Cooking With Herbes de Provence: The Dos And Don’ts

Herbes de Provence is a blend of herbs and (sometimes) spices that are used in the cuisine of Provence in France. Like most other herb or spice blends, the ingredients used vary so that there is no one flavor profile; instead, its taste depends on the maker’s preferences. Despite the variability, cooks usually choose from the same set of ingredients so that there is some consistency in the flavor profile. You will find that — as with any classic, complex blend — there are rules to how you use it. You follow these rules if you want to get the most from the blend. Here are some of the rules for using herbes de Provence.

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Do use herbes de Provence for a twist on the traditional dry rub for grilling or roasting.

Herbes de Provence provides a flavor profile with many elements that are common in Western cooking but with a less-common element in the form of lavender. Consider the fact that blends usually contain oregano and basil, both of which show up in the Greek and Italian seasoning blends.

Do use herbes de Provence in combination with olive oil.

Herbes de Provence and olive oil pair well as you can see from the fact that most of the herbs are also common in Italian cuisine, which is heavily reliant on olive oil. Use both to coat a chicken for roasting or lamb that you intend to throw on the grill. They are great for soups and stews as well.

Do add dried herbes de Provence early in the cooking process.

Most of the ingredients that will show up in the typical herbes de Provence blend will benefit from long cooking times.

Do experiment with herbes de Provence.

The herbs that you will usually see in the typical blend are all versatile and are often used together. This means that herbes de Provence can work in a large number of savory dishes. Try it in a pizza sauce, for making herbed butter, or in a meatloaf.

Do use herbes de Provence in moderation.

Herbes de Provence can be pretty strong when compared to the flavors of other ingredients in a dish. As a result, you will need to use it with care. One area of concern is its floral component. If you are using a blend that includes lavender, it may seem a little perfumey to many people. If you are not familiar with the flavor profile of herbes de Provence, it is a good idea to use it in small amounts to start out and increase if necessary.

Don’t think that you have to use dried herbes de Provence.

While most of the herbes de Provence that you are likely to encounter will be dried, you can use fresh herbs to make your own. While the dried version brings shelf stability and convenience, the flavors will not be as bright as they would be with fresh herbs.

Don’t think that you need to include lavender.

Lavender is actually a somewhat controversial ingredient. In Provence, it is not considered a traditional culinary herb. Its addition is mainly more about satisfying American perceptions of French cuisine.