The Correct Ratio When Substituting Dried Herbs for Fresh

published Apr 10, 2015
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As much as I love to use fresh herbs in my cooking, it isn’t always going to happen. I might have forgotten to pick some up at the grocery store, maybe the fresh herbs are too expensive and I need just a tiny amount, or maybe I’m cooking on the fly.

Whatever the reason, knowing how to substitute dried herbs for fresh is invaluable for infusing great flavor into your food from your spice cabinet. Here’s how to do it!

Fresh herbs can be about 80 to 90% water, so when they are dried, the water evaporates and what’s left are strong and more potent essential oils. This means that dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor than fresh, so when you’re figuring out how to substitute one for the other, this is my preferred 3:1 ratio:

1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs

This ratio works for herbs that have been dried and then flaked into small pieces.

If you have dried ground herbs though, which are even more potent, go with four parts fresh herbs to one part dried ground herbs.

Dried herbs that have been sitting around for awhile in the spice drawer may have lost some of their potency, so while the above ratios are good ones to start out with, remember to taste your food and adjust as needed.

Also remember that dried herbs work best in foods that need to be cooked, so that the herbs have time to soften and release their oils — substituting dried herbs for fresh does not work well in salads or other raw preparations.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Finally, keep in mind that fresh herbs with leaves that are harder and more brittle, like rosemary and thyme, contain less water than soft herbs like cilantro or parsley, so they can contain quite a strong punch of flavor when dried. With these, it’s best to err on using a little less in the beginning and adding more as needed.