Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

Cooking with Herbs and Spices QandA

Hi, Can I substitute juniper berries for ground sumac? Or is there another substitution for ground sumac I could use? I am making a dressing for a Middle Eastern dish. Thanks, PV

I suppose juniper berries might provide the sour taste that sumac presents. In her book Spices, Manisha Gambhir Harkins suggests using caraway instead of sumac. Although the flavors are different, she points out, caraway is also a classic Middle Eastern spice. She suggests adding the seeds to the oil when beginning a recipe.


Thomas Keller's Roquefort and Leek quiche calls for 6 gratings of nutmeg. I live overseas and can't find whole nutmeg; what would be a safe estimate of six gratings? Thank you. PK

Interesting way to list an ingredient in a recipe. I got out my nutmeg grater and discovered six gratings is equal to 1/8 of a teaspoon.


How do I substitute Agar power for Agar flakes in a recipe? MC

I am not well-versed in using this vegetarian gelatin substitute so I did some research. I'm going to give it a try soon. As with most subjects, two different sources that I found listed two different measurements for using flakes or powder. One said 1 Tablespoon of flakes is equal to 1 teaspoon of powder. The other said 1 Tablespoon would be equal to 2 teaspoons. In light of this, I think I would start with using 1 1/2 teaspoons to equal 1 Tablespoon. In other words, half as much powder to flakes.


Could tomato paste or puree be used instead of tamarind puree in a lamb and lentil curry? MR

Although you would not get the tangy sourness that tamarind provides, I think tomato paste would work as an acceptable substitute in this particular curry.


Hi, I'm guessing that it's possible to use turmeric powder as a substitute for fresh. However, I've been unable to find any site that would allow me to convert 1.5 inches of fresh into X number of teaspoons. Can you please help? Best regards, PJ

I haven't had much opportunity to cook with fresh turmeric. Here's what I would do, however. Use a microplane zester, or something similar, to grate the 1.5 inches of root. Measure this and then use one-third of that amount of the dried powder. If you can't get ahold of the fresh turmeric (hence your question, right?), try doing the same thing with fresh ginger root.


Love this site. Am particularly interested in making soup stocks & broths with minimal salt yet mega max intense flavor. Any ideas? Thx.

It is a good rule of thumb not to salt stocks and broths until the last minute as they reduce and can become oversalted. Your question reminded me of an interesting article I read last week in Saveur that discussed making stock in detail. Find Bone Gatherer with this link.


Hi I'm cooking some chicken and I put some dried green peppercorns that I bought in Egypt. The colour is running out, is that normal? I never used them before, please let me know, Thank you, AT

I think it is normal. I have some in a decorative jar that I've kept for years because of the sentimental value and they have all faded to tan. You might want to replace yours unless they still have a nice flavor.


Our sea salt from Trapani is now rock solid! How can we salvage? AL

Perhaps you could try using a grater or microplane to free smaller pieces from the big block.

Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

I have just made a beef stew with Guinness and at the end, adding dill. We noticed a distinct taste that was sort of bitter after swallowing. Would it be from the Guinness or the Dill? Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you! DT

Most likely it was the beer not the dill. Guinness is somewhat bitter to begin with, I imagine a long cooking time where it reduces a bit would make it even more so.


Are there any spices or herbs that should not be blended when cooking that will either taste really bad or can possibly be harmful? Thank you, MH

I'm not aware of any of the culinary seasonings that become harmful when combined. I can think of some combinations that might not taste very good but it really depends on the dish. For instance, the baking spices like allspice and ginger might not go very well with herbs like oregano and thyme in many dishes but they are typical together in a jerk seasoning. That's why it is  so much fun to experiment with herbs and spices.


I am making a Berries and Lavender Ice Cream. It calls for 2 drops of lavender oil and 3 drops of orange oil. The oils are rather expensive and I thought I could use extracts or possibly dried ingredients. Do you know what the conversion would be for the oils if I used extracts or dried lavender leaves or powder and possibly a real orange? Thank you for your help. PG

Sounds like yummy ice cream. As we've said before, 1 teaspoon of extract is equal to 1/4 teaspoon of oil, although oils are so much more potent than extracts, it is best to start with half that much and add more as you see fit. To substitute lavender flowers, I would start with about a teaspoon of them crushed and taste from there. You have to be careful as too much gives over to a medicinal flavor. For the orange oil, you might use half  to a whole orange's zest.


I received some home-made pesto sauce from a friend. When I was heating it it separated and started to look clumpy. I used a little of it on pasta and it didn’t seem to alter the taste but the rest was thrown away. Is there a way I could I have saved it? Should I have heated it at all? Thank you for your help. ED

Since pesto is made from oil, cheese and nuts, among other ingredients, it isn't a surprise that it would separate and look clumpy upon heating. You don't really need to heat it as it will sort of melt onto hot pasta. I like to add just a bit of the pasta cooking water to pesto before tossing with the pasta for better distribution. Check out the article "Endless Pesto Possibilities" for more ideas about how to use it.


Can't find savory, need something to substitute it with. AFT

You would probably have good success with either rosemary or thyme. It kind of depends on what you are cooking.


I have recipet that calls for a half cup of fresh fennel. How much of ground or fennel seeds do I use? RN

This conversion doesn't work very well because your recipe is looking for a vegetable, not a spice. I suppose you could try it, if you wanted, by using maybe a half teaspoon of the seeds. Find more on the subject of fennel at "All About Fennel."


When a recipe calls for a sprig of ? can you sub. the same thing that is dried? I hate going to the store and buying 3 or 4 different herbs and using very little of any of it. And how do you determine how much to use? Thanks, SK

This is such a common question to our inbox and there are so many variables that it is difficult to answer definitively. Sprigs are meant to be removed before serving and since the herbs aren't chopped, less of the flavor is being dispersed. Therefore, we would want to use a lighter hand with the more potent dried herb. As for making the substitution, we need to think about how much fresh herb we would have if we stripped the leaves from the stem. Very, very generally, we could say that if we took the leaves from a 6-inch sprig, we would probably have about a tablespoon. (This of course would vary from plant to plant.) So to substitute the dried counterpart we would use one teaspoon, but given the first point, we might want to make it more like three-quarters of a teaspoon. From here, we would do what more recipes suggest at the end: Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.


Is whole allspice a good substitute for cloves? SG

I think it is.


Can the contents of a fresh herbal tea bag be used in place of a spice, for ex. if I do not have any fresh ginger could I use the contents of a ginger tea bag? I am talking about quality teas, like Tazo, Traditional Medicinals, etc. Just curious. My sister gave me some licorice tea and it has a wonderful aroma and I think it might go well in a dish I plan to make. Thanks, JS

You can certainly use tea in cooking. I have a recipe for Green Tea Cupcakes in my new book Spiced Right, as well as a sidebar called Tea as an Herb? I'm not sure if tea would make an acceptable substitute for an herb or spice from a strength point of view. Fresh ginger would have a much stronger taste than the dried ginger in a tea bag. It's a very interesting idea that would make for fun experiments.

I don't have cinnamon sticks to use in my pickled beets that I am canning. Can I substitute ground cinnamon? LK

You got me really curious about this so I looked around at many different sources. I came up with different reasons not to make this substitution: 1) Ground spices will discolor canning liquids and sometimes the pickles themselves. 2) Most recipes call for cooking the whole spices in the brine and then removing them. 3) Ground cinnamon is potentially less potent than sticks (depending on how long it has been ground) so it would be very difficult to adjust the measurements to get the desired flavor. But, like I always say, I'm no canning expert so I would be happy to be corrected or amended.


I bought some Pimento Especial and Picante spices when in Spain. Have you any good recipes to use them in? JE

Chances are good that these are both paprika, one of them hot (picante). Find out why and more about the spice at "All About Paprika."


When should fresh herbs be added when cooking? HN

It's best to add fresh herbs near the end of the cooking time. You can also get a nice balance of flavor by adding half of your fresh herbs early in the cooking and then adding the rest at the end.


What can I substitute for cardamom in my berry pie? LS

 I am especially fond of cinnamon with berries, but I'll bet a light touch of nutmeg or allspice would also be nice.


My wife and I love cinnamon but no matter how much dry cinnamon we use in pancakes we can never taste it. We mix it with other dry ingredients, then add the liquid to the dry to make our batter. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks, LM

Take a tip from Indian cookery and put the cinnamon in your melting butter. Many spices "bloom" when toasted or added to hot fat. Allow the cinnamon-butter to cool before adding to the batter.


My recipe calls for 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, what can I substitute for this. It is going into a ceviche. JR

You could try chopping up some fresh parsley that has been sprinkled with a bit of coriander for a similar flavor. Otherwise, basil, tarragon or dill would give a nice fresh taste although different flavors.


Is there a substitute for curry powder that tastes similar. I am making a chicken/broccoli casserole for 120 but there are allergies to curry powder and I don't want to change the taste of dish. Thank you, SH

This is very tricky because curry powders are a combination of many spices. It is important to know exactly what spices cause your guests problems. Please see "All About Curry Powder."


What is the difference between spices and herbs. At age almost 60, I am learning to cook. YEA!! MT

Congratulations! Cooking is a rewarding endeavor. Generally speaking, spices are fruits or seeds, or in the case of cinnamon--bark, of plants while herbs are leaves. Please see our "Articles" list for information on individual herbs and spices to learn more.


Can I substitute cajun spice for curry? K

Sure, as long as you understand you'll be changing the flavors as well. Cajun and curry spice blends often contain some similar ingredients, like cumin and peppers, but they become truly different as other seasonings come in.


What's the equivalent of a tablespoon of coriander seeds to powdered coriander? MB

I would use 1 teaspoon of ground coriander to replace 1 Tablespoon of whole seeds just because you will get more flavor distributed throughout the recipe if it is ground. Sometimes, however, a recipe might call for a Tablespoon of whole seeds that will be toasted and ground--then you would want to use a whole Tablespoon of ground coriander. Or, in something like pickles, you wouldn't want to make the substitution at all because your liquid would be cloudy and the flavor might be too intense.


I cannot have any seed because of a colon problem. I love rye bread with caraway. Could I grind to a powder and add to bread? LM

I have used ground caraway with pleasant results in the past. I do think you should probably check with your doctor to make sure this is safe for you.


Hi: I have a problem. I bought fresh garlic, but it looks smaller then what they show on TV. I am wondering I need an inch for fresh garlic. How many ounces is in a normal one inch piece? Thank you for your help. BM

You are saying garlic but I'm guessing that you mean ginger since we are talking in inches rather than cloves. I just weighed a one-inch piece of ginger and it came in at a half an ounce.


I cannot find blades of mace in my local stores. I believe I can use ground mace or ground nutmeg. What would be the equivalent of either in place of one blade of mace. Thank you. SP

Blades of mace vary in size so I would use a hefty pinch of ground mace, then taste and adjust as necessary.


Winter greetings! My pork and squash stew recipe calls for 1 tsp, dried coriander. Don't have it, never used it and don't even know what it is! I know, shame on me-but what can I effectively use as a substitute that I may have on hand? thanx snowy bunches, from buffalo ny! MM

Well, first, you might want to see "All About Coriander." It's one of my favorite spices. You could probably get away with using the same amount of cumin, instead.


I found a recipe for horseradish coated prime rib that I would like to use. The coating ingredients include ½ cup of sea salt and ¼ cup of freshly ground pepper. Since it does not specifically state that I grind the sea salt, do I use it whole? Thanks. Make it a great day. CO

That sounds delicious. I don't think I would grind the salt since one of the lovely things about sea salt is that it is coarse. Plus, the recipe would tell you to do so if it were necessary.


Can anything else be used in a rice recipe besides 2 tbsp. crystallized ginger? Very seldom have I seen a recipe that calls for this so don’t know that I need-or-want to spend much money on such an item. Though if it were to help with motion sickness (car sickness) and also indigestion it might be worth trying? PF

Crystallized ginger is a nice addition to baked goods, especially those that already call for ground ginger. Some people eat the crystallized ginger like candy and others swear by it for the ailments you describe. Besides, maybe you will like the rice recipe and prepare it more than once.


I am making dressing and I have fresh savoury instead of ground. How do I convert this? CC

I would use three times the amount of fresh savory as your recipe calls for ground.


I saw a recipe for a chowder that called for peppercorns. Can you put the peppercorns in whole or should the be ground up first. I think they just threw the peppercorns into the pot. Will they dissolve? Thanks JH

You can put the peppercorns into a dish whole, but you would want to fish them out before serving or avoid them while eating the chowder. They won't dissolve and most people would find biting into a whole peppercorn rather unpleasant.


I prefer the taste of anise oil over the taste of extract but if the recipe says 2 tbls. of extract then how much oil would I use in place? Thank you for your help. I am going to make pizzells. KH

Wow, that is a lot of anise extract. As you probably know, the oil will be much stronger. A general rule of thumb is 1/4 teaspoon oil will be equal to 1 full teaspoon of extract. Even though this would make your recipe call for 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil, you might want to start with a scant teaspoon and adjust in very small increments as needed.

I have frozen pureed parsley in cubes (each is 1 tsp.) and wondered how much fresh parsley would each cube be equivalent to? EB

I would consider your pureed cubes equal to 2 teaspoons worth of fresh parsley.


Do you have any suggestions for preparing pineapple sage? The plant is quite a monster and taking over my garden, very hardy and nothing bothers it. I need to harvest it but I have not found it to be desirable in cooking...SR

I think of pineapple sage as a novelty herb, but have been known to toss the chopped leaves into fruit salsas and to whirl it into piña coladas. In his book, The Herbal Kitchen, chef Jerry Traunfeld suggests using the leaves for tea and the flowers as a dessert garnish.


I'm wondering if there is a published guideline for herbs that should NOT be mixed together. I know a significant amount of info about cooking & herbs but I experiment a lot with them. I'm wondering if a guideline exists of what shouldn't be mixed; no particular example, just a list? AK

I'm not aware of any such rules about mixing herbs. In general they all work pretty well together and it is more a matter of taste. Some are stronger or more delicate than others so need to be combined carefully. That's where experimentation comes in.


Hi. I'm a beginner cook. I would like to know general rules, like what spices are best used with what meat, and whether fresh or dried spices are better. I mostly prepare chicken, pork, beef and fish dishes. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! CC

This website is your best place to start for this sort of information. Check out our Articles List for all the topics. In particular you may want to visit "Basic Guidelines for Seasoning with Herbs and Spices" or the ever-popular "Fresh or Dried?"


I am trying to make a lavender simple syrup. The recipe calls for 3 T fresh or dried lavender flowers - I have lavender oil - how much should I substitute for the 3 T? D

Unless you are 100% positive that your lavender oil is food grade, I don't think you should make this substitution. If you are sure that it is edible just start with a drop or two and give a taste to see if you are getting a nice flavor. Too much lavender has a tendency to taste medicinal.


Do you have any suggestions on how I can get tahini easily out of a can or jar? I have a jar of it and also a can. They both seem to be almost rock hard and impossible to get out. I am ready to just throw them both out. Help!!!! Thanks for your help. C

It's always best to use tahini at room temperature. If you are still having trouble you might try heating it slightly in the microwave or in a pan of hot water. Be sure to remove the lid before trying that.


When I measure lemon peel, am I supposed to pat it down to measure or leave it fluffy? Similar to brown sugar which I compress to measure, I assume I should pat down the peel… What say you? NH

I say you you put it well, not necessarily packing it like you would brown sugar but patting it in a little to compact the measure.


Dear A Pinch of: If I were going to buy 5-8 "must haves" for any basic kitchen pantry, which spices/herbs should I include? I have an old stock of misc. things that have moved with me from house to house and I know it is time to start fresh. Thanks! A fan in Ohio

To me, the basics would be black peppercorns (with a peppermill), thyme, ground cumin, Hungarian paprika, a good quality chili powder blend, Italian mixed herb blend, ground cinnamon, sesame seeds and dill weed. It depends largely on what you like to cook. Someone who cooks Mexican dishes frequently would need different seasonings than one who enjoys more Italian fare. Perhaps the best way to stock a spice cabinet is to accumulate ingredients as recipes dictate.


Hi! My recipe calls for one cardamom pod. What is the equivalent of dried cardamom? Thanks! SS

I would use about 1/8 of a teaspoon of ground cardamom to equal a single pod.


Hi. My husband and I have made a New Year's resolution to try 1 new recipe a week. Since I am not a very good cook, I am learning new spices and how to do new things. We live in Kenosha, WI. We found a new recipe for this week - Rotelli with Roasted Asparagus, Chicken, and Lemon Thyme. However, I cannot find any Lemon Thyme - anywhere. I checked all our local grocery stores and cannot find it. Is there a good substitute? Can I use ground thyme and ground lemon peel? Thanks! J&J

That's a good resolution--I hope you'll include some of the recipes from this site, too. (Don't miss the Recipe Index.) You could substitute the ground thyme and dried lemon peel but I think you would get better results with plain fresh thyme plus the lemon peel. See the article "Fresh or Dried" for a conversion plan.

Can cilantro be substituted for basil? Thanks. VV

The leafy herbs are usually interchangeable so this should work in most cases.


I do not like the taste of fresh coriander leaves (coriander seeds are fine), It's the piquancy and the smell. I usually use fresh parsley in it's place but was wondering if there is another fresh herb I might try with a bit more flavour? I mainly have problems with the Moroccan and Asian dishes where it calls for fresh coriander to finish the dish. Thanks! NC

I'm with you, don't care for fresh coriander, aka cilantro. A little trick I do is to sprinkle fresh parsley leaves with ground coriander seed before chopping them, thus making a sort of mild cilantro.


Just found your site today thanks to I picked up a little Christmas recipe book during a visit to Bath, England in October, and I'm thinking about making their light Christmas pudding. They mentioned an ingredient called angelica, which I had never heard of and had to research (I know what it is now), but none of the herb/spice/baking ingredient sites I buy from seem to carry it. Is there a high quality substitute I can use instead? It calls for one ounce, thinly sliced so I'm guessing they mean the candied form. Thanks!

My sources suggest that angelica tastes like celery but I find it has a more bitter anise, or licorice, flavor. Maybe you could use a combination of thinly sliced celery for the bulk and a bit of crushed anise for flavor. (Read more about angelica in the article "An Herb Garden Takes Root.")


Can I use anything like tarragon, I have many other dried herbs etc, but no tarragon. Many thanks, GH

It kind of depends on the recipe that calls for tarragon. Many times, rosemary or basil will complement the same foods, but if you are looking for the mild licorice taste you might try fennel or anise.


I have a recipe that I usually use 3 or 4 fresh shallots chopped. I have a jar of chopped shallots in water and was wondering how the amounts compare. How much of the shallots already chopped will be comparable with the fresh ones. Thanks, DB

One medium shallot is considered to be equal to one tablespoon chopped.


Hi Sandra, I read your article about tahini butter and have a couple of questions. You mentioned that tahini tastes different than sesame butter, and that sesame butter is heavier in taste and texture. Have you tried raw tahini? Does it taste very different than the roasted? Also, I normally use sesame butter and I enjoy the taste. Never thought I could make ice cream with it. Can I still make the ice cream with sesame butter? JG

These days the terms tahini and sesame butter seem interchangeable. I've noticed some tahini is quite thick while others are thin, depending on the brand. If you prefer the taste of the raw sesame butter I'm sure you would enjoy it in the ice cream as well.


I would like to make sea salt and lavendar. Do I dry the flowers and grind them or leave them whole? What proportions of sea salt to lavendar? Thank you for your help. BA

Funny you should ask. I've been playing with sea salt and chive blossoms myself. Although I just used the fresh flower bits in my salt and they are staying preserved, I think it would have been better to dry them and then grind them coarsely. I'm not certain about the proportions but one part lavender to two parts salt might be a good place to start.


I have a full grown epazote plant in my garden. I’ve never used it before, in fact I’ve never grown any herbs before, so I’m wondering how I “harvest” it. Are the leaves and flowers combined when the recipe calls for a sprig of chopped epazote? And if I want to dry it, how do I do that? Thank you. DM

You chose an interesting plant to launch your herb gardening career. I haven't grown epazote myself but many people in the know say its best used fresh so good for you! You would want to strip the leaves, and flowers if present, from the stems in the recipe that calls for chopped leaves. I think it would be a good candidate for hanging dry. Please see the article "Look What I Made: An Herb Drying Rack" for more information.


What can I use to use for substitute for thyme? S

Depending on the recipe you could use most of the other leafy herbs as a replacement. I think savory would be especially nice but rosemary, oregano or marjoram would work too.


I cannot eat any nightshade vegetables. What can I use in place of peppers in a recipe? MAA

Thanks for making me learn something new. I wasn't sure what all of the nightshade vegetables were so I had to look it up. They are potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, and Tabasco sauce. Sure does take away many of the possible substitutes one might consider. Really, it depends on the recipe. Sometimes you could just leave the peppers out but if you need to make up bulk you might use celery, kohlrabi or other mild tasting vegetables. If it is the chile peppers you are looking to replace, you might experiment with turmeric (see "All About Turmeric") Fresh garlic would add a punch too. I wish I could be of more help but, wow, this nightshade business is really limiting!


What can you sub for sumac? TK

Sumac has such a distinctive taste, there is no real substitute. In some cases a sprinkling of lemon juice might mimic the sour taste. Although I haven't tried it, I wonder if tamarind powder would work too. In her book Spices, Manisha Gambhir Harkins offers this advice following a recipe that calls for sumac: "If you can't find sumac but would like to try this salad, opt for a completely different flavor, but still Middle Eastern. In the Levant, caraway is used in many ways, and will give this salad a light anise flavor rather than the sour edge provided by the sumac. Add 1 teaspoon caraway seeds when you heat the oil, then proceed with the recipe--a refreshing alternative."

I have a recipe to use crushed cinnamon sticks in sweet pickles. I’d like to substitute cinnamon oil. How much cinnamon oil equals one cinnamon stick? BJH

I can't come up with a definitive answer but judging from what I've read, you would not want to use much more than an eighth of a teaspoon. Cinnamon oil is really powerful stuff.


Hello, An old family recipe for barbeque calls for 1/4 Cup of chopped celery. I need to substitute celery seed for the fresh celery. Would you have a suggestion as to how much celery seed may give the flavor of this amount of fresh celery, without being overwhelming? Thanks for your expertise! CM

I want to say one teaspoon but I think I would actually start with half a teaspoon just to make sure you don't overdo it. The seeds are very small and will disperse well.


Hi, I've found several recipes which specify fennel. Since I have quite a bit of fennel seed, how much fennel seed should I use when fennel bulbs are specified? Thank you. MLP

This is one of those times you have to be careful. In some recipes, the fennel bulb is actually a vegetable so substituting just seeds would change not only the flavor a bit but also the texture of the recipe. You might add some celery along with the fennel seed as is suggested at the Cook's Thesaurus website.


What can I substitute for dill in a catfish receipt? The bottle in the store would last us several life times. NT

Tons of herbs and spices go well with fish. You can't get a real dill flavor from anything else except the weed or seed but you might consider adding tarragon or thyme instead.


The recipe I'm making calls for 1/4 cup of fresh dill, but the packaged price is a bit high. I found dill seed at a much lower price. Can this be substituted, and if so, what is the equivalent? Thank you. KP

We covered this topic in many ways during the last pickle-making season. Please see the "Fresh or Dried Q&A Page."


I have a recipe that calls for 3 Tbsp dried oregano, but I have ground. How much ground oregano would I add? It also asks for 1tsp dried thyme, but I have ground. What is the conversion factor when substituting from dried to ground? I appreciate your input! OR

We cover this a lot on the "Fresh vs. Dried Q&A Page." The easy answer is use about 3/4 as much ground as dried leaf but I have to ask: how long have you had those ground herbs? Herbs that have been ground have the shortest shelf life so if you have had them around for six months or more, I encourage you to replace them with a nice, fresh, dried leaf.


I have tried making curry many times but it never comes out quite right. Do I mix the spices and fry them first or do I add the spices to the fried onions or does it make no difference. An answer to this and any useful hints would be appreciated. GLC

Frying the spices in oil or ghee releases essential oils. I think either way, before the onions or after, works equally well. I've seen recipes that do both. Toasting the spices in a dry skillet before grinding them will highlight their flavors. I like to use heavy cream to make the sauce but I don't know how authentic that is. I also tried a recipe once where they called for not shaking the can of coconut milk but scooping out that thickened cream that rises to the top. The curry spices were then fried along with that cream for quite some time.


Please let me know if there is a substitute for celery seed which I I cannot find in local shops. I want to use it in a German potato salad.

Thank you,  JB

Caraway or dill seeds would be acceptable substitutes, especially for a German potato salad.


hi..I am trying a recipe for Hungarian Beef Stew. It calls for 1/4 teaspoon caraway seed. What would be a alternate for this? I have no idea! thank you, I

You could use dill, cumin or anise seeds instead. Caraway seeds are yummy, however, you might want to get some.


I have a recipe that calls for 3/4 tsp. of dried cilantro. I want to substitute the cilantro with coriander. How do I figure out how much dried coriander to substitute for the cilantro. Thanks. MH

Whenever I make this substitution I like to chop the dried coriander into a small quantity of fresh parsley. In your case, I would use 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander and 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh parsley leaves.


I found that 2 Juniper berries converts to 1 tsp gin in a recipe. However, my recipe calls for 3 tablespoons whole berries. I don't know how big they are to know approx how many berries are in a tablespoon. I need to know how much gin to use for 3 tablespoons whole berries. thanks so much! LJG

I measured out 1 tablespoon of berries and counted more than 50 in varying sizes. According to the 2 berries to a teaspoon of gin method, this would work out to about 1/2 cup of gin. Three tablespoons whole juniper berries seems like a lot in any recipe. As you make this substitution I urge you to consider whether the whole berries make it all the way into the final dish or are removed (as if in a marinade, for instance) at some point; you might not want to use that much of a liquid flavoring.


Can you tell me what spice I may use in a recipe to substitute Mace? SS

Nutmeg is a suitable substitution for mace. Find out why by reading the articles "All About Nutmeg" and "All About Mace."


How much lemon extract do I use instead of lemon peel? SA

One teaspoon of extract will stand in for 2 teaspoons of zest.


Recently, I saw a receipt that called for 1 blade of mace. How much is this in teaspoons? Thank you. CPG

That's a little complicated because mace blades are all different sizes. If you mean of ground mace, I think a good pinch would suffice. If you mean maybe crumbled blades, I would go with a quarter of a teaspoon or even a little less.


Can you tell me the equivalent conversion chart between cumin seed vs cumin powder? JC

I just ground up one teaspoon of cumin seeds and ended up with a heaping teaspoon of powder.


Hi! Can you help me out? I see "a bunch" of herb "X" listed in many recipes. How does one determine the literal volume or weight of " a bunch"? For example I had a recipe today that asked for "a bunch" of mint. I picked it and de-stemmed it. After finely mincing the leaves, I had a loosely packed dry measuring cup. Is that "a bunch" of mint? It is confounding to say the least! If I go to my herb garden and get " a Bunch" of a fast growing herb I would bring back a whole lot more of it than if I went out to get " a bunch" of a slow growing herb.... Help, if you can! Thank you so much in advance! CB

My go-to guide for this sort of question is Jerry Traunfeld's  The Herbfarm Cookbook . He defines a small bunch: "A small handful of sprigs, a little less than an inch in diameter, three to four inches long and about one-half ounce by weight." A large bunch is "a medium-size handful of sprigs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and one ounce by weight."


How much ground cinnamon is equal to 1 cinnamon stick? JB

One 2-inch cinnamon stick would probably yield about a tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Be careful if you are thinking of substituting the ground version in a recipe that calls for a stick, however. Usually you would just steep the stick to get the flavor and then remove it not necessarily netting a full tablespoon's worth of flavor.


My recipe for watermelon pickles calls for oil of clove and oil of cinnamon. But I only have whole cloves and cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon. How can I use a conversion? P

Spice oils are quite strong so you may not get the same results by using the whole spice. You would still get a nice flavor by using 2 or 3 whole cloves and one cinnamon stick per jar.


How do I substitute ground caraway seed for whole in rye bread, what are the equivalents? I am not allowed to have any seeds. Thanks for the info in advance. E

The best way to substitute would be to grind the amount of seeds the recipe lists. Otherwise, I would use about 3/4 of the ground seed for the amount of whole seeds.


Hello there, I just got into making my own oils, or I should say, flavoring the oils. I have a bottle that I made with olive oil, rosemary herb, hot peppers, corn peppers, and fresh garlic. When I made it I kept it in a bottle for about 2 months at room temperature and gave it away as a gift. Well my question is, is it bad to have garlic stored like that? I see a lot of jars that are pre made and sold at the stores with what it appears to be fresh garlic. What would you suggest I do if what I did with the garlic was bad? Should I refrigerate it once I have the bottle made? Thank you. DN

Flavored oils are great but they should be consumed within a week or so to avoid botulism. Garlic is a big culprit for this development. The commercially prepared bottles that you see likely have preservatives added to the oil to keep them safe. I suggest you issue a "recall" to your gift. The University of Illinois has an excellent article about safely making and keeping flavored oils.


Hi, How do you prepare and cook Fennel? I am a person who is new to cooking and would like to improve my diet and skills. Thank you, K

You will find a good method for preparing and cooking fennel at our "A Pinch of Saffron: Herbal Tapas" page. You might also slice the bulb and saute in olive oil with some other herbs or even shred it and enjoy it raw.


I would like to bake my cake recipes healthier, using whole wheat pastry flour and oil in place of butter or margarine. I would also like to substitute other sweeteners for sugar. However, honey is the only alternative I have ever used. How much and when would one substitute: maple syrup, apple juice concentrate or any other alternative? PL

These substitutions are tricky and not my area of expertise so I refer you to the wonderful and handy Cook's Thesaurus website. They offer tons of information on this subject.


Just wondered how one, like the Food Network Chefs, cook with no recipes. I am sure they don't by now as they have been doing it for years, but how does a mother of 2 with a love of creativity, create dishes? One thing I have looked at was your marinate section and it mentions acid and herbs and flavored oils. Can I do that too with plain cooking? Say I cook up chicken or meat and would like great flavor to pop out of it. Can I put in cooking wine with herbs and flavored oils to cook? Any suggestions? JH

I think the most important part of cooking without recipes is knowing what to expect from the ingredients and how they react to different applications. Each time you cook from a recipe, step back and consider what techniques you employed. While you could just add some wine (use drinking wine, never cooking wine from the grocery shelf!) and herbs while you are sauting a chicken breast, you would get far more flavor, and panache, if you make an easy pan sauce. Cook the chicken and then remove if from the pan, add a good splash of wine and scrape up the little bits that are stuck to the pan. Let the wine cook almost completely away, add a bit of chicken stock, some fresh herbs and maybe a dab of butter or that flavored oil. The techniques used here are 1) "deglazing" the pan (when you added the wine) and 2) "reduction" (when you cooked the wine away). You gathered up the flavors by scraping the pan to get the chicken bits into the sauce and also when you intensified the flavor of the wine by reducing it.


Hi, I made chile and always use crushed red peppers, too hot for my hubby. What can I do to get some of it out, or to cool off for the hubby? Thanks HP

Aside from making another batch without the peppers to combine with the one that is too hot, you might try stirring in a bit of sour cream. One reader suggests a pinch of sugar might tone it down but I haven't tried that one.


If I want to convert a recipe for 4 people to one that feeds 8 I suppose I double the quantity of meat, stock, vegetables etc but what about herbs and spices e.g. chilli powder, chillies, cinnamon, cloves??? Thanks. SJ

I have always just doubled the spices along with everything else without any problem.


We made a recipe with the term add two "sprigs" of cilantro. We found the mixture to be overpowering in taste. The cilantro came in a bunch with smaller units being broken of of 5-6 leaves per bundle. Is a "sprig" one or two leaves or 1 or 2 of the smaller bunches of 5-6 leave stems. RM

Unless a recipe specifies the length of a sprig, three inches is a good guideline. I'm a little confused by your references to bundles and bunches but a sprig is a single stem of a given herb.


I have a venison sausage recipe that calls for 2 tbs sage, 1 tbs nutmeg, 1 tbs thyme and 1 tbs red pepper. Can I substitute these spices with Bell's Seasoning and how much would I use to make up the amounts of the other spices. AA

I'm not familiar with Bell's Seasoning but if you like the flavor of it I don't know why it wouldn't work as a substitute. The one caution to consider is salt. If the Bell's has salt you will want to reduce what the recipe calls for and this could get tricky because salt acts as a preservative as well as flavoring for sausage. Otherwise, I would just use an equal amount to replace the others, in this case 5 tablespoons.


I am very interested in how you put a meal “together”. In other words, If I served Jalapeno-Basil Pork Chops, what would be a good complimentary vegetable dish to serve with it? I am thinking of some sort of guide that would say….”when spicing the main dish with say garlic, serve this kind of side dish to enhance the garlic flavor- not over power it…does such a guide exist? Thank you for your interest, SO

There are so many different foods and so many different seasonings that a definitive guide like this would be rather limiting (or rather huge!). The best way to learn what goes with what is to read and experiment. Go to the library and look at cookbooks for different cultures. They will often have serving suggestions and you can also see what spices are common to that type of cuisine and how they are used together. It is also helpful to learn about individual seasonings. This website is a good place to start! Our list of articles serves as a good jumping off point.


When a recipe calls for Cardamom pods, and you wish to use ground Cardamom, how much ground Cardamom equals one pod? MT

The contents of a single cardamom pod is too small of an amount to grind for me to have an absolute answer but I would say about 1/8th of a teaspoon would be a good equivalent.


