, edible flowers or even a compound butter on a potato salad.
Don’t be limited in ways to bring additional flavor to any dish! Here I am looking at ways to add herbs to pasta salads, bean salads, green leaf salads and even potato salads. herbs help everything to taste better.
Herb Ideas For Healthy Salads
These are just some of the ways to get more flavor and nutritional content into your salad mixes. Let me know which ways you have also found in the comments below as I love to hear what else people are trying.
1. Soft Leaf Herbs In Salads
Adding soft leafed herbs to your salad couldn’t be easier and a tasty way to add nutrients to your diet. Basil, lemon balm, mint, sage, dill, chervil, parsley, cilantro, chives, tarragon and even sorrel if chopped up finely.
- Basil offers a peppery and mint like flavor. It works very well with mozzarella and tomatoes and pairs well with other herbs.
- Lemon Balm is perfect for a citrus refreshing kick to your salads. This pairs well with goats cheese or olives.
- Mint is a refreshing herb to add to salads and can be more subtle if you don’t just go for spearmint, try apple mint or even pineapple mint to really give a fruity mint like flavor.
- Sage is a more mature and pungent flavor and using a few leaves chopped up works well if your salad is pairing with richer meats or cheeses.
- Dill is a light anise flavor and one that works very well with other herbs like chervil or parsley. Using it to pair with a side salad for a fish dish is really nice.
- Chervil is a more unusual herb but one which works well with a variety of salads as it cuts through the other flavors with a light anise to licorice flavor.
- Parsley is one that we tend to use as a garnish but it can work as an herbaceous salad ingredient. Perfect if you are using as a side salad with chunks of orange or grapefruit in. It kind of balances the sharp sweetness.
- Cilantro or coriander leaves work well in salads to pair with spicy dishes. Cilantro is one of those herbs that will help to lessen the effect of a hot dish.
- Chives in a salad are a great alternative to red onion as they hold that allium flavor without being overpowering.
- Tarragon is the perfect soft herb for a salad as you won’t need much to go a long way. It is also great as it will pair well with heavier main dishes, tarragon having a fresh anise like flavor.
- Sorrel is the perfect herb for salads, but go carefully here as it is a strong flavor but a really sharp citrus one that pairs so well in an otherwise monotonous dish.
These are just some of the soft leaf herbs that you can use and each one comes with it’s own flavor profile. So mix and match to get the most from your meal!
In general go for a 3:1 ratio with herbs in your salads. So 3 cups of green leaves to 1 cup of herbs. If you are using pungent herbs like sage then reduce that ratio even further. Make sure to really pack those cups full of herbs though!
2. Herb Infused Oils
Using woody herbs to infuse flavor into olive oil and then using this as a salad dressing is a pretty cool idea. It gives a dish plenty of flavor and you can even make up this a bit of a quick win.
Using an ice cube tray place a sprig of fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano or marjoram in each cube. Then pour olive oil to half fill the tray. Freeze and then top up. This holds the herbs in place. This way you can thaw out a cube per salad and have fresh flavors each day.
You can pop the ice cubes from the tray once they have frozen and then store in an airtight zip lock if this is easier.
3. Edible Flowers
Flowers in salads can really lift the look and make an everyday dish into something a lot more special. My tip is to also include the soft leaves of the herbs as well as the flowers! This way the flavors are really carried forward.
- Chive flowers are lightly floral and very gently onion like with that soft allium flavor. Also pretty and delicate in color and vibrant contrast to the rest of the salad.
- Nasturtiums have the most vibrant flowers and are peppery to the taste, but only lightly. When used in salads it is an immediate win to the eyes and then the taste is just an added bonus!
- Bee Balm (Monarda) flowers are striking and edible. I’m not convinced that they are going to offer much in terms of flavor, but sometimes we taste with our eyes.
- Mint flowers are delicately floral with a hint of mint, more for their aesthetically pleasing qualitities.
- Marjoram flowers are tiny and perfect if broken into little clusters, ranging in color from white to delicate lilac.
- Calendula flowers are slightly peppery and vibrant in color. Shocking oranges and yellows to add interest to your salads.
- Viola are both edible and beautiful. Perfect with salads or on Summer cakes.
- Dandelion are also edible and not just cute in salads but also healthy to top it!
4. Micro Herbs
The trick to micro herbs or any microgreens is how quick and easy they are to grow. For a full guide have a read here. By using them in salads you can get all the flavor and nutritional content in one small bundle. Often it is a good idea to use something like
dark opal basil for the strong contrast to your average green salad.
Micro herbs are so fast and easy to grow that even someone with the smallest of windowsills can grow their own. Making them an attractive option.
5. Salad Seasoning Mix
Using dried herbs alongside a citrus salt and a little bit of sugar can be a great way to add additional flavor. If you make up the mix the night before or even create in a batch then you can have added flavor to any salad any time. It is a nice way to just lift a boring salads without having to get too fussy.
6. Herb Crusted Croutons
I may have lied when I said these were healthy ways to add flavor to your salads, however homemade croutons are healthier than premade ones. This recipe is sort of designed as a basic recipe to follow. Then you can start to add any herbs that you fancy to the mix.
7. Compound Herb Butter
A herb butter works well in potato salads or warm salads that you may be serving as a side dish. Think warm 3 bean salad, that sort of dish. The basic premise is to preserve your fresh herbs in butter that is then stored in the freezer. This gives you a longer life to your herbs and a convenient way to add fresh flavors to out of season dishes.
I love a good herb butter and feel it is the height of luxury, but then it may not be the height of healthiness! If you want to give them a go have a look at an article I wrote about the best recipes and see how it can fit in with your side dish of warm salad.
8. Sprouts or Sprouting Seeds
Similar to micro herbs in that these are quick and easy ways to grow your own herbs. The only difference is that you are sprouting the seeds and eating them as well as the sprouts. In this section I am also including new shoots as nasturtiums are delicious when you pinch out the side shoots.
A gremolata is sort of like a salsa but more a garnish for a salad or even soup. Chunky and full of fresh leaves and flavors it works well if tossed through a salad or kept on top as a sort of garnish. For more on gremolata have a read of a recipe here.
In Conclusion & What Next
There are many ways to include the taste and health benefits of herbs in your salads. There are so many different health benefits to including more herbs in your diet and this seems like a quick win to me. I would love to hear from you and see how you feel about my ideas, and to share any that you have as well!
- Herbs That Go Well With Beef
- Herbs That Go Well With Pork & Recipe Ideas
- Herbs That Go Well With Lamb & Recipes
- Herbs That Go Well With Eggs
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