Whether you’re seasoning chicken or amping up stew, herbs and spices have the ability to elevate any dish’s flavor profile from boring and drab to complex and fab. Take basil, for instance. Spaghetti marinara is essentially pasta and smashed tomatoes without the aromatic herb’s peppery and slightly minty presence. Or how about red cayenne pepper? Good luck bringing the heat to your seafood paella or award-winning chili without it.
Unsurprisingly, many of us are unaware of the differences between herbs and spices, having used the words synonymously while cooking or discussing our favorite foods. We’re here to clear up the distinction, which all boils down to a simple lesson in botany (or herbology, if you’re a wizard).
Herbs are the leaves of the plant (think rosemary, parsley, dill, and oregano), while spices are derived from the seeds, bark, and roots (think pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric). Some plants, like cilantro, can be both (we use the leaves and its coriander seeds), but most serve a single purpose. And there you have it. Now you can sound all kinds of smart and professional the next time you’re in the kitchen.
We’ve rounded up six of our favorite herb and spice-heavy recipes below. Take a stab at them and impress all of your dinner guests.
Herbed Potato Salad
It’s hard to mess up a classic and we adore this mayo-free version that is heavy on flavor and light on added calories. Just be sure to pack a breath mint — this packs a heavy garlic and onion punch! Get the recipe.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Orange, Yogurt and Herbs
A splash of citrus really brings out the herbs, while yogurt tames their zest. It’s the perfect harmony of fresh ingredients. Get the recipe.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Feta and Herbs
Cheese and herbs are a match made in tastebud heaven. You’ve had Boursin, right? If not, head to the grocery store immediately and purchase it. Your life has just begun. Get the recipe.
Spiced Zucchini Muffins
Spices aren’t exclusive to savory entrees. Jazz up a basic dessert by adding simple spices with bold tastes. Get the recipe.
German Mulled Wine
It doesn’t have to be Christmas-time to enjoy this festive cinnamon and clove-based drink. In fact, this would make for an excellent tea or coffee substitute on a rainy summer Sunday. Get the recipe.
Spice-Rubbed Pot Roast
You can’t go wrong with a pot roast when it comes to home-cooked meal night. The only difficulty is predicting how much meat will actually feed and satisfy your hungry family. Get the recipe.