Dried Rosemary Vs. Fresh: SPICEography Showdown

Dried rosemary and fresh rosemary are two forms of the same pungent, resinous herb. Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant with narrow, needle-like leaves and that belongs to the same family as mint and thyme. If you want to learn more about how the dried herb compares to the fresh, read the SPICEography Showdown below.

How does dried rosemary differ from fresh rosemary?

Dried rosemary tastes different from fresh. The drying process intensifies the main flavor and scent notes by removing most of the water in the plant, which reduces the size and much of the mass. The result is that a smaller amount of dried rosemary by weight contains more of the oils responsible for the herb’s scent and flavor. While its flavor might not be as intense, fresh rosemary often has a brighter and more complex scent and flavor than the dried version.

Drying also affects the texture of the herb. With less water in them, dried rosemary leaves and stems are harder and woodier than those of fresh rosemary.

Dried rosemary looks very different from fresh rosemary. Like other dried herbs, dried rosemary loses the bright green that it had when fresh. The dried leaves are also smaller than the fresh ones.

If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?

Because dried rosemary retains most of the flavor and scent of fresh rosemary, it can work in many of the same recipes. What might be a problem in some dishes is that dried rosemary doesn’t soften that much during cooking. You might find yourself having to deal with hard bits of rosemary leaves and stems in your food. You can get around this in a couple of ways.

One is to try to remove the rosemary from the dish before serving it — this will be difficult in some dishes — or you can grind your dried rosemary to a fine powder using a spice grinder. Keep in mind that dried rosemary is about three times as strong as fresh rosemary. When substituting it for fresh rosemary, use a third of what your recipe requires.

Fresh rosemary is a decent substitute for dried rosemary, but you will have to use more to make up for the somewhat muted flavor. Replace the dried rosemary in a recipe with three times as much fresh rosemary. It is soft enough that you can chop it finely, or you can use a bouquet garni. Both methods will keep you from having to deal with rosemary leaves floating around in your dish.

When should you use dried rosemary, and when should you use fresh rosemary?

Dried rosemary is best for cooked applications since it takes exposure to heat and moisture to get the herb to release its flavorful oils. The longer the dish is cooked, the more of the rosemary flavor is released, so the dried herb is best for stews and braised meats as well as soups. Dried rosemary also works in herbed breads. Grind it to a powder for dry rubs for use on meat.

Fresh rosemary will work just fine in most of the dishes that require dried rosemary even though you can’t grind it to a powder. You can chop fresh rosemary leaves and mix them with butter to make herbed butter. Use sprigs of fresh rosemary with lamb or pork on the grill. It is also a great accompaniment for oily fish.