Fresh vs Dried Herbs and Ground vs Whole Spices

Incorporating herbs and spices into your dishes enhances flavor and helps you develop unique spins on typical salads, soups, appetizers, and entrees. However, using herbs and spices optimally requires knowing which herbs are better fresh or dried for your culinary creations and how to switch from fresh to dry herbs and from whole to ground spices. We’ve created a guide below so you can convert herbs and spices properly and best choose between fresh or dried herbs and whole or ground spices for your dishes and kitchen cabinets.

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Person holding fresh herbs with bowls filled with whole spices

Fresh vs Dried Herbs

Herbs that are better when fresh include soft, tender, and leafy herbs such as basil and cilantro. On the other hand, woody herbs, such as oregano and rosemary, provide great flavor when dry. Below is a guide that shows which types of herbs are better fresh or dried along with tips for using each.

Fresh Herbs Dried Herbs
How to Use When Cooking
  • Best when used to finish a dish
  • Add towards the end of cooking
  • Crush with fingers when adding to release oils and increase flavor
  • Best when used with oil, butter, fat, or water in order to infuse liquid with flavor
  • Add at beginning of cooking or at least 20 minutes before the end
Type of Herb to Use Use soft, tender, leafy herbs fresh Use woody herbs dry
Common Examples Basil, dill, cilantro, mint, parsley Bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, thyme

You can easily use the majority of herbs in both their fresh and dry forms. While some herbs may be better fresh or dry, both forms will still provide flavor and zest when added correctly to your dishes.

Fresh to Dry Herb Conversion

Dried oregano in a bowl next to fresh parsley

To convert a quantity of fresh herbs to the corresponding amount of dried flaky herbs, follow the below formula:

  • 3-to-1 ratio of fresh to dry
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh herb = 1 tsp of dried herb

Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor than fresh herbs, so less is required when cooking.

Fresh to Ground Dried Herb Conversion

While many people use finely ground spices, people use dried, flaky, leafy herbs more often than finely ground herbs. However, if you are working with a finely ground herb, follow the below conversions:

  • 4-to-1 ratio fresh to ground dried or 1 Tbsp fresh = 3/4 tsp ground dried
  • 6-to-1 ratio dried leaf herb to ground dried herb or 1 Tbsp of dried leaf herb = 1/2 tsp of ground dried herb

Dried ground herbs are more concentrated than dried flaky herbs, so even less is required.

Fresh to Dry to Ground Herb Conversions

The majority of herbs can be converted from fresh to dry using the 3 to 1 ratio and from fresh to ground using the 4 to 1 ratio. However, there are some exceptions which are shown in the chart below.

Herb Fresh Dried Ground
Most herbs, such as cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme 1 Tbsp 1 tsp 3/4 tsp
Basil 2 tsp 1 tsp 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf 1 leaf 1 leaf 1/4 tsp
Parsley 2 tsp 1 tsp 1/2 tsp
Sage 2 tsp 1 tsp 1/2 tsp

Whole Spices vs Ground Spices

Ground spices in a bowl next to whole spices

Ground spices tend to lose their strength over time. On the other hand, you can grind whole spices right when you need them, giving you freshly ground spices and a stronger flavor. Spices have their freshest and most robust taste right after they are ground, so keeping whole spices around can lead to more flavorful dishes.

Unlike herbs, you will find most spices at the store already dried, as they come from the root, stem, seed, fruit, flower, or bark of the tree or plant. Herbs typically come from the green, leafy part of a plant.

How to Convert Whole Spices to Ground

You will find most spices in powders, but a fair share can be stored in their whole form and ground at home. If a recipe calls for ground spices and you have whole spices on hand, follow our guide below to know how much whole spice you need to grind.

Spice Whole Ground
Allspice 1 tsp 1 tsp
Black pepper 1 tsp 1½ tsp
Cardamom Approximately 12 pods, dehusked 1 tsp
Cinnamon 1 stick (1½-inch) 1 tsp
Cloves 1 tsp 3/4 tsp
Coriander 1 tsp 1 1/4 tsp
Cumin 1 tsp 1 1/4 tsp
Fennel 1 tsp 1 1/4 tsp
Ginger 1 Tbsp fresh ginger 1/4 - 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg 1/2 nutmeg 1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1 tsp 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1 Tbsp fresh turmeric 1 tsp

While some people may estimate, it is worthwhile to know the exact measurements. This way, you will avoid grinding too much of your whole spices and can conserve them to grind fresh spices for future culinary creations.

Consider the fresh peppery taste of basil on a tomato mozzarella sandwich, the woodsy, savory flavor of rosemary chicken, or the earthy touch of nutmeg in a sweet butternut squash soup. Many dishes wouldn't be complete or as flavorful without the help of herbs and spices. Nature helps you get creative in the kitchen, and you can even try incorporating plants into your signature drinks as well.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|Recipes|By Hannah Herrera
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