Hello, I am making a Terrine Christmas lunch and it has Juniper Berries in it. It also has chicken mince, pork mince and bacon. What do you suggest I use in place of Juniper Berries. It already has Gin in the recipe. Thanks. JC

My source for this type of question is the Cook's Thesaurus. They suggest using equal parts crushed bay leaves and caraway seeds as a substitute for juniper berries.


What spices give a salt taste, without the SALT? DM

Unfortunately, none really do, that's why salt is so special. Some folks say that dill weed and seed can serve as a salt substitute as well as just increasing the use of all the other seasonings in a dish. Until the palate is trained differently, you will probably notice the absence of salt.


I just purchased ground poppy seed with an expiration date of 03/08. I made a poppy seed roll and the poppy seed tastes bitter/burnt/hot...I'm not sure how to exactly describe it. At first it tasted like it was burnt, but then it had a somewhat "hot" taste in the back of your mouth. Can you give me any ideas why. MG

The first idea that pops into my mind is that the manufacturer used way too much almond extract in the mix. One label I checked listed "natural flavorings" that might cover this ingredient. Since poppy seeds are generally mild, I would guess it is one of the other flavorings that caused this reaction.


What herb could I substitute for dill? JC

You won't find any other herbs that taste like dill but dishes that are enhanced by dill will often take to tarragon as well. Parsley could be a stand-in as could thyme. It depends largely on the flavors in the recipe.


What spices can be added to coffee? I have tried cinnamon and cardamom but is there anything else? I could not find it listed in the Q&A section. Thanks. DN

Allspice might be nice as well as nutmeg. Cloves could accent coffee but be careful, a little goes a long way. Vanilla and orange are also complimentary, in my opinion.


Please tell me how to clean/slide fennel - I bought one but when I started trying to prepare it - I was lost...please help. thanks S

Mostly it depends on how you are going to cook it. One way to prepare it is illustrated in our recipe for Marinated Fennel. Otherwise you can just think of it sort of like an onion; cut off the tops right at the bulb and the bottom root then chop, dice or slice it to suit the recipe. As for the frilly tops, they make a nice garnish left whole or minced and sprinkled over the top.


I have cooked with the Cardamom pod (green) for many years, putting the whole pod in curries and rice. I enjoy the intense flavor of the seed inside and will eat them out of the pod. I have just received an Indian Cook book "Quick and Easy Indian Cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey (1996 Chronicle Books, San Francisco) and under the reference for Cardamom she says "when......used whole they should not be eaten". This is the first time I have read this, I assume she is referring to eating the husk as well but what are the dangers, if any, to eating the husk, I have certainly eaten a few inadvertently? Thanks, VM

I don't think a cardamom pod is harmful to eat. Rather it is an overwhelming taste that some might find unpleasant to bite into the whole thing.


Can whole allspice be used in place of whole cloves? I am canning spiced peaches, cloves are $5.00 a jar a bit high. I thought using whole allspice would work just let them set longer, about 6 to 8 week before I use them. What do you think? Thank you in advance. MP

I think this would be an acceptable and even more pleasant substitution. I never did like cloves.


What can be substituted for fennel seed in carrot soup? D

Parsley and dill are both in the same family as fennel so they would be an okay substitute. Cumin and caraway also complement carrots well.


What is the difference (if any) between a 'sprig' of dill and a 'head' of dill? I was making dill pickles the other day when I suddenly and belatedly realized that I had put two heads of dill in each pint jar when the recipe had actually called for two sprigs of dill per jar. I've gardened and preserved food for 35 years and had never thought about the issue before. I guess I simply thought of a head of dill as a sprig. When I thought about the instructions, it seemed like two heads was a bit much, but that two sprigs would be insufficient. When I went in search of the 'official' word, I was unable to find it. Sprig of dill/head of dill - different or the same?? Thanks. JB

I agree with your thought process, two sprigs of dill isn't much! This may just be a case of careless recipe writing. A sprig is usually about four inches long while the head of dill is the flower top and contains lots of seeds and dill flavor.


Hi Sandra: I have enjoyed reading your site all day today! I've been researching ways to use fennel - especially the bulbs. I'm definitely going to use some of the basil preserving techniques you have shared! One thing I might add to the Q&A section is how to "tame" a too-spicy dish. A generous ("three-finger") pinch of sugar tones it down a bit. The same works for balancing a tomato sauce that's too acidic. Thanks for the great site; I know I'll be back! DP (in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of western Montana)

Thanks for letting me know you are enjoying the site. Thanks, too, for the hint about the sugar. I'll have to try it next time I go overboard.


How can I mince or chop basil and mint when a recipe such as Gazpacho or Cucumber soup call for them without them turning black? Thanks. PC

The most important key is to use a sharp knife that will cut through quickly rather than bruise the leaves. You might also just use your fingers to tear the herbs into pieces. Although I haven't tried one, the "lettuce knife" is supposed to keep lettuce from oxidizing so maybe it would work for herbs as well. I found a wide selection when I searched the Housewares section of


I do not have coriander and wonder what would be a good substitute? cs in NC

A slightly smaller amount of cumin could serve as a good stand-in for coriander.


What's a replacement I can use for cilantro? S

I don't care much for cilantro myself. If I want to prepare a recipe that calls for a good bit of it I always use an equal amount of parsley that is sprinkled with ground coriander (maybe a quarter teaspoon for each tablespoon of parsley) before chopping.


At what point do you add the yoghurt to the curry to make it milder is it just before serving or do you add it during cooking. Regards, MS

Yogurt is used in many different ways. If you want to make a creamy, tangy sauce you might stir it in while cooking (Madhur Jaffrey suggests adding it one tablespoon at a time to prevent curdling). As a cooling garnish, you might pass it at the table so each diner can decide how much they would like.


Hi, I am making a Greek recipe which calls for a cinnamon stick to be added to ground meat (approx 1.5 lbs ) . My question is: can I replace this with ground cinnamon and what would be the conversion? Thank you. JM

I think your recipe probably wants you to grind the cinnamon stick before adding it to the meat since it isn't going to be convenient to remove after cooking and you can't really eat a cinnamon stick. A two-inch cinnamon stick would equal about 1/2 teaspoon, a four-inch stick about 1 teaspoon.


Hi. How do you stop the bottom of a flan case going soggy? My wife has just cooked an onion, cheese and egg flan but the bottom of the flan case has gone soggy. She cooked the flan case blind then added the filling. Help!!! Yours sincerely CJC

One important step with a pre-baked pie shell, or case, is to let it cool completely before filling otherwise you create steam that will cause it to go soggy.


My recipe calls for one half of a freshly grated nutmeg. For various reasons, I must use ground. How much ground nutmeg equals one half a nutmeg grated?  TIA

General consensus seems to be 1 whole nutmeg is equal to about 2 1/2 teaspoons grated.


HI, A friend with lung cancer has trouble swallowing because of pressure on her esophagus and been told my her doctor to avoid "spicy" foods. They make her cough and uncomfortable. At first blush avoiding spices seems easy - no chilli, no peppers, no "hot" spices but am wondering if there are herbs that I could use to substitute for cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. I will be cooking for her for a month and want to give her variety. Any help you can give would be most welcome. T in Calgary, Canada

It's kind of you to cook for your friend. I wonder if you could use orange and lemon zest to stand in for some of the spices. Lavender is another flavorful alternative. As a cancer patient, your friend probably has access to a dietitian--perhaps you could have a consult with that person to make sure you do what is best for your friend's health.


I love chai latte coffee and would love to make it at home. The premixed is a little weak on the coffee. Do you know the blend of spices that are added and what ratio. JH

You could start by trying our recipe for Spiced Iced Coffee. You don't have to serve it cold. Use the master recipe as a jumping off point for your own experiments to find just the mix you like.


My green chili is too spicy--what can I add to it to make it milder? Thank you. LB

You could try adding something bland like potatoes or rice, even some roasted tomatillos. You might cool it off a bit by adding cream. However, this could all be a lost cause because chiles have a tendency to continue to increase in heat as they sit and permeate a dish.


How do I keep spices from clumping? KLS

Assuming that you mean clumping in the bottle, the best thing to do is keep them in a dry place, tightly capped. It is also a good idea not to shake them from the jar directly into a steaming pot--this will introduce moisture.


If a recipe calls for 3 blades of mace, what would the equivalent be for ground mace? H

This is another one of those tricky substitutions. Blades of mace are often used in broths or pickling where they serve as a flavoring but are not ingested, much like a bay leaf. Adding ground mace instead of mace blades with disperse much more of the flavor throughout the recipe. I would start small, with maybe an eighth or a quarter of a teaspoon; then taste and adjust.


Is there a replacement for fennel bulb? I'm not able to get this where I live and would like to know if you can substitute? CC

Mostly it depends on what you are making that involves fennel bulbs. You might substitute other root vegetables seasoned with a bit of fennel seed.


What can I use if a receipt calls for tarragon and I do not have any? GR

Because of tarragon's subtle anise-like flavor you might substitute a small amount of crushed anise or fennel seeds. Foods that are complemented by tarragon also take to rosemary or even dill.


Hi: What would you recommend using ground Seasoned Annatto for? Can I add it to oil first before sauteeing onions and garlic? I know about Annatto seeds, but I was advised to buy the powdered one also. Please advise. Thanks, NH

You can use ground annatto in the same manner you would use the whole seeds with the added benefit of not having to remove them. I would use a conversion rate equal to three-quarters of a teaspoon ground vs. one teaspoon of the whole seed just because the seeds take up more space.


Hello! I have a recipe for Focaccia that calls for a bunch of parsley, rosemary, and sage, leaves only. This combinations is mixed with 4 cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup of olive oil. The dough fills a 17 X 13-inch pan. All but 3 tablespoons of the herb pesto is rubbed on top of the dough. When I used the entire bunch of each to these herbs, the mixture did not spread easily and the flavor was overwhelming. What measurement constitutes a bunch of a fresh herb? Thank you for your help, DLH

I always refer to  The Herbfarm Cookbook  for measuring questions because Jerry Traunfeld has spelled it out so well. In this case he says a small bunch is equal to "A small handful of sprigs, a little less than an inch in diameter, three to four inches long and about one-half ounce by weight." A large bunch, "A medium-size handful of sprigs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and one ounce by weight." Also, DLH, as a general rule, I would never use equal amounts of parsley, rosemary and sage in a recipe. Rosemary and especially fresh sage are so intense they are bound to conflict and overwhelm.


Is there a substitute for using sage in a recipe? I have a steak recipe that calls for rosemary and sage. PP

Sage is quite unique  so you will not find a similar flavor. If you wanted to combine the rosemary with thyme or savory I'm sure you would still have a tasty herb blend for your steak.


What can I substitute for capers? BK

You will get a slight flavor change but keep the texture if you substitute chopped dill pickles or green olives for an equal amount of capers.


What is the best way to prepare poppy seeds for strudel? I don’t have one of those grounding machines, that my Mother used to use. Is there another way to make them damp, before placing into strudel? Thank you for your help. A

Most of the recipes I looked at involve soaking the poppy seeds in hot milk or water and then grinding in a food processor along with the other filling ingredients.


I couldn't find ground star anise, so I bought anise seeds how do I convert? JB

You can use them equally one for the other.


I have a recipe that calls for lavender. I'm having trouble finding it at my local supermarket. Is there a close substitute for it? Thank you. SK

I find rosemary is rather similar in flavor to lavender and will work in many cases as a substitute.


Does cooking garlic with hot peppers take some of the heat away from the hot peppers?

I'm not aware of this phenomenon although cooking both garlic and peppers (separately or together) does seem to mellow the bite of heat.

I have a recipe for orzo primavera that has curry powder in it. Can I substitute oregano instead of the curry powder or use another spice or herb?

You can substitute any herb you want for curry powder but you aren't going to get the same flavor, of course. Curry is very distinctive. Read more about it at "All About Curry."


Hello; Great site. You're to be commended for your service. Do you have a spice that would mimic the flavor of Amaretto liquor? Thank you, RB

Almond extract is probably the closest you will come to the flavor of Amaretto. The handy Cook's Thesaurus suggests using 1/8-1/4 as much almond extract as Amaretto but be careful, the stuff is potent.


I have been canning for a number of years, and I have recently purchased a dehydrator. I plan to dehydrate the rest of my Roma tomatoes since I have canned plenty of the stewed type. Is there a recipe available, or book of recipes, to can oil and herb packed sun dried tomatoes? I would appreciate any help you can provide. Sincerely, AS

I did some checking and this is a bad idea. It is the same principle as preserving herbs in oil: too much potential for botulism.


I have celery salt and the recipe calls for 1 t. celery seeds. How much celery salt would I use instead of the celery seeds? Thank you for helping me. CG

You will have to be careful here because the amount of salt depends on the manufacturer. Most are about 80% salt to 20% ground celery so you probably won't get the same results.  I think I would use about 1/2 teaspoon more celery salt than the recipe calls for in salt. That is, if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of celery seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt, I would use 1 1/2 teaspoons of celery salt. Read more on the subject at "All About Flavored Salts."


Is there another herb I can substitute for summer savory? Can I use thyme, marjoram or oregano? AJ

Thyme would be the most suitable but the others do also complement the same foods as savory. Have you seen the article "All About Savory?"


When is dill mature for use in canning? W

You can use the fronds of dill at any point in the growing cycle but for canning, the whole flowers make an attractive addition to the jar.


I am going back to making smoked sausages, as I used to, a number of years ago, using 'saltpeter' as a curing preservative. I wish to switch to a less controlled substance. What should I use, and where do I buy in Phoenix (...perhaps online...)? Thanks kindly! HP

I came across this entry from an article about making sausage from the North Dakota Extension Service: "Cure, an essential part of some formulations, is sodium nitrite (usually 6 percent) on a salt base. It usually can be purchased at a local locker plant. Sodium nitrite is very necessary to inhibit production and growth of the deadly toxin produced by the microorganism Clostridium botulinum. It also gives the characteristic cured color to a sausage product and improves flavor. Commercial products such as Freeze Em Pickle, Tender Quick and saltpeter can be found in markets and at drugstores. If these are used, be sure to follow directions on the packages."


Hi: I want to use something other than thyme in a recipe as I have none and our small store doesn't sell it. What could I use instead. I am cooking a roast of beef that calls for thyme. PL

I really like marjoram with beef but you could also try oregano or rosemary.


What exactly does it mean by a sprig of basil? My recipe calls for 4 sprigs. MV

Unless a recipe specifies a length, a sprig is about a four-inch piece of stem with the leaves still attached.


I have added too much red pepper flakes to an oriental sauce for pork. Is there anything I can add to tone down the hot taste? LT

Best thing to do is make another batch without the red pepper and combine the two.


I have been making a recipe for several years which calls for anise seed. I was not able to find the seed version, so I bought anise extract instead. I have not been able to find anything that tells me what the measurement conversion is from seed to extract. Can you help? Thank You

This makes me nervous. Extracts are so intense that it might not be a good idea to attempt this substitution. The seeds would disperse bit by bit throughout your recipe whereas the extract would flavor the entire thing. If you insist, I would start with the tiniest drop and taste, adjusting the flavor drop by drop.


My receipt calls for whole clove. How much ground clove would equal 1 whole clove?

I crushed a whole clove with my mortar and pestle and ended up with what could be described as a pinch.


I recently added too much garlic to a chicken vegetable soup I was making. Is there a way to tone down the overwhelming flavor without diluting the soup terribly? Thanks! N

The best remedy is to make another batch of the soup without garlic and then mix the two.


Hi, I love cooking, but now there are only 2 of us, buying fresh herbs has too much wastage. I have every dried herb known to man, but they are ok in long cooking processes. I would like to know if adding fresh fresh herbs to an oil, say a light olive oil, would they be better than the dried variety and how long would they keep? Thank you. Kitchenslave.

You run a risk of botulism when it comes to keeping herbs in oil even if you store it in the refrigerator. See the article "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest" for ideas about storing fresh herbs. One way to keep from wasting the fresh herbs that you purchase is to think of other ways to use them. You can toss them into salads, add to sandwiches or scramble them into your eggs. Another idea for you to keep fresh herbs on hand would be to plant a little garden so that you can snip from them as needed. Use a sunny spot in your yard or even grow them in pots in a sunny window.

I have started making home sausages. Is their a recipe book or whatever for the correct amount of the spices per pounds of meat for turkey sausages and pork sausages. Need the amount to mix with the meat before stuffing. Thanks. FW

When it comes to the "correct" amount of seasoning for any food, your own taste is the best guide. You can check the taste of meat mixtures, like sausage but also meatloaves and meatballs, by cooking up a small amount in a skillet or the microwave. As a new sausage maker you might be interested in a new sausage-making website: Sausagemania. A popular book on the subject is Bruce Aidell's Complete Sausage Book.


Can you grind white peppercorns in a pepper grinder or are they too soft? I was told you can't grind green peppercorns because it will clog the grinder, is this advice true? Thank you. GCM

I have never had any problem grinding white peppercorns or dried green peppercorns in my peppermill. You would run into trouble trying to grind green peppercorns from a jar because they are preserved in a liquid rather than dried.


We made spaghetti sauce that has too much garlic...i.e. its too hot. Any solution? K

The best remedy is to make another batch of the sauce without garlic and then mix the two.


I'm not much on fresh herbs. What part of cilantro and what part of swiss chard do you actually cut up and use in recipes? DK

All parts of the cilantro plant are edible (see "All About Cilantro") but most recipes that call for chopped cilantro are referring to the leaves. Swiss chard is also completely edible but it is often preferable to trim away the tough ribs and cook them separately than the fleshy leaves.


I would like some simple inexpensive recipes using curcumin. RR

Are you aware that curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric? Turmeric, in turn, is a component of many curry powders. You could read about and find recipes for each of these at "All About Turmeric" and "All About Curry Powder." Assuming that you wish to eat more for the presumed health benefits, you couldn't really go wrong adding small amounts of turmeric to many of the dishes that you cook everyday like meats, eggs and vegetables.


How can I keep black pepper from "clumping" when I add it to liquids? I want it spread equally into my recipes and not in concentrated little spots. Thanks,BT

I've never had a problem with black pepper clumping but maybe you use a finer grind than what I get from my peppermill. You could try sprinkling the pepper over the entire surface of the liquid while whisking vigorously.


I have a recipe for a very low calorie dessert called Pumpkin Fluff. Simply, mix a large can of pumpkin (not pie filling) with 2 tsp of some kind of pumpkin spice blend, 6 oz of FF SF vanilla instant pudding mix and 2 cups ff milk; fold in 8 oz of Cool whip Free and chill for a couple of hours. It is delicious. The first time I made it, it was gritty. I thought maybe since it was all mixed together maybe the pudding hadn't dissolved. So the second time I made it I made the pudding separately a few hours in advance. I have figured out that it is the spices that are the gritty texture. Do you have any ideas how I can do something about this? Thanks for your time.

I can think of three ideas. 1)Try grinding the spices with a coffee grinder into a finer texture or, 2) try infusing the spices into the milk (by heating the milk briefly, adding the spices and allowing to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours) and then straining the seasoned milk before adding to the recipe. The other option 3) is to try a different brand of pumpkin pie spices--most are so finely ground that I've never seen this problem come up before in the pies or cheesecakes I have made.


Hi, I have a Czechoslovakian recipe for cookies that calls for cardamom. It is difficult to find. What spice can I substitute for it to get the same effect? MM

Cardamom has such a lovely unique flavor it is a shame you cannot find it. You might substitute cinnamon with just a hint of nutmeg or allspice on its own for different variations of nicely spiced cookies.


I’ve just recently started using cloves and haven’t found anything about how to properly prepare them for a recipe. I understand you can place the nail portion into an onion, etc. -- which will make for easy removal after cooking; but what about when the recipe just says add 4 cloves? Should I remove the nail portion and grind the bulb or just use the bulb whole? I assume there is no real value for the nail portion. CL

Both parts of the clove are equally tasty as far as I know. If the recipe calls for 4 cloves, just drop them in whole. You may wish to fish them out before serving as they are a little overpowering to eat that way but that is a more personal preference. If a recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves you would want to make a powder of the whole ones in a coffee grinder or buy them already ground. Have you seen "All About Cloves?"


I would like to know which is the more potent of cinnamon, ground or powdered. What are the conversions for using the powdered instead of the ground cinnamon? In other words, if a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. How much would that be when using powdered? Thank you for your assistance with this question. BG

Ground and powdered cinnamon are the same animal unless you have very coarse cinnamon chips.


I'm making a recipe that's requiring leaf savory...I can't seem to find it anywhere. The recipe starts out with other herbs and vegetables being cooked in olive oil for 10 minutes. If I can use the ground version can it be added at the same time the other herbs are, or perhaps later on during the cooking process? RR

In this case, with the long cooking time at the beginning, I think I would add half the amount of ground savory when it is called for and the other half later on, near the end of the cooking process.


Are dill and basil complimentary, say, in a salad? I've found that basil and tarragon vinegar make a wonderful combination and was wondering if the dill/basil combo had ever been tried. GZ

Dill and basil are both herbs that combine well with others. The best way to decide if you like them together is give it a try!


Hi, I want to divide a pumpkin bread recipe in order to be able to make just one - when it comes to the spices I think I was once told not to divide the spices just the flour, sugar, etc. (eg. 4 cups of flour becomes 2, but those the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon become 1/2 teaspoon). Thanks!

I have always just divided (or doubled) spices as necessary when adjusting recipes. The important thing to remember is to measure accurately when recipes are smaller.


I have a recipe that requires a cup of chopped red peppers. I would prefer using red pepper flakes that I have on hand. They are to go into a cream cheese/parmesan filling that will be baked in crescent roll dough. Is there any equivalence between the two? I'm serving people who do like things hot, but I think there's a limit to even their tastes! I would appreciate any input. I'm glad to have found your web site and plan to use it regularly as a reference. DKF

Although red bell peppers and chile flakes are in the same family, they are quite different from each other when used as a seasoning. The red peppers called for in your recipe are often considered sweet in that they would give a nice flavor as well as a bit of color. The red pepper flakes should be used in moderation as you are aware and they add more heat than flavor. A better substitute for the fresh peppers might be a teaspoon or so of Spanish paprika sometimes called sweet paprika.


I bought a cook book in Italy many years ago which contains many very old recipes - 19th century and perhaps older. I made the onion soup and and while it is terrific there is a process with the onions that I don't understand. The recipe calls for a kilo of new onions to be sliced and submersed in cold water for 12 hours. What does this do for the onions ? Does it make them sweeter ? Anyway, I covered them in a bowl and placed them in the fridge overnight - then proceeded to make the soup. The soup was wonderful. Can you offer some thoughts on my question?

Since they call for new onions, which I would consider spring onions or green onions, it is probably to remove dirt and grit. Many recipes call for rinsing onions in cold water before serving them raw to take away a bit of that pungent bite. Perhaps you would share this recipe on the Reader Recipe Exchange, citing the book of origin, of course.


If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and I am using fresh grated whole nutmeg how much do I use?

One teaspoon--you are simply making ground nutmeg when you grate it fresh.


I plan on dry aging and freezing a rib roast , which should I do first age or freeze? Thank you, BC

This is pretty far from my field of expertise so I referred to my Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. I quote: "Aging meat is for professionals, not for the home cook. If you can get a butcher to do it for you, fine, give it a try. But don't stick a steak in the back of the fridge for a couple of weeks and expect to get a palatable product. The meat needs to hang in a professional refrigerator under the supervision of a butcher to be flavorful and safe."


I don’t understand this recipe, called “Sunday Night Stuffed Peaches.” It says to place the stuffed peaches that we’ve made (per their recipe) into sterile wide-mouthed jars. Pour hot spiced vinegar (that we’ve made per the recipe) over to cover; seal at once. Let stand a few weeks in a cool dark place before using. Does that mean there is no need to boil them in a canner the way people usually do when preserving fruit? Hoping you can help, CLB

Doesn't sound safe to me. The vinegar may act as a preservative but you should probably check with a canning expert like those fine folks at your local agricultural extension office. To find their office, Google your county with the words "county extension office."

Hi,I have a recipe that calls for 1/2 tsp. coriander. I do not have that in my pantry but I do have cilantro. Can I substitute this and would the quantity be the same. Thank you, GS

This would be a logical assumption since coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant but their tastes are quite different. I like to use an equal amount of cumin as a substitute for coriander, if necessary.


Very cool website!-- it will be very useful as I've always been more of a 'microwave queen' than a real cook, but newly married and attempting to be a better cook! My question is... I received a large bowl of homemade spaghetti meat sauce from a friend which has a very strong taste of either oregano, basil, or both and my husband and teenage son & I are not big of fans of these herbs unless used very sparingly-- is there a way to add something to the sauce that will allow it to keep the thickness that we do like but will ease the harsh bit/taste of those particular spices? L.R

Best of luck in becoming a better cook--I find it quite rewarding to prepare foods for my loved ones. You could try adding more tomato sauce or diced tomatoes to your sauce to extend the herbal flavor. One hint, if it is oregano that you are finding offensive, it will intensify with cooking. If it's basil, the flavor may decrease by cooking longer.


We would like to know the procedure to reconstitute dried herbs back to fresh. I know you begin by putting them in water but what then? Can you help? Thank you.

You can't really get the fresh texture back into dried herbs. To get the most flavor from the, crumble the leaves as you add them to a recipe.


I would like to make my own mixed herbs product like those proprietary products found in the supermarket. Can you advise me of the ingredients and likely proportions please? Thanks KM

There are so many different herb blends on the market that it all depends on the sort of seasoning you are looking for. A Cajun seasoning blend might have as many as fifteen different herbs and spices but a simple lemon-pepper is just that, dried lemon peel with cracked black pepper. To create your own blend, start by combining a teaspoon each of two or three herbs you like, add a quarter-teaspoon of black pepper, if desired, or a bit of paprika. Consider also adding granulated onion or garlic. If you are looking for a salt-substitute, use dill as one of the herbs or add some dried lemon peel to heighten the other flavors. Test your creation over some steamed veggies or mixed into butter and make adjustments as you see fit.


I’m growing pimentos for the first time and would like to pickle them to use in pimento cheese. Any good recipes? GP

Sounds like a good plan. I haven't done any pickling, myself but maybe some of the other readers out there can offer recipes. Anybody?


Is there a general rule of thumb when copying a spice mix in terms of proportions? I have a seasoning salt that I love, but is difficult to obtain, so I want to make my own. I have the ingredient list, but am uncertain about quantities. Thanks. LL

By law, the ingredients on a food label must be listed by quantity so this will give you a good starting point. There are no real rules of thumb--I usually just experiment by starting with an estimate and then adjusting in increments while tasting. One point that might help with your seasoned salt in particular: most commercial flavored salts are about 80-90% salt. Have you seen the article "All About Flavored Salts?"


My wife is a very good baker and her cakes have been well received by any and every one who has tried them, but there is one problem. The center of her carrot cake layers fall when baking. Is there anything that she can do to correct this? I don't really know if you are the right people to ask, but I figured that I would try. Thank you for any advise that you can offer. DD

I found these hints at "If a homemade cake fell (the center of the cake sinks), the following problems may have occurred: The cake was under-baked - the oven temperature was too low and/or the baking time was too short.

The liquid was over or under measured.

The pan was too small - the batter was too deep.

The cake was moved or jarred before it was sufficiently baked.

Old or expired baking powder was used.

A wooden pick or cake tester was inserted into the cake before it was sufficiently set."


Hello-I was just wondering if lemon grass and lemon balm might be interchangeable in recipes. I have a recipe for grilled shrimp that calls for a marinade to be made with lemon balm, however I've been having trouble finding this. I have been able to find lemon grass, however. Your advice would be appreciated! Thanks - C

I think lemon grass would be a suitable substitute for lemon balm for flavoring but you would want to remove the lemon grass pieces before serving since they aren't as palatable as the tender leaves of lemon balm.


I would like to known if I could freeze fresh strawberries and how do I do that. thank you, CM

The easiest way I have found is to remove the stem cap, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer. After they are frozen through, gather them up into a freezer bag and store that way. Just keep in mind the texture will be a bit mushy when you use them after freezing but they will still taste good. Also, if you wash them before freezing, dry them thoroughly first.


Hi. I would like to know what spices go well with pork chops. Thank-you, PJ

Many spices go well with pork but some of my favorites are thyme, garlic, mustard and cumin. Have you seen our "Basic Guidelines for Seasoning with Herbs and Spices?"


1.) how full should you fill the muffin cup when preparing muffins?  2.) what are the two different types of biscuits? what is different about the way they are prepared? thank you. KP

Unless a recipe states otherwise, muffin cups are filled about two-thirds full. Basically, there are biscuits that are rolled and cut or those that are dropped from a spoon. Rolled biscuits are kneaded briefly so they are made from a stiffer dough than drop biscuits. Recipe ingredients vary.


Is there a true measurement for a "bunch"? My favorite chicken stock recipe calls for a 1/2 bunch of thyme. LC

In The Herbfarm Cookbook Jerry Traunfeld gives us this formula: A small bunch is equal to a small handful of sprigs, a little less than an inch in diameter, three to four inches long and about one-half ounce by weight. A large bunch would be equal to a medium-size handful of sprigs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and one ounce by weight.


Hi there! My darling husband cooked me a veal paprika with sour cream sauce tonight, and I was filled with inertia. Can you please give me some clues what herbs to use with paprika to make it more tasty. I am used to Asian uses of paprika, which tend to make a lighter meal. Please help! L PS Love this site!!

You might want to start with a more flavorful paprika like a Hungarian or Spanish variety. These have much more exciting flavors than the average California powder. Herbs that combine well with paprika are thyme, dill, rosemary, garlic and saffron, just to name a few. Have you seen the article "All About Paprika?"


I can't find a decent breakfast sausage in the market, so I would like to make my own. What herbs and spices should I use? Thank you Love your web. ji

Sage is probably the most common herb in breakfast sausage. To that, I would add a bit of thyme, plenty of black pepper and maybe a bit of garlic. A commercial poultry seasoning is a good choice for breakfast sausages spices as well. By the way, I just came across some tasty pork sausage links at my local supermarket called Fletcher's. They contain natural ingredients and no MSG.


Can you please tell me the best way to colour the rice orange. I know one of the ingredients used was Turmeric, recipe also had cashew, raisins and dried fruits, thanks DF

Saffron will give you a nice deep yellow as well as a pleasant flavor. For a serious orange, look to annatto seeds. These articles will give you more information: "All About Saffron," "All About Annatto" and "Saffron Takes White Rice from Plain to Exquisite."


Dear Sir/Madam, Congratulations on your very informative web site. I have been looking up the herb Celery Seed and after making some enquiries I'm finding it very hard to buy. I'm using it for a relish recipe. Is there a substitute for this herb that you could recommend please Regards, SG

Celery seed is such a basic spice here in the US, I'm surprized you can't find it there. I think you would be pleased with substituting dill seed in your relish.


How long before pork sausages go bad in refrigerator after opening? LB

I wouldn't keep sausage in the refrigerator for much more than five days after I have opened the package.


After the Christmas holiday I wanted to make some more pumpkin bread but can only find "ground cloves" for about $7.50 in our store. I have two bottles of whole cloves. Is there any way to make these into ground cloves and how do I do it? Thank you, R

Your best bet for grinding cloves will be a coffee grinder. You might want to invest in a small coffee grinder just for spices to avoid "flavoring" your favorite coffee beans.


I received a receipt for a Hershey pie. One of the ingredient are to add 1 t. vanilla. My question is what does the t. stands for, teaspoon or tablespoon. Thanks BO

The small "t" probably means one teaspoon of vanilla. The more common abbreviation is "tsp" but a cook's shorthand often resorts to "t" for teaspoon and "T" or "Tbsp" for a Tablespoon. I like to write out the whole word in this site's recipes and always use a capital "T" in the word Tablespoon so that it catches the eye.


How much dried cinnamon equals 1 cinnamon stick? MP

One 2-inch cinnamon stick would probably yield about a tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Be careful if you are thinking of substituting the ground version in a recipe that calls for a stick, however. Usually you would just steep the stick to get the flavor and then remove it not necessarily netting a full tablespoon's worth of flavor.

I want to make lavender syrup to be able to add to hot teas etc but when I try the syrup keeps coming out a light brown. I am using dried lavender. What kind of lavender should I use to get the pretty purple color just like the syrups you can buy on line? Thank you for your help. TP

 I wasn't familiar with this type of syrup so I Googled it. The few photographs that I came across were from natural producers and they, too, were brown. I wonder if some folks are adding a bit of food coloring to achieve that pretty color? Lavandula angustifolia is the preferred lavender for cooking. Have you seen "All About Lavender?"


I am just wondering Why are herbs ground up before putting them in food? It is for a school report. thanks

Not all herbs are ground before adding to recipes but crushing the leaves does help release the essential oils that hold the flavor.


Hi! I used to work at a gourmet catering company where they would make this incredible lavender turkey. It tasted so different from anything else... I just have to have the recipe. Any idea's on where to find a recipe to duplicate it for Thanksgiving? Thanks! JMD

Mmmm, that does sound good. Maybe the catering company would give you their recipe. Otherwise, try Googling "lavender turkey recipe." I tried this and came up with many variations, maybe one of these would be similar to the preparation you are so fond of. Let us know what you come up with.


If you want to dip cake in White Chocolate then sprinkle coconut what is the best way? ED

In my experience, it is difficult to work with real white chocolate. Try making a white chocolate ganache or you might want to look for vanilla flavored candy wafers at your local hobby shop or baking center. I have been very pleased with a product from King Arthur Flour's Baker's Catalogue called Vanilla Confectionary Coating Disks. Also, be aware that dipping cake into melted chocolate or ganache is likely to leave crumbs; better to pour it over the top. Place the cake on a rack that is set over parchment or waxed paper to catch drips that you will be able to use again. Sprinkle or press the coconut into the coating before it dries to be sure it sticks.


Is it ok to reheat pork after it has already been cooked and frozen? APX

Sure it is. You may notice a bit of a textural change, however, and prefer to use it as an ingredient rather than a stand-alone main dish.


I was asked to bring dinner rolls and dinner breads to an engagement party. The main meat will be bbq'd tri-tip. Do you have any suggestions? The party will be a lawn-type, evening party. Thank you!

You will find links to several bread recipes in the Baked Good category on the recipe index. Seed Rolls can be made from frozen bread dough or your own homemade dough. The Spiral Shallot Bread has as much presentation style as it does flavor. One of my personal favorites for a non-spiced dinner roll the Potato Rolls recipe found in the Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Hermann Loomis. Maybe you can find it at the library.


We buy raw Spanish peanuts & would like to know how to dry roast them. Had one disaster would like to avoid another. Thanks very much for your help...hope that I am in the right place to ask this your web site, full of very useful info!! EAH

This is a little out of my element but you made me curious so I looked it up. In the process I found an article from the Clemson Extension office called "Drying Herbs, Seeds and Nuts." I hope this helps avoid another disaster!


Loved your article on Rose Hips, I have made Rose Hip jelly, but don't care to make it again, its good, but just to much work, I have been canning for a month now, and I'm pooped!!! I have tons of huge rose hips in my yard, and would love to save them. Can they be cooked and then canned or frozen to use later??? I can pressure cook them, but have no idea how long..or if it has ever been done. With the flu a big problem here in the eastern up of Michigan, we can use all the Vit C we can get. Thank you in advance. Sincerely, JG

Jackie Carroll's article "Growing and Harvesting Rose Hips" was popular  on this site, but has become unavailable. I did a bit of research about preserving them. An article called Edible Rose Hips from Better Homes and  offers this advice for taking some of the work out of it. Here's a major quote: "Traditionally, rose hips are prepared by halving them and carefully scooping out the seeds and fine hairs that line the inside. I've shortcut the process by first removing the stem and calyx, halving the hips to check for worms, then freezing them. After thawing, the now-soft hips can be put in a blender at low speed with a little water and run through a colander or food mill (Foley food mill and Squeezo strainer are two types that work well) to separate seeds, giving puree, which is the basis for several recipes." I found another idea for making and canning a rose hip syrup from the University of Minnesota's Extension Office, click here to view it. Perhaps you could contact your local extension office for more personalized information.


Please help me I want to know HOW to cook fennel. The white bulb and the green spidery stuff. Thank you. MJM

Funny that your question would arrive the same day that I am posting a recipe for Marinated Fennel. Find it in the new article called "A Pinch of Saffron: Herbal Tapas." You will see a basic way to prepare and roast fennel followed by instructions for marinating it. If you would rather, try serving it warm from the oven with a bit of Parmesan cheese shaved over the top. The fronds make a pretty garnish or are nice chopped into green salads.


Do you have a good receipt for homemade catsup? I had one years ago but the house fire took care of that. Love your site. Thank you JI

Funny, I've been thinking about homemade catsup too but all the recipes I come across are really just for flavoring the store-bought kind. In looking around a bit more, I found a great site called Not only do they have illustrated instructions for making catsup, they list you-pick farms all over the United States and five other countries along with tips for making the most of the adventure.


What is the best flour to use in muffin batters all purpose or a cake and pastry flour? BN

You will get good results for most muffins with all-purpose flour. If you are preparing a lightened recipe, like low-fat or low-cholesterol, cake flour will help keep them light and fluffy but the muffins will go stale more quickly. I have been using a whole-wheat pastry flour for muffins and other baked goods lately that seems to be a good compromise in keeping a nice texture while adding a healthy touch.


Hi! My best friend is getting married on Sept 24. We were looking at your recipe for candies pansies and loved the idea of lavender truffles. Do you have them on the internet yet? I couldn't find them on your web site. Help! They sound so beautiful!!! We have to have them! Thank you so much, T

I did give the lavender truffles one attempt but the mixture of lavender infused cream and white chocolate didn't set up well enough to roll into truffles (I should have used more white chocolate). I ended up using it as a filling for tartlet shells and it was divine! So far, I haven't had the time to get back to playing with the recipe further to get the proportions just right. If you want to give it a try, crush some lavender flowers into heavy cream, allow to steep for an hour then bring it to a rolling boil. Now pour the cream through a strainer over small chunks of white chocolate and stir until it is melted. Allow it to sit a room temperature until it firms up enough to roll into balls. From here you could dip the balls into melted white chocolate to coat and top with a lavender bud if desired. I wish I could be more help with a complete recipe but I'm still away from my kitchen.


Can you use dill flowers in pickles? Thank you! BDP

Dill flowers are edible and should make a pretty addition to your jar of pickles.


A few years ago I saw a recipe for marinating beef by covering it thickly with mustard and refrigerating overnight...can you tell me just how to do this? Thanks, J

I suppose you could do it just as you described but the flavor might be awfully intense. If you like the idea of marinating beef in mustard, you might do a Google search for recipes and find more interesting combinations.


Hi, I was thinking about making some marinades for gifts for the family but I just need to know if I make them and bottle them and use a sealing wax, how long can they stay good for? Thank you for you time. L

Although it is always on my list of things to learn, I still haven't tried canning. is a terrific source of information about the critical processes.


Can you help me with ingredients for making my own blend of pickling spice? I know some of them but not all. Thanks, J

This is one of those blends that brings to mind the saying "There are as many recipes as there are cooks." Spices that you might choose from include allspice, bay, celery seeds, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, crushed red chiles, ginger, mustard seeds, and black or white peppercorns. You probably already know that you will want to use whole or coarsely cut spices.


How much dill weed or dill seed does it take to equal a bunch of fresh dill? CR

Probably about a half cup of dried dill weed would equal a bunch of fresh dill. Dill seed is more pungent than the feathery leaves so perhaps a quarter cup would do but I wouldn't really recommend trading out the seed for the fresh leaves. And depending on what you are making, you might not even want to use dried for fresh. Generally, when a recipe calls for that much of a fresh herb, it is playing a major role so you wouldn't get the same results with the dried version.


Could you make a pesto with lemon balm? I guess I mean would it be safe to eat if you made one? Thanks AK

Lemon balm is certainly safe to eat, as long as you know it was grown without chemicals. It is, however, a powerful flavor. You would probably want to use a good bit of parsley along with it for pesto. Have you seen the articles "All About Lemon Balm" and "Endless Pesto Possibilities?"


There seems to be so many different kinds of salt. From Kosher to Table to Sea and so forth. What are the best applications for these salts. Is table salt best for just the table? Thanks...TD

Salt has become somewhat trendy lately but it is essentially all the same. Table salt can be used in general cooking and in the shaker on the table. Many chefs prefer to use Kosher salt because it is free from additives (like iodine) but also because it won't stick to their fingers when sprinkling over foods. While the fine-grained table salt is usually mined, sea salt is evaporated from sea water and may vary slightly in taste and in mineral content. Sea salt and Celtic sea salt (from France) are available in large crystals that are nice for a salt grinder.


I tried a new oatmeal cookie recipe today. Certain ingredients were listed to be used "at room temperature." While I have heard of this for butter and eggs, I have never seen it required of vanilla extract. I assumed it was always at room temperature; I keep mine in the pantry with the baking soda, baking powder, etc. Then I started to wonder, should I have stored it in the refrigerator? What do you recommend? LB

I've never heard of keeping vanilla extract in the refrigerator either. Since they sell it at room temperature at all the markets and it doesn't say "refrigerate after opening," this must be a good way to store it as well.


I went to a benefit at the Desert Botanic Garden in Arizona and tasted the best brownies with rosemary and lavender. Do you have a recipe for these type of brownies? I would love to try and make them. Thank you, AK

I didn't have a recipe when I received your note but thought this sounded so wonderful I wanted to try it. I have posted the version that I came up with at the "Reader Recipe Exchange." I feel certain you could spice up any brownie recipe, even a mix in a box, by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon minced dried) and 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, crushed. It really is a yummy combination!


When cooking with spices and it calls for a sprig, what is that equal to measurements in the ground spice. Thanks.

Many times a sprig is called for so that it can flavor a dish but then be removed before serving. Fresh herbs are a good bit different than the ground version so it's best to use them as a recipe directs. If you really must use a ground substitute, I would say about a half teaspoon would equal a 2-4" sprig. Read more about this subject at "Fresh or Dried?"


Could you please tell me how to dry and make sundried tomatoes? CN

I'll quote from question answered previously and then add to it: Actual sundried tomatoes are tough to do. To use the sun, you will need a very dry climate and protection from bugs and other animals. I don't have a recipe but I could tell you how I would go about experimenting with it if my humidity were not a constant 95%. Start with Roma tomatoes, halved. Place them on a screen, cut side up and place another screen on top. Set the screens on something like a pair of sawhorses that will support each end but doesn't cover or inhibit the air circulation in any way. Place the contraption in the full sun and set up a fan to encourage drying and discourage bugs. I don't know how long it would take so if necessary I would bring them inside to a dry room overnight and start the whole thing the next day. You would have to make sure they are absolutely dried or they will likely mold. You can also make oven-dried tomatoes by arranging slices on a rack (to allow air circulation) and baking in a 300 degree (F) oven for several hours until completely dry. It is difficult to duplicate the sundried tomatoes that you find available commercially. The best way to do it would probably be with an electric dehydrator.


Hello, I love making chocolate candies (good quality chocolate) and would like to experiment using fresh herbs. Could you recommend some herbs that might go with different types of chocolate? Thanks MB

Mint comes to mind first but you probably already thought of that! Lavender is a natural for white chocolate but you probably thought of that too. In his Herbfarm Cookbook, Jerry Traunfeld has a recipe for Herbal Chocolate Truffles where he suggests mint, rose geranium or tarragon with dark chocolate. With white chocolate he likes those three as well as angelica, bay, lavender or lemon verbena. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, see the review, but it is especially wonderful for using herbs in desserts. For further flavor inspiration, check out the wide variety of scented geraniums listed at Papa Geno's Herb Farm.


I've got a recipe that calls for Arugula and unfortunately have not been able to find it at any of the local markets in Columbus. What would be the herb or lettuce most similar to it's taste? It's really just a snack where you top proscuitto ham with fresh grapefruit and arugula. Thanks! J

That sounds like a wonderful snack. Watercress is often the suggested substitute for arugula but they seem equally difficult for me to find. Spinach will work in a pinch. One idea you might try, depending on how many portions you want to make, is to pick the arugula leaves out of a bag of "spring mix." Arugula resembles an oak leaf. Consider, too, growing your own. It's quick, fun and easy. Be sure to see "All About Arugula."


Is there a substitute for mace?

Since mace is the reddish-orange membrane that surrounds the nutmeg at harvest, nutmeg is a natural substitute. Although their tastes are similar, mace is more pungent so you might use a pinch more nutmeg if your recipe calls for mace. Find out more about nutmeg in the article "All About Nutmeg."


Could you please tell me if I can use cinnamon oil instead of cinnamon and how much?  Thank you, B

Cinnamon oil is so intense I don't think it would make a good substitute for the ground spice.


Can I use Kosher salt in place of "tender quick salt" in homemade sausage recipe? C

I hadn't heard of this product so I did a quick search and came up with The Morton Salt website. The short answer to your question is "no" but you should read more about it here.


I have couple of recipes which require fresh herbs but I need to know how much a sprig of thyme is and how much a sprig of rosemary is when using fresh herbs? Thank you for your help. J

Most recipes that call for sprigs of herbs refer to a 2-4 inch length. This would equal approximately a teaspoon or so.


My question is, if I have a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds, but all I have is ground, how much would I use? Hope you can help. Thanks, JP

You could make an equal substitution, 1 tablespoon ground seeds for whole since the seeds are so small they don't really displace much space in a measure. Your recipe may call for the whole seeds for a reason that should be taken into consideration. For instance, I have a recipe for a grilled cumin-encrusted pork loin where I wouldn't want to make the change. The seeds make a dramatic presentation as well as add a toasty tasty crunch.


Hi: I was wondering if the fennel bulb includes the stalk without the leaves. I made a soup and just used the stalks and did not know that the bulb could be used too. Is the bulb the more tasty part of the fennel plant? Also, is it OK to just eat the stalks? Thanks for you input! HZ

The bulb, stalks, leaves and seeds of the fennel bulb are all edible, offering that nice licorice-celery flavor. Smaller bulbs are more tender, better suited for using raw in salads or as crudités. Larger bulbs are often braised, roasted or stewed. For an interesting presentation, cut the bulb into wedges from top to bottom, making sure to leave a bit of the root section holding the leaves together. The stalks are flavorful, especially when small, and used along with the bulb in cooking. The feathery fronds of leaves might be chopped into a salad or left whole for an elaborate garnish that is especially nice when the seeds or bulbs have been used in a dish. Fennel is a popular vegetable in Italy--look for a wide variety of recipes using it in Italian cookbooks.


What does it mean to “zest” something? I have a recipe (a stir fry) that calls for me to “zest” a navel orange, and to “blanch” the orange zest for 1 1/2 minutes “with water to cover.” It later says I should add the orange peel to another part of the dish. Is the zest the same as the orange peel. Help! (I found your site when I typed “what does it mean to zest?” in Google.) -J

The zest refers to just the colored portion of citrus peel. This outermost part of the peel has a great deal of flavor but if you get into the white part underneath it will be bitter. You can zest an orange by carefully removing that thin colored layer with a carrot/potato peeler. Tools are available for zesting as well but would not result in strips suitable for blanching as your recipe states. I have a nifty little zester tool that has five holes across the top to pull off the zest in long thin strips. Many cooks swear by a microplane grater for zesting. You can read more about these at "Nifty Herb and Spice Gadgets."


Is there a rule of thumb used to determine the amount of herbs and spices to be used when a recipe is doubled, halved, quadrupled, whatever? I've heard that one should not change the amount of herbs/spice in the same proportions that one does other ingredients. I know that one should go light (one can always add more), but believe that I've heard that there is a guiding principle to use in this situation. Thanks BH

I vaguely remember a rule like this from to past, too, but never follow it.  I have always adjusted the seasonings in the same proportion as other ingredients when halving or doubling without any problems.


When a recipe calls for, say, a cup of basil or cilantro should I pack in tightly the herb into a measuring cup or use a weighted scale for 8 oz? This confuses me constantly. seems that every veggie has a different blanching there any chart you can send?

If you are using chopped or minced herbs, just fill up the cup but if you are using whole leaves, pack them down a bit. You wouldn't want to use a scale because herbs are so light, in most cases you would end up with far more than a cup.  I'm not aware of any chart for cooking vegetables but there are several comprehensive books on the subject of veggies that have come out recently. If you are interested in blanching for canning or freezing, most books on the subject of preserving foods will have time-tables by vegetable.


Hello! Need some quick advice....How long can you expect a compound butter with added FRESH herbs or garlic to last when refrigerated. Some recipes indicate one week... what are your recommendations. Will the compound butter last longer if you use dried herbs instead of fresh? Do have any solid data on the shelf life in the frig when incorporated in butter.. This is a great site! I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks! LT

I've never really tested the theory but I'd say a week or two at the least. Every cookbook I looked at suggested a different length of time for storing flavored butters. The fresh herbs won't make the butter go bad and the butter should serve as a sort of preservative for the herbs. Dried herbs would probably last longer.  If you want to keep it longer than a week or so, and compound butters are great to have on hand, try something the restaurants do. Mix the butter with the herbs and then shape it into a log on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll the log into the paper, wrap that in plastic and then store in the freezer. When you want to use some, simply cut off a slice.


Many recipes call for mild mixed herbs. I assume it is per personal preference. But with crusting meats, poultry and fish, I am not always sure which ones to use. If the recipe calls out for crusting a salmon fillet with mixed mild herbs, which do you recommend?

"Mild herbs" probably refers to those that combine well with other flavors like basil, thyme or marjoram rather than strong herbs that tend to dominate such as tarragon or rosemary.  The latter do compliment meats and poultry handsomely but are perhaps better with just a bit of salt, pepper and garlic.   Salmon would be pleasant with a combination of dill, chives and lemon or thyme, basil, oregano and savory.

Which are the best herbs to enhance cabbage? David

Cabbage is a wonderful canvas for so many herbs. The seeds, dill, caraway, celery or cumin, offer endless flavors alone or in combination. Mustard, seed or prepared, is tasty. You might also try dill weed, savory or oregano. Cabbage takes well to spicing up so I often like to add a bit of hot Hungarian paprika or red pepper flakes along with other flavors.


I season my steaks and hamburgers with numerous spices, but upon lifting the lid to check how they are cooking, alas, spices were washed off by the juices. Problem was solved with a neat utensil called 'Marinader Tenderizer Seasoning Roller'. After you put your seasonings on the meat, you roll them in with this roller. That is it. Check utensil stores and not used it for marinating yet.

Thanks for the tip!  I'll bet it would really enhance marinades.


Last summer I bought a ginger "hand" in the grocery store and, out of curiosity, planted it. It has not bloomed yet and has heavily lemon-scented leaves. I cannot find an herbalist or otherwise who knows whether I can cook with the leaves. Seems that chicken wrapped in ginger leaves would be a good idea. gss

Ha, what fun to plant a hand of ginger! Unfortunately, none of my references mention the leaves as a food. Have you tried calling your local county agricultural extension office? The Master Gardener there should be able to tell you if they are okay for cooking.


I am interested in making my own sundried tomatoes with herbs in olive oil. Do you have a recipe to get me started? Thank you very much.

Actual sundried tomatoes are tough to do. To use the sun, you will need a very dry climate and protection from bugs and other animals. I don't have a recipe but I could tell you how I would go about experimenting with it if my humidity were not a constant 95%. Start with Roma tomatoes, halved. Place them on a screen, cut side up and place another screen on top. Set the screens on something like a pair of sawhorses that will support each end but doesn't cover or inhibit the air circulation in any way. Place the contraption in the full sun and set up a fan to encourage drying and discourage bugs. I don't know how long it would take so if necessary I would bring them inside to a dry room overnight and start the whole thing the next day. You would have to make sure they are absolutely dried or they will likely mold. To store them in oil and herbs, simply place them into a clean jar, add some dried herbs and cover with olive oil. Keep in the refrigerator Like I say, I don't know if this would work but I think it would be fun to try. Please let me know if you do.


Should stems always be removed from fresh herbs before using? Or does it depend on the herb and the recipe? Thanks

You don't need much to worry about removing the stems of fresh herbs unless they are very large or tough or woody. Rosemary is a good example of one that is generally unpalatable. It also would depend on your recipe. If I am adding basil to a sauce, I might strip the leaves from the main stem. If I'm making pesto, I don't even bother with that unless the main stem is quite tough.


I have added too much crushed red pepper how do I cut the heat down?

It's difficult to go back on this little error. Depending on the recipe you have added the pepper to, you might try adding a fat like dairy products or eggs or you could add lots more liquid.


Hello!..Great website! Just wondering if you have any exotic fruit drink recipes (strawberrys, bananas, etc) with a pinch of ????..What do you suggest for making great fruit drinks? Thanks!!!!!! Lee

Great question, Lee. We have found that vanilla enhances pina colodas quite nicely. Next time you go to a Latin market look for a hot-pink powdered rose hip drink to mix with water. Mix it strong and whirl it in a blender with crushed ice (and vodka, if you so desire). The result is a refreshing pink drink. Our research staff is happy to take on the project of coming up with other great ideas. Watch for an article at this site soon!


Please send me recipe for pesto.

For pesto information and recipes, please click to Endless Pesto Possibilities.


I'm interested in bread dipping spice recipes. I did a search and found some commercial products, but it costs as much to ship them as buy them. Area stores don't seem to carry the products. I would rather make my own to give with home made bread as presents. I need to know what combinations to put together. I would appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction in terms of recipes and or books on this.

I am not aware of any particular recipes or books on the subject but I think it would be easy to come up with your own. My King Arthur's baking catalog listed four different combos that would be easy to create with ingredients from your local supermarket. They offer sun-dried tomato and basil, rosemary and garlic, roasted garlic and cheese, plus garlic, onion, bell pepper and tomato. I think other combinations that you make for excellent dipping would include an Herbes de Province blend, lemon-pepper and an Italian herb blend. The key to making your own would be to use the freshest dried herbs you can find and also to use a large cut, or grind, of the seasonings. For example, use a product labled "minced garlic" rather than garlic powder or rosemary leaves rather than ground rosemary. Set your pepper grinder to a coarse grind and use Kosher salt. To make a sun-dried tomato and basil combination, cut the dried tomato pieces into a dice (this would be easiest using an oil-packed product) and look for whole leaf basil. For 1/4 cup of olive oil, start with 1 Tablespoon of tomato and 1 teaspoon of dried basil. A sprinkling of Kosher salt would enhance these flavors. Taste and adjust if necessary. Herbes de Provence is a classic French blend of five to nine herbs that you can buy commercially or combine yourself. Make your own lemon-pepper with dried lemon peel spice, available in the spice section of most supermarkets, in combination with freshly ground black pepper. Go half and half first and add more lemon if the pepper is too strong for you. A bit of dried orange peel is a nice addition as well. Most commercial blends of lemon-pepper will have salt or sugar added. If you want to make a vegetable combination, look for dehydrated onion bits, minced bell peppers and tomatoes. Chives would be really good too.


Can you suggest what spices would be good to use in a brisket rub? One that could also be used for baby back pork ribs or maybe a variation for them.

Dry rubs are great for adding big flavor to meats without adding fat. They often have a hot spice like chile or paprika, hints (or more) of onion and garlic along with "meat" herbs like marjoram, oregano or thyme, plus salt and pepper. We tinkered around and came up with this blend you might like to try. It seasoned a 20-ounce pork loin, prepared on the gas grill, just right: In a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast 1 Tablespoon whole cumin seed and one teaspoon each Mexican oregano and your favorite ground chile (not chili powder). Transfer to a small bowl and mix 1 teaspoon granulated onion, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon each ground mustard seed, freshly ground black pepper and dried lemon peel, plus 1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaves.


Hi I have recently started growing my own herbs. I have planted Pineapple Sage and it is doing very but I haven't a clue how to use it. Have you any recipe suggestions, Ta Jacquie

You can use pineapple sage much the same way you would use regular sage. What came to mind first, however, would be a nice chilled chicken salad or in a salsa with mango, green onions and green peppers over fish. I've even used it in pina coladas.



Privacy policy

Copyright 1999-2015 A Pinch Of... All rights reserved

Contact us