Adding Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices should enhance the natural flavor of food — not cover it up. Knowing how much to add, and when, can influence the outcome of a meal.

When to Add

Ground herbs and spices release their flavor and aroma more readily than whole. Add near the end of cooking time to minimize the risk of cooking off their flavor.

Whole spices and certain herbs, such as bay leaves, release their flavor more slowly, so add them at the start of cooking. Tie them in cheesecloth or place in a tea ball for easy removal.

For salad dressings, fruit dishes or other no-cook foods, add herbs and spices several hours before serving so flavors can develop and blend. For salad dressings, add seasonings to the vinegar and let stand before adding the oil.

How Much to Add

There are no definitive rules about how much to add to a dish, but here’s a helpful starting point when no recipe is available:

Try starting with 1/4 teaspoon per pound of meat, for each pint (2 cups) of sauce or soup, or for a serving for four. Adjust as necessary. For cayenne and garlic powder, start with 1/8 teaspoon.

The fiery flavor of chili peppers can intensify during cooking, so add in small increments and taste test frequently.