How to Pair Fresh Herbs with Produce: The Ultimate Guide

Love the flavor explosion that happens when you pair fresh basil with peak-season tomatoes? Then you’re sure to enjoy all the other herb-and-produce pairings out there. The following guide tells you everything you need to know about adding fresh herb flavor to all your plant-based dishes—and includes easy recipes from Forks Over Knives to help get you started.  

Flavor notes: Sweet, slightly peppery; best added just before serving
Commonly used in: Pesto
Pair it with: Tomatoes (of course!), corn, eggplant, potatoes, peaches, summer squash, melons, and berries
Try it in: Watermelon-Basil Ice 

Flavor notes: Oniony-garlicky, fresh and mild; best added just before serving
Commonly used in: Mashed and baked potatoes
Pair them with: All vegetables, but especially potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, and mushrooms
Try them in: Loaded Potato Skins

Flavor notes: Distinctive, bright, and citrusy; best added just before serving
Commonly used in: Salsas, Mexican and Thai dishes
Pair it with: Avocados, beets, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes
Try it in: Creamy Pasta Primavera

Flavor notes: Evergreen with hints of celery
Commonly used in: Pickles, borscht
Pair it with: Asparagus, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, spinach, and cabbage
Try it in: Potato Salad with Avocado and Dill 

Lemon Verbena
Flavor notes: Sweet, floral, and lemony; good for steeping and marinating
Commonly used in: Herbal teas
Pair it with: Carrots, beets, fennel, corn, tomatoes, and all types of fruits
Try it in: Nice Cream

Flavor notes: Pungent and refreshing when raw, mellow and oregano-like when heated
Commonly used in: Teas and Middle Eastern salads
Pair it with: Beets, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, leafy greens, peas, squash, tomatoes, and all summer fruits
Try it in: Green Pea Hummus with Fresh Mint

Flavor notes: Pungent, peppery, spicy; good for grilling, roasting, and simmering
Commonly used in: Tomato sauces
Pair it with: Eggplant, beans, bell peppers, leafy greens, squash, artichokes, spinach, and citrus
Try it in: Enfrijoladas 

Flavor notes: Fresh with a hint of bitterness
Commonly used in: Potato dishes, grain salads
Pair it with: All vegetables but especially salad greens and tomatoes
Try it in: Layered Vegetable Salad 

Flavor notes: Earthy with hints of pine; good for simmering and marinades
Commonly used in: Holiday stuffings
Pair it with: Beans, apples, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower
Try it in: Delicata Squash Boats with Cauliflower Bechamel

Flavor notes: Pungent, grassy, and anise-flavored
Commonly used in: Tartar sauce, French sauces
Pair it with: Asparagus, beans, fennel, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peaches, pears, melons, and salad greens
Try it in: Barley and Sweet Potato Pilaf

Herb-and-Produce Pairings: Basic Rules

Freestyle cooking with fresh herbs can be daunting at first. Here’s how to gain confidence in the technique while boosting the flavors of your foods.

Start small. Begin by sprinkling 1 to 2 Tbsp. of a chopped fresh herb over a simple dish (for four people) or a big plate of steamed vegetables. This amount will give you an idea of the flavor an herb imparts without overwhelming the recipe. 

Go bigger and bolder. Like what you taste? Try upping the herb amounts. Play around with sizes as well. Tear herb leaves instead of chopping them or shower a dish with a fluffy chiffonade

Switch things up. Try new herbs in place of old favorites. Sub basil for mint in a tomato salad, try tarragon in place of dill, and add cilantro in place of parsley. A simple herb switch can totally transform a recipe. 

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about the author

Mary Margaret Chappell

When Mary Margaret Chappell first started out in the plant-based food world as a writer, editor, and recipe developer, she was a bacon-loving former pastry chef who didn’t think she could ever cook without butter. Fourteen years, four cookbooks, dozens of cooking classes, and hundreds of recipes later, her favorite thing in the world is sharing the tips, techniques, and recipes that show just how easy and delicious whole-food, plant-based cooking can be. The former food editor of Vegetarian Times magazine has done away with her dependency on butter and is honing her skills at baking with natural sweeteners. 

Mary Margaret lives in France, where plant-based eating can often be a challenge, but the fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes available are simply amazing.

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