Kitchen & Cooking

10 ways to make the most of fresh herbs this summer

Your garden deserves the spotlight.

Yogurt parfait and hummus Credit: Getty Images / jenifoto / asab974

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You don’t need to grow and preserve your own summer garden to take advantage of everything fresh herbs have to offer. Whether picked at home or purchased at the store, summer herbs are deliciously fragrant, full of flavor, and add color and texture to much more than pasta dishes.

From cilantro to parsley to dill, we talked to food experts to give you some herb-inspo. Ahead, find 10 refreshing ways to add herbs to your summer menu.

1. Make a chimichurri

chimichurri
Credit: Getty Images / Lisovskaya

Liven up a grilled steak with some chimichurri sauce.

There’s something about chimichurri that screams summertime. If you’re not familiar, chimichurri is an herb-and-vinegar-based sauce that is commonly served in Argentina and Uruguay. It’s typically paired with grilled meat, but you may be tempted to pour it over everything.

Make it by hand or whip it up in a food processor using big bundles or parsley, oregano, or cilantro. We like it best when drizzled over grilled steak.

2. Infuse your favorite summertime beverage

lemonade
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Get creative with your lemonade by infusing different herbs.

From iced tea to lemonade, the options are endless when it comes to pairing fresh herbs with ice cold drinks. You can keep it simple with a mint lemonade, or experiment with an Italian herb lemonade filled with mint, basil and rosemary. Throwing a sprig of thyme in your summer cocktail is always a good idea, too.

3. Make homemade pesto

pesto
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You'll love whipping up your own fresh pesto from scratch.

One of the more popular herbs to plant at home is basil. With enough sunshine, it will grow in abundance—which means you’ll have plenty for pesto. You can stick to a traditional recipe of basil, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic, or experiment with adding flavor twists like sun dried tomatoes or chipotle chilis.

4. Build a yogurt parfait

parfait
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Consider topping a yogurt parfait with mint or basil.

Registered dietitian and nutritionist Rebecca Gawthorne suggests adding herbs to a bowl of creamy yogurt. “Basil pairs surprisingly well with yogurt,” Gawthorne says.

“For a summer dessert, try topping some of your favorite fruits with a dollop of natural or Greek yogurt, drizzle of honey, crushed pistachio nuts and a few fresh basil leaves.” You could also swap the basil for mint leaves if you prefer.

5. Toss them in your salads

salad
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Try topping your next salad with fresh cilantro.

I used to believe the only greens that belong in salads are lettuces—but I was very wrong. Adding a handful of fresh herbs to your lunch or dinner salad can really transform an otherwise simple meal.

The secret comes down to proper pairing. For South-Asian and Central American flavor profiles, try cilantro. For a veggie-rich salad, opt for chives or dill. And if you like fruit and cheese salads, mint is your go-to.

6. Make a slaw

coleslaw
Credit: Getty Images / Janna Danilova

Work herbs into your backyard barbecue by incorporating them into your coleslaw recipe.

Coleslaw is an easy-to-make summer side dish that goes well with grilled meats, burgers and hot dogs. And since it doesn’t require any cooking, it can really come in handy on hot summer days.

Typically, slaw is made with cabbage, carrots and a mayo-based dressing. But adding fresh herbs to slaw can change the flavor profile completely, like in this Herbed Yogurt Jalapeno Slaw.

7. Remix your hummus

hummus
Credit: Getty Images / asab974

Hummus is a great go-to—incorporate herbs into the mixture and dip in fresh veggies from your garden.

Chef Clare Langan loves adding dill to store-bought and homemade hummus. “Dill is a versatile, assertive herb that conjures up the nostalgic flavors of pickles,” Langon says.

We like this hummus that includes parsley, cilantro, and basil. The more herbs, the merrier.

8. Make a salad dressing

dressing
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Green goddess dressing is a tasty herb-rich addition to any salad.

Store-bought salad dressings can be loaded with preservatives. For a fresh alternative, you can whip up your own at home in very little time with a few key ingredients. Whether your favorite dressing has a base of oil and vinegar, mayo, or yogurt, adding fresh herbs will contribute a ton of flavor without additional calories. From a honey dill vinaigrette to a five-minute green goddess, the options are endless.

9. Churn a specialty ice cream

ice cream
Credit: Getty Images / Lisovskaya

Strawberry basil ice cream is a great way to work herbs into dessert time.

Have you ever visited a specialty ice cream parlor and found flavors like strawberry basil or thyme? While you likely won’t find these artisan ice creams at your local grocery store, making them at home with an ice cream maker is easier than you think. Check out these recipes for flavors like fresh basil and mint chocolate chip and Thai basil lemongrass.

10. Roast them with your veggies

carrots
Credit: Getty Images / robynmac

Herbs like thyme are a great addition to any plate of roasted vegetables.

Roasted veggies make a quick and easy weeknight side dish, and even though they’re delicious with just oil, salt and pepper, fresh herbs will take them over the top. Langan recommends slow roasting cherry tomatoes with sprigs of oregano at 350°F for 45 minutes until they’re soft. To serve, she spreads the jammy tomatoes over toast or grilled chicken.

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