Herbs commonly used in savory cooking can lend a powerful and unique taste to your desserts. Featured below are five herbs that pair well with a variety of sweet flavors, which you can find at your farmer’s market, nursery, or grocery store.
5 of Our Favorite Herbs to Use in Desserts
Get started with these tips on how to bake sweet treats with herbs, but remember: only your imagination sets your limits.
1. Rosemary – Pair with Fruit and Chocolate
This piney perennial herb is common in Mediterranean cuisine. While often used in bread or to flavor meats, rosemary adds an herbal punch to sweets when used judiciously.
Rosemary complements citrus and other fruits. Flavor your Thanksgiving apple pie with a couple of rosemary sprigs, or infuse the whipped cream with rosemary to serve with a berry shortcake, fruit salad, or lemon tart.
2. Lavender – Lovely with Lemon, Berries, and Teas
This favorite aromatherapy herb delivers a zing to sweets while evoking memories of Provencal country cuisine. Lavender, best used in small doses, gives baked goods a peppery, herby kick. Too much can make your food taste soapy.
Lavender naturally complements lemon, so toss a few buds into your next batch of homemade lemonade or when you bake lavender lemon shortbreads. Lavender also pairs well with berries and tea flavors. Drizzle a lavender glaze on berry scones.
3. Thyme – Bake into Sweet Treats
Thyme is another savory staple that enriches baked foods.
The citrus thymes such as lemon or lime work especially well when adding fresh herbs in desserts.
Thyme pairs well with most fruits, whether it’s strawberry shortcake with thyme biscuits or a peach-thyme jelly. For an easy way to use up extra thyme, blend it with butter to serve on mashed potatoes or spread on mixed-berry muffins.
Try this recipe from the Floating Kitchen – Lemon Thyme Pie Bars.
4. Lemon or Rose Scented Geranium – Steep in Liquids, Cream, and Teas
Scented geraniums perfume the garden, and they’ll do the same for baked goods.
Lemon geranium adds citrus flavor (and keeps the mosquitos away) while rose geranium adds a rose aroma.
Since scented geraniums are tough to eat, you should treat them as you would tea leaves, i.e., capture their scent in the liquid called for by your recipe. If you steep scented geranium leaves in cream, for example, you can make homemade ice cream or pannacotta topped with summer berries.
Try this recipe from Taste of Home: Citrus-Scented Geranium Cookies.
5. Lemon Verbena – Infuse Into Syrups and Sugars
This tender perennial blends mint and herb flavors.
As with scented geranium, the leaves are too tough to eat. Try infusing lemon verbena into sugar syrups and jams or creating herbal teas to pair with fruit desserts. You also can use a spice grinder to blend lemon verbena leaves with sugar, which you then can use for cakes, cookies, and more.
Final Thoughts On Using Herbs In Desserts
Use fresh herbs when they are in season and pair with other fresh ingredients that are growing. During winter, use dried herbs to give your baked goods a summery kick. As your kitchen confidence grows, branch out to other herbs or find unexpected uses for old favorites.