I love to cook with fresh herbs and spices whenever I can; however, on long camping trips, sometimes it’s just not practical to pack and store a bunch of fresh herbs. Can you substitute dried herbs for fresh? In most cases, you can and the conversion of fresh to dried is super simple.
On the flip side, if you have a recipe that calls for dried herbs and you’d like to use fresh instead, it’s easy to substitute fresh herbs for dried herbs using this same conversion.
When cooking with fresh and dried herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you’ll need less so the ratio of fresh to dry is approximately 3:1 or 3 portions of fresh herbs to 1 portion of dried herbs. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, you need only 1 teaspoon of dried, since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon.
For the most part, this ratio works for all herbs across the board; however, there are a few where the ratio needs to be adjusted or they have their own, unique conversions.
Basil: 2 teaspoons finely chopped basil (about 5 leaves) = 1 teaspoon dried basil
Bay Leaves: 1 fresh leaf = 2 dried leaves
Garlic: 1 clove = 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Ginger: 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger = 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
Onion: 1 medium onion = 1 teaspoon onion powder or 2 tablespoons dehydrated minced onion (to rehydrate minced onion, soak in twice as much cold water for about 10 minutes then drain)
Parsley: 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley (about 3 sprigs) = 1 teaspoon dried parsley
Sage: 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage (about 7 leaves) = 1 teaspoon dried sage
And, just like the pirate’s code, these are “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” It is always important to use your taste buds and adjust the seasoning when necessary. Add the minimum amounts; let them work in for a few minutes and taste. You can always add more, but if you over season at the start, it’s hard to back it down.
In most cases, you can substitute dried herbs in recipes that call for fresh herbs; however, there are some exceptions. If a fresh herb is a focal point of the dish or the main component, then it is not a good idea to use the dried version. For example pesto, which requires large amounts of fresh basil leaves, cannot be made with dried basil.
It also matters if the herb is going in the dish or on top of the dish. When I make my scalloped potatoes, I sprinkle dried parsley in between the layers of potatoes and béchamel, but if I want to sprinkle some parsley on top before I serve then I would definitely want to use fresh.
Dried herbs tend to do best if they’re added during cooking so their flavor has time to infuse the whole dish. Fresh herbs are best when used at the end of cooking, to finish a dish. This way the flavors are still fresh and bright when you start serving. I also like to use fresh herbs in sauces, salad dressings, and other quick dishes since dried herbs don’t have enough time to really infuse these kinds of dishes.
Whether you’re using fresh or dried herbs, packing and storing your herbs for camp is really not that hard. Fresh-cut herbs can be wrapped in a paper towel, stored in resealable plastic bags, and then put into the cooler. Place them on top or, if your cooler has a tray, put them there. You don’t want them to get crushed by the ice or other foods. Dried herbs should be stored out of the light and in a cool, dry place. So a clear plastic tote sitting in direct sunlight is not the smartest choice for your dried herbs.
Being able to cook with herbs, fresh or dried, allows for more scratch cooking possibilities in camp. You’ve heard me say this many times: For the most part, whatever you can make in your home kitchens can be made in your camp kitchens. Sometimes you just have to be a little creative and figure out how to do that.
So, get outside and cook something delicious!
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