16 culinary Herbs you must know

Depending on which part of the world you’re from, you probably are already familiar with some herbs.

Here, in Mumbai, the culinary scene has changed a lots over the past couple of years. Our supermarkets are stuffed with lot of stuff we don’t know about. On my last trip I noticed so many new herbs, but I didn’t really know much about them.  So this is an effort to get familiar with herbs, to identify and learn more about their usage.

For ease of understanding, I have grouped them into 3 categories – Indian, Oriental and Continental.

I. Indian Herbs


Coriander / Cilantro

1. Coriander:  Indian cuisine is incomplete without this herb. From adding flavour to garnishing this herb is found commonly in Indian markets.

curry leaves

Curry leaves

2. Curry leaves:  Used very often to add a tadka (tempering), these leaves are also ground and used for making a lot of dried masalas.


Bay leaves

3. Bay leaves: Mostly used in the dried form for most Indian meat dishes.



4. Mint: You will spot these in salads. But did you know they are also used in main course like Biryani.



5. Dill:  Used in salads also with a side dish of lentils.

II. Oriental Flavours

lemon grass

Lemon Grass

6. Lemon Grass and 7. Kaffir Lime: These impart classical asian flavours.

kaffir lime

Kaffir Lime leaves

III. Continental Flavours



8. Rosemary: Has a strong flavour.  Just toss a little bit of these with your French fries.



9. Thyme: Did you know thyme forms the main ingredient in Za’atar? A lot of chicken casseroles are incomplete without thyme.



10. Sage: With mild peppery flavour, it is mostly used in Middle Eastern cuisine.



11. Tarragon: Found commonly in French cuisine. Goes well with chicken, fish and egg dishes.



12. Basil: Used in Italian cuisine. Yes, Pizzas and Pastas. There are different types of basil, so do not confuse this with the local ‘tulsi



13. Chives: Partners well with cheese. It goes with pork in stir fries as well.

parsley flat leaft

Flat leaf parsley

14. Parsley: 2 prominent types are the flat leaves and the one with curled up leaves. Often confused with cilantro/coriander but the flavours are quite different.

curled up parsley

Curled-up parsley

lemon balm

Lemon Balm

15. Lemon Balm: Belongs to the mint family but has a lemony flavour.



16. Oregano: This again is used in Italian dishes mostly in its dried form. See those little sachets that come along with your next pizza ordered.

You will find a lot of recipes using these herbs online and offline. You can find recipes for a  specific herb using the search option here – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/

What’s next? Herbs have traditionally been used in sweet or savoury dishes. Recently, innovative foodies are finding interesting ways of using herbs.

1. Herbs steeped in alcohol..like rosemary steeped vodka.

2. Herbed butter/oils. Flavours of herbs infused in regular butter/oil. e.g: Basil oil.

3. Herb flavoured cupcakes – the cake or frosting is infused with flavours of different herbs. e.g: Kaffir lime flavoured frosting for cupcakes.


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