Herbal Dictionary: A Comprehensive Resource for the Home Kitchen

Learn more about the qualities and uses of the most commonly used herbs in the kitchen through this herbal dictionary.

Herbal Dictionary: A Comprehensive Resource for the Home Kitchen
Herbal Dictionary: A Practical Guide to the Use of Herbs in the Kitchen. Photo by Angèle Kamp / Unsplash

For flavoring, wrapping, stewing, infusions, and cocktails or included raw in salads, experiment with this variety of herbs that you can easily find in the markets. Learn about the qualities and uses of the most commonly used herbs in the kitchen through this herb dictionary.


There are approximately 60 different varieties. This plant, originally from Asia, has a slightly spicy, fresh, and anise flavor. It is used to flavor pasta, sauces, salads, and oils.


Citrus flavor, herbal and fresh, many dishes include moles, marinades, sauces, broths, ceviche, soups, and guacamole. Fresh and chopped, it is an essential complement to various tacos.


Its thin, intense green leaves have a citric, slightly anise flavor. It is used in central, eastern, and northern European cuisines. It is basic to prepare gravlax, terrines, and salads.


With dark green sawed leaves, it has a pronounced pungent flavor with a citric touch; it is an indispensable plant in Mexican cuisine. It flavors soups, beans, sauces, tamales, and stews.


Its aroma and flavor are similar to those of anise. It is used in small quantities because it has a spicy taste, similar to pepper. Fresh, it flavors salads; dried, it dresses meats, butter, and vinaigrettes.


With lanceolate leaves of an attractive intense green color, it is very aromatic, with a fresