How to Chop Herbs

Whether it's a spoonful or a sprinkle, fresh herbs add great taste and unmistakable freshness to all kinds of recipes. We’ll show you the best way to chop fresh herbs, including the right kitchen knives for the task and other tools perfect for chopping herbs.

Rub a sprig of fresh herb between your fingers and take a whiff. This gives you an idea of the vibrant flavor you're in for when adding fresh chopped herbs to recipes. Better yet, while herbs used to be a summer-only pleasure, now they’re available in markets year-round. Whether you grow your own herbs, pick them up at the farmers market, or buy them from a grocery store, you can count on them to freshen up your cooking. And you can count on us to show you how to chop thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano, and any other herb under the sun!

Washing and Drying Herbs Before Using

Before chopping herbs, thoroughly rinse fresh herbs under cool water and pat dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner to wash, drain, and dry them.

Fresh Herb Tip: This is no time to skip a step: Drying herbs before chopping them is essential—otherwise chopped herbs cling to your kitchen knives, your hands, cutting boards, measuring cups and spoons—you get the idea!

How to Strip the Leaves from the Stems

Unless otherwise specified in your recipe, remove and discard any tough stems from the herb before chopping.

  • For basil, parsley, or dill, simply cut away and discard the tough bottom parts of the stems with a knife (the stems closer to the leaves are usually thin and tender enough to use).
  • For large-leafed herbs, such as sage, mint, and basil, simply pluck the leaves off the tough stems and discard the stems.
  • For thyme, rosemary, and other herbs with small leaves and woody stems, remove the leaves by holding onto the stem with one hand then stripping the leaves into a bowl using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand.

Tip: For thyme: Once you’ve removed the leaves from the stems of thyme, you’ll often find that the leaves are so small they don’t need chopping, unless otherwise specified in your recipe.

How to Chop Fresh Herbs with Scissors

An easy way to cut larger fresh herbs is to place the leaves in a measuring cup or bowl and snip them with kitchen scissors, using short, quick strokes. For herbs with tough stems, such as rosemary, strip the leaves from the stems first as directed above. The scissors method is the best way to chop fresh herbs for quick cleanup and for easy dumping into recipes.

Tip: Wondering how to chop herbs in a food processor? This method works best when you’re combining the herbs with other ingredients (such as olive oil) to make a paste. Otherwise, it’s easy for herbs to go from perfectly chopped to overly minced in seconds.

How to Chop Fresh Herbs with Kitchen Knives

You can also chop fresh herbs using the superstar in your kitchen knives collection: the chef's knife. Choose a knife size that feels like it fits best in your hand. Place the herbs on a cutting surface. Using a rocking motion from the tip to the heel of the knife, chop the herbs to the desired size.The knife method is the best way to chop fresh herbs when you have a large amount to cut.

How to Choose and Store Fresh Herbs

Choose herbs that have fresh-looking leaves without brown spots. Since most herbs are highly perishable, purchase them as you need them. Or consider keeping a few pots of herbs on a sunny windowsill or growing them in your garden.

To store fresh herbs, cut ½ inch from the bottoms of the stems. Stand the herbs in a jar of water. The fresh cut allows the herbs to drink up more of the water. Loosely cover the leaves with a plastic bag. Store the herbs in the refrigerator, with the exception of basil, which fares better when stored at room temperature since it tends to blacken when chilled. Pull off and discard wilted leaves as they appear.

How to Chiffonade Fresh Herbs

In French, "chiffonade" means "made of rags." In culinary terms, it refers to thin, ragged strips of fresh herb or lettuce. Cutting herbs into a chiffonade is not only attractive but also helps release flavor. The technique also makes quick work of chopping. 

Tip: Which of your kitchen knives should you use to slice up a chiffonade? While we prefer a chef’s knife, a small sharp knife will work—use whichever feels most comfortable in your hand.

How to chiffonade:

  1. Time it right—to best preserve the flavor, you should chiffonade an herb just before using it. Begin by stacking the herb. Starting at a long edge of the stack, roll the leaves up.
  2. With a chefs knife or a small, sharp knife, slice the roll into thin strips, about 1/8 inch or thinner.
  3. When you're done, you'll have a small pile of herb ribbons.

Drying Herbs to Store

Got more fresh herbs than you can use? Drying herbs is a great way to preserve them for a later use. While there are a few approaches to drying herbs, hanging them in bundles is the simplest method. Here’s how to do it:

  • Gather three to six branches together and secure the stems with string, yarn, or a rubber band.
  • Hang the bundles upside down in a dry, dark place (sunlight robs color, fragrance, and flavor). A well-ventilated attic or basement works well. Your herbs will be fully dry within a few weeks, probably less.
  • Make sure the plants are brittle, then remove the leaves and store them in airtight jars or bags.

How to Crush and Use Dried Herbs

  • Crushing dried herbs helps to release their aromatic oils and bring out the flavor. This is easy to do. Just before using, place the dried herb in a mortar and gently grind briefly with a pestle. Or place the herb in the palm of your hand and press and rub it with the thumb of your other hand. You can also rub the herb between the thumb and two fingers of one hand.
  • To substitute a dried herb for fresh, use about one-third the amount of dried herb for the fresh herb called for in the recipe (for example, substitute 1 teaspoon dried herb for 1 tablespoon snipped fresh herb). 
  • Add dried herb to a recipe at the beginning of the cooking time to allow the flavors to seep into the dish.

5 Quick Ways to Use Chopped Fresh Herbs

  1. Sprinkle snipped cilantro atop tortilla soup, chili, or tacos before serving.
  2. Toss steamed broccoli or asparagus with melted butter seasoned with snipped fresh thyme leaves.
  3. Combine snipped fresh rosemary, minced garlic, salt, ground black pepper, and olive oil; brush atop steaks before grilling or onto chicken before roasting.
  4. Garnish omelets, pasta dishes, or vegetable soup with snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley just before serving.
  5. Toss sliced strawberries with a chiffonade of mint leaves and a spoonful of sugar for a light dessert.

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