How to Cut Basil, Thyme, Cilantro and Other Fresh Herbs

Updated: Feb. 07, 2024

Our herb gardens are overflowing. Now it's time to learn how to cut basil, cilantro, parsley and more so you can start using your bounty.

We all love seeing fresh herbs coming up in our garden and enjoying the scents as we pluck stems off the plant. Once we’re in the kitchen, though, many of us take pause: How do you cut fresh basil? How do you get all those tiny leaves off a sprig of thyme? 

Each kind of herb requires its own type of prep, but learning how to cut basil or rosemary or cilantro is simple once you know how to approach each one. So give your herbs a quick wash, grab your favorite cutting board and get started!

How to Cut Basil

Person rolling the stack of basil leaves togetherTaste of Home

To cut big basil leaves, our Test Kitchen recommends a fancy-sounding technique: chiffonading. Don’t worry–this French method is simpler than it sounds.

To get perfect ribbons of basil—perfect for our favorite fresh basil recipes—start by rolling a stack of basil leaves together into a tight bunch. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice crosswise into thin strips.

You can use this same technique for sage leaves.

Person slicing their rolled basil into thin stripsTaste of Home

Test Kitchen Tip: Be sure that your knives and kitchen shears are sharp when working with herbs. A dull knife can easily bruise delicate herbs like basil and mint, causing unappealing browning of these fresh ingredients.

How to Cut Fresh Parsley and Cilantro

Using a fork to remove the leaves from a bundle of herbs by running the utensil up the stemsTaste of Home

To remove cilantro and parsley leaves quickly and easily, run a fork along the stem. This will gently remove the leaves.

You can then choose to use these leaves whole for a more rustic presentation or give them a rough chop for sprinkling on top of your favorite pita or pasta.

How to Prep Fresh Thyme, Rosemary, Mint and Oregano

Person pulling a herb through the holes of a strainer to remove its leavesTaste of Home

For herbs with lots of smaller leaves, plucking each leaf off can be a painstaking job. However, there are tools to make this job simple. A handy gadget like this editor’s favorite herb stripper allows you to pull a stem of your preferred herb through the opening. This will remove the leaves right from the stem with a gentle tug.

While you’re waiting for your herb stripper to come in the mail, you can use this Test Kitchen hack: Simply thread a stem through a hole in a colander. This will remove the leaves and collect them right in the basin of the strainer.

When it comes to herbs like thyme, there’s no need to mince these little leaves down further. However, if you want to chop rosemary, oregano or other herbs a little finer, just break out that chef’s knife and rock it back and forth over the leaves until they reach the size you’re looking for.

How to Cut Fresh Chives and Dill

These herbs are the simplest to prepare. After washing and drying, simply snip them with sharp kitchen shears.

How to Store Fresh Herbs

ParsleyTaste of Home

If you find yourself with extra herbs, you can store them for another day. Trim the ends of delicate herbs like parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, and tarragon and place them in a jar filled with an inch of water. Tent a plastic bag over the top and store it in the refrigerator. Change the water every other day or so, just to keep things fresh.

Do the same for basil but keep it on your kitchen counter. The harsh chill of the fridge can be too much for delicate basil.

Heartier herbs, like rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives, can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag.

And if you want to get serious, there are so many helpful gadgets for keeping herbs fresh. These Prepara herb savers earned rave reviews from one of our editors.

Try These Fresh Herb Recipes
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