What is a chiffonade, exactly? And how do you do it? This simple knife cut is basically just a way to make thin slices with a time-saving trick built into the technique, and it’s easy to master.
When it comes to knife skills, most home cooks don’t need to know all the fancy French cuts (looking at you, tournée). But being able to chiffonade basil, mint, other herbs, and larger leaves like lettuce and kale, comes in handy for sautes, soups, and garnishes:
8-Inch Chef's Knife, $89 at Made In
A good sharp knife is essential.
Related Reading: 8 Great Knives to Make You Look Sharp in the Kitchen
What Is a Chiffonade?
You may have seen “a chiffonade of basil” in a recipe or on a menu description and wondered what the heck that even means.
Literally, chiffonade means “rags” in French—and a chiffonade cut looks like long, thin strips of fabric.
Let former Chowhound Food Editor Aida Mollenkamp show you how it’s done:
How to Chiffonade:
1. Make sure your knife is sharp. A dull knife won’t slice easily through the greens; instead, it will crush and bruise them.
2. If your greens have a thick, tough rib (as is often the case with kale, chard, or mature spinach), remove that first. Toss it in the compost or save for veggie stock—or, in some recipes, you can chop the rib into smaller pieces and saute along with the other veggies.
3. Stack several leaves together and roll them up into a cylinder. It should be rolled up fairly tight, but if you’re working with a whole bunch of kale, don’t try to roll all the leaves at once.
4. Starting from one short end of the cylinder (so, with your knife blade perpendicular to the cylinder), slice into thin rounds along the full length. You can make your slices close together for super thin strips, or more widely spaced for thicker strips. Once the whole cylinder has been sliced, separate the strips with your fingers.
Here are some examples of chiffonade cuts on the plate (or in the bowl):
A delicate flurry of basil chiffonade provides the finishing touch for a classic French ratatouille, a perfect way to showcase summer vegetables. Get our Ratatouille recipe.
A chiffonade cut makes thin ribbons of kale that are great for turning into salad; they get massaged with olive oil and salt, then tossed with a garlic-Dijon dressing, sweet cherry tomatoes, salty feta cheese, and scallions. Get our Shredded Kale Salad recipe. Try the same technique for our Kale Apple Coleslaw recipe.
Kale’s cousins in the hearty greens family also take well to the chiffonade technique. Here, chard strips freshen up a pantry-friendly soup with canned tomatoes and chickpeas. Get our Roasted Tomato, Chickpea, and Swiss Chard Soup recipe.
This looks like another chiffonade of basil, which is a classic way to garnish pasta, but it’s actually fresh mint—an unexpectedly delicious counterpart to nutty browned butter, spicy lamb sausage, and sharp cheese in this dish from Chris Santos’ “Share” cookbook. Get the Rigatoni recipe with Lamb Merguez and Ricotta Salata. (And note: A chiffonade of mint is also an excellent way to top our Grilled Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint recipe.)
A super fine chiffonade of sage caps off this autumnal pumpkin pasta. No matter what you’re cutting, you can adjust the width of your slices to make them as fine or as thick as you like. Get our Pumpkin Tortelloni with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds recipe.