Stay Connected

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Common Herbs Used in Mediterranean-Style Cooking

Many assume that when cooking with certain types of herbs, they are restricted to certain types of cuisine. When in actuality, they are also quite popular in other areas of the world as well. Such is the case with many Mediterranean fresh herbs and spices. There are many herbs which you might automatically think would be associated in this list like basil, rosemary and fennel. However, there are some herbs like ginger and cilantro, that are also used in Mediterranean-style cooking as well. 

Today I'll be sharing the most commonly used fresh herbs in Mediterranean-style cooking that I like to use in many of my recipes here at Carrie's Experimental Kitchen. I've also given you a link to a dish I have prepared in the past using such herb; as well as a list of other herbs I don't use very often. 

Herbs I use in many of my Mediterranean-Inspired dishes:

  • Originates from southern France and Italy and comes from the mint family
  • Has a sweet, peppery taste
  • Can be used in a variety of dishes like pesto, sauces, soups, salads, marinades and dressings
  • Basil blends well with other herbs and spices such as parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, and saffron
  • Try Basil Lime Pecan Pesto Stuffed Pork Chops
  • Cilantro has been found in both Southern Europe and the Middle/Far East
  • This herb comes from the leaf of the coriander plant
  • It has a strong flavor that tastes of a combination of sage and lemon
  • Cilantro can be used in Mediterranean stews, soups, curries, vegetables, salads, relishes and tomato-based sauces
  • Try Roasted Chicken with Pomegranate, Lime and Cilantro
  • Chives belong to the onion family, but are milder and more delicate in flavor than onions
  • They are native to Europe, Asia and North America
  • Chives go well in salads and dressings, yogurt, egg, and pasta dishes, casseroles, baked potatoes, soups and sauces
  • Chives also have insect repelling properties that can be used in the garden to control pests
  • Try Low Fat Ranch Dressing (Copycat from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen)
  • Fennel originated by the shores of the Mediterranean
  • It has a sweet, mild licorice taste and is commonly used with meat, vegetable, and grain dishes, soups, tomato sauces, cakes, pastries, breads, beverages, salads and dressings 
  • Try Roasted Fennel & Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad
  • Garlic is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and is a versatile seasoning that complements most any savory dish
  • It originated in Asia and has been used for over 7,000 years for cooking and medicinal purposes
  • Garlic is widely used in Mediterranean sauces, stews, soups, salad dressings, casseroles, breads, and grain dishes
  • Try Gremolata Roasted Potatoes , but a majority of my other recipes have garlic in them too! ;)
  • Mediterranean cooks use ginger, which originated in southeast Asia, to enhance both sweet and savory dishes like stir fries, sauces, cakes and cookies, and puddings
  • Try Soy-Ginger Grilled Flank Steak
  • Mint is used in eastern Mediterranean cooking, and peppermint and spearmint 
  • According to Greek mythology, the word mint comes from Minthe; a Greek nymph who was loved by Pluto, and was changed into a plant 
  • Peppermint is often used to flavor candy and desserts, while spearmint is often found in teas, sauces, and jellies that are served with meat, as well as vegetables, like potatoes and carrots. 
  • Mint is also added to salads, stews, soups and stuffings
  • Try Fettuccine with Pink Grapefruit & Mint
  • Onion's are extremely popular to Mediterranean cuisine, as it enhances other vegetables, soups, sauces, seafood and meat dishes, grains and legumes 
  • There are hundreds of varieties of onions including the large, round Spanish onion, the red-skinned Italian onion, smaller, yellow or white onions, pearl onions and green onions; all of which vary in appearance and potency
  • Try Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille
  • Oregano grows wild throughout the Mediterranean and is a cooking staple
  • It is related to marjoram, but has a stronger flavor
  • You'll find oregano in French, Greek and Italian dishes, especially in tomato-based recipes
  • Mediterranean oregano is also used to marinate meats and seafood before grilling and to season olives, cheeses, vegetables (especially eggplant), egg dishes, grains, breads, casseroles, meats, poultry, and salads
  • Oregano also pairs well with other spices, like basil, garlic, thyme, and parsley
  • Try Italian Vegetable Beef Soup with Orzo
  • Parsley originated in Southern Europe and is used in sauces, soups, meat marinades, dressings, salads, casseroles, stuffings, omelets, soft cheeses, and potato dishes
  •  The two main types are curly and flat-leaf parsley, both rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Try Lemon Roasted Cornish Game Hens
  • Rosemary is a native Mediterranean spice and it's needle-like leaf has a sweet, woodsy flavor 
  • Italian cooks use it frequently in marinades and with roasted and grilled foods, like vegetables, poultry, and seafood, but it also works well in stews, sauces, dressings and focaccia
  • Try Rosemary Grilled Pork Skewers
  • Sage is a Mediterranean spice in the mint family and has a strong, slightly bitter-sweet taste
  • Mediterranean cooks use it to flavor a variety of foods, including meats, seafood, poultry, stuffings, soups, breads, bean salads and dressings 
  • Try Portobello Mushroom, Zucchini and Sage Risotto

  • Originated in Crete, Greece
  • According to Wikipedia, saffron has been described as tasting like"metallic honey with grassy notes" and contributes to that yellow-orange hue in foods
  • Try Roasted Garden Vegetable Saffron Risotto

Sea Salt
  • Sea salt is found in Mediterranean breads, pickled vegetables, dressings, and with cheeses, meats and grains or any savory dish and a few sweet ones as well
  • Sea salt enhances other flavors, seasons on its own, and provides a necessary nutrient
  • Try Lime Roasted Zucchini and Shallots
  • Thyme originates in the Mediterranean, and has an herbal, minty flavor and scent
  • It's used in many savory recipes and especially with tomatoes and in slow-cooked dishes like soups and sauces 
  • Try Creamy Mushroom & Thyme Soup
If you would like to try some other common herbs used in Mediterranean cooking other than the ones listed here, try these: Bay Leaves, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin, Fenugreek, Marjoram, Nutmeg, and Turmeric.

*I also wanted to thank those that had sent me personal messages regarding my father in-laws heart valve replacement surgery. It was supposed to be today, but we received a call yesterday afternoon that the doctor had an emergency and had to postpone his procedure for a couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted! xo 


  1. This is a comprehensive list, Carrie! I'm missing ginger, oregano, sage, saffron (oh and of course salt) but the rest are growing, or soon will be, in my back yard/side yard/front yard gardens.

    And I found fall-blooming crocus in the woods last year, so perhaps I can source local saffron . . . ?



Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please leave a comment below.