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When to Add Herbs to Sauce | Fresh vs. Dried

Making good sauces is somewhat of an art. Sometimes it takes experimentation to get the taste you want. And testing different herbs is an important part of that process. Understanding how and when to add herbs is key.

Dried herbs should be added to the sauce at the beginning to give them time to soak in and fully flavor the sauce. Fresh herbs should only be added in the last 10 minutes or they can lose flavor. By volume, you will need more fresh herbs than dried to achieve the same potency.

However, there is a bit more to it than that. Read on to learn more details.

When to Add Dry Herbs to Sauce

You should add dry herbs to the sauce at the start of the cooking process. That will give the herbs time to soak up oils and other liquids. Consider one way you can add dry herbs to your sauce:

  1. Mix all of your dry herbs together.
  2. Crush the dry herbs in your hands or fingers.
  3. Saute onions, then add the dry herbs to “fry” them.
  4. Add your other ingredients to let them stew.

Throughout the cooking time and at the end, you can add a tiny bit more of the dry herb. Then, you can still get the texture of the dry herb or spice. But the majority of it will have had time to work itself into the sauce.

These steps work especially well for making a tomato sauce, but you can apply them to other sauces. Just make sure you use dry herbs that match the flavor profile of the sauce you’re making.

When to Add Fresh Herbs to Sauce

Dried herbs may be easy to come by, but fresh herbs can add some extra flavor to a dish. Because of the difference, though, you need to follow a different process when using fresh herbs.

Herbs should be added toward the end of the cooking process or they can lose flavor. You can add them when you have about 10 minutes left before it is done. Waiting even longer until the very end or until you have only a couple of minutes left is also an option.

If you cook the sauce for more than 10 minutes after adding fresh herbs, you might lose the flavor. While you can add more herbs throughout the process, you don’t want to waste any. The longer you wait, the better it will be for your sauce.

When to Add Basil to Sauce

Whether using fresh or dried basil, it is best to wait until the last few minutes to add it. Incorporating the basil at the beginning or middle of the cooking process can reduce the added flavor. This is especially important when using fresh basil but using dried basil too early can overpower the sauce.

Pro Tip: When using fresh basil, chop it before adding it to the sauce. Make sure to remove the stems and then cut the basil into small strips (chiffonade). That way, the basil won’t be too overpowering, but it will be noticeable.

When to Add Fresh Oregano to Sauce

Like any fresh herb, it’s important to wait until the last few minutes of cooking before adding fresh oregano. The longer the oregano cooks, the more flavor it will use. In addition to waiting, make sure to have plenty of fresh oregano on hand and add to taste.

You can add oregano as you take the sauce off the heat. Or you can add it a few minutes before to help incorporate it with the liquid. Then, you can make the sauce more cohesive, and it can taste better.

When to Add Garlic to Sauce

When using garlic in a sauce, wait until the oil is hot and rippling before adding the garlic. Adding it before the oil gets hot can cause the garlic to burn and clump up. After using the garlic, let it reach a nice golden brown color and remove it from the heat.

A lot of great sauces use garlic, and it can be easy to burn the herb. Whether you use fresh or canned garlic, you should cook it carefully. Then, you won’t have to worry about burning it and ruining the entire sauce.

What Is Better: Dried or Fresh Herbs and Spices?


Dried and fresh herbs and spices both offer unique benefits.

Fresh herbs are generally better because they add texture and more complex flavor to a dish, though they need more volume to have the same effect as dried herbs. Dried herbs are more convenient since you can keep them on hand due to their long shelf life.

Dry herbs are more potent because of the drying process. The process strips the herbs of the oil, making the herbs smaller, so it will seem like less. Because fresh herbs haven’t gone through that process, more of them are necessary to add the same amount of flavor.

Consider when to use dried or fresh herbs:

  • Fresh herbs can provide more of the taste that you expect from them.
  • If you know you’ll use the herb quickly, you don’t have to worry about having a long shelf life.
  • Using dry herbs is easier with less hassle.
  • You can get a container of dried herbs from the grocery store, and you can keep it in your kitchen for longer.

Both types of herbs can play an important role in your kitchen. So keep both on hand for your next sauce.

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to add herbs to sauce is a crucial part of cooking. You can add dried herbs at the beginning, but fresh herbs need to wait until the last few minutes. That way, you won’t cook out all of the flavors of the fresh spices, and the dry herbs can soak up some oil and sauce.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss 8 Most Similar Substitutes for Fresh Parsley.