How to Add Fresh Herbs to Your Salad—and Why You Should

Sure, romaine, iceberg or spinach will make a great base for a salad, but let's be honest—the flavor can be, well, boring. Add an ingredient that packs a punch: fresh herbs!

Fresh herbs can add an unexpected punch of flavor to any salad. (Even healthy protein-packed salads!) Because herbs are easily grown in small containers indoors, you can have access to fresh basil, cilantro, chives and other herbs all year long.

Here’s a quick look at how to use the most popular herbs:

Basil

Flavor: Depending on the variety, basil’s flavor profile includes hints of pepper, mint and anise.

How to Use It: This aromatic herb pairs well with mild cheeses, fresh tomatoes and spicy flavors. Fresh basil highlights the Italian flavors of this Cioppino-Mixed Green Salad.

Cilantro

Flavor: Cilantro, the leaves from a coriander plant, has a pungent, almost citrus-like flavor. However, for some people, it has a very unpleasant, soapy flavor. (Here’s the reason why some people hate cilantro.)

How to Use It: Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Asian, Latin and Indian cuisine. It pairs well with avocado, red onions, ginger and chili peppers. Fresh cilantro is the perfect addition to this Shrimp Avocado Salad.

Chives

Flavor: Chives have a mild oniony flavor.

How to Use It: Given its connection with baked potatoes, it should come as no surprise that chives are a great addition to potato salads! Fresh chives also stand up to the strong flavors in any Cobb salad recipe.

Dill

Flavor: Dill has a subtle licorice or fennel-like flavor. It is best used in small quantities, as too much can overwhelm a dish.

How to Use It: Due to its feathery appearance and mild flavor, dill works well in many spring salad recipes and pairs well with spring vegetables such as asparagus and peas. It’s also a delicious addition to homemade salad dressings.

Learn how to store fresh herbs the right way.

Lemon Balm

Flavor: Lemon balm, along with lemon verbena and lemon thyme, all have a citrusy, lemon-like flavor.

How to Use It: This lemony herb works well in fruit salads and also pairs well with cucumber, feta and asparagus.

Mint

Flavor: Mint ranges from peppery to strongly menthol in flavor.

How to Use It: Mint is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It pairs well with citrus, salty cheeses such as feta and fresh cucumbers. It also pairs well with other herbs, like basil and tarragon.

Parsley

Flavor: Parsley has a fresh, celery-like flavor with bitter undertones.

How to Use It: Parsley is a very versatile herb and works with most food pairings, including potato and pasta salads. (Yum!) It is also commonly added to grain salads, such as our contest-winning Lemon Cranberry Quinoa Salad.

Tarragon

Flavor: Tarragon has a delicate licorice-like flavor.

How to Use It: This piquant herb pairs well with carrots, mild onions such as shallots and mustard. You might even add it to your tuna salad!

Thyme

Flavor: Thyme has a spicy, slightly sweet and woodsy flavor.

How to Use It: Thyme works well with poultry (think chicken salad) and strong cheeses.

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Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.