Cooking With Mint: The Dos And Don’ts

Mint is an ancient herb that provides one of the most popular flavor profiles. Along with its flavoring benefits, it is an effective medicine that you can use to treat multiple ailments. Like any other flavorful ingredient, it can make or break a dish depending on how well you use it. Below are some of the rules for using mint correctly.

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Do take advantage of mint’s versatility.

Mint can be used in raw and cooked preparations and in both savory and sweet ones. Feel free to experiment with this herb in everything from sauces (like mint pesto) to desserts (like chocolate mint ice cream.) A quick search online will bring up many mint recipes to explore this herb’s culinary versatility.

In addition to its use in foods, it is a great addition to beverages. Many cocktails (like the popular mint julip and mojito) use fresh mint leaves as the principal flavoring ingredient and it is great for making tea. Mint tea not only tastes delicious, it also has many health benefits, including aiding digestion, relieving an upset stomach, and reducing bloating.

Do learn the difference between the main types of mint.

In the United States, the main mints are spearmint and peppermint. Both of these provide familiar flavors, but those flavors are dramatically different from each other. Spearmint is a milder mint that is used in classic preparations like mint jelly and in salads. It is also the mint that shows up most often in the mojito cocktail. Peppermint is a much more pungent mint because of its high menthol content. Its menthol concentration is why it is often used as a medicine. You can make it into a tea that is useful for treating digestive and respiratory ailments.

–> Learn More: Spearmint Vs. Peppermint – How Do They Compare?

There are also all sorts of other types of mint. See below to learn of a few:

Do muddle mint the right way.

The process of muddling may seem foolproof, but there is actually a right way to do it and a wrong way. When you muddle mint for cocktails, you will want to use a tool designed for the purpose called a muddler. Using a muddler can help to keep you from muddling the mint too much. The idea is to bruise the leaves lightly, not mash them to a paste. Muddling mint too much can make the drink taste bitter because of the excessive amounts of chlorophyll that will get released.

You should also muddle mint leaves in the glass that you will use to serve the drink. For a mojito, place the mint leaves at the bottom of the glass before adding sugar. Press the muddler against them lightly and twist gently a few times.

Do know which vegetables pair well with mint.

Mint is a versatile herb that pairs well with many vegetables. Some popular options include peas, cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes. Mint can add a refreshing and cooling element to dishes, making it a great addition to green salads, vegetable soups, and roasted vegetables.

Do know which herbs and spices pair well with mint.

Mint has a fresh and aromatic flavor that pairs well with a variety of herbs and spices. Some of the best herbs to pair with mint include basil, cilantro, parsley, and thyme. These herbs have a natural affinity with mint and complement its flavor profile perfectly. Mint also pairs well with spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel, which add depth and complexity to its flavor. Other spices that work well with mint include cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, which add warmth and sweetness to the herb. 

Do preserve mint using the right methods.

As with other fresh herbs in the mint family, you have many options for storing your mint. The easiest way is simply to store them like fresh flowers in your refrigerator. Place the sprigs upright in a container of water, how you would place flowers in a vase. A narrow container like a drinking glass is a great option. Other options include hanging the sprigs to air dry them or drying them using a food dehydrator.

You can freeze fresh mint as well. Place chopped mint leaves in an ice cube tray and fill the compartments with water. Freeze and place the cubes in a resealable plastic bag for easy access. When you need to use mint, just add one of these cubes to your dish or beverage.

Do make a mint infusion for even greater flexibility.

An infusion of mint can offer an even greater array of options for using the herb. You can drizzle it over fruit or add it to a beverage. It can give you the mint flavor without pieces of the herb.

Don’t use peppermint as a 1:1 substitute for spearmint.

Peppermint’s high menthol concentration can make dishes formulated to use spearmint unpalatable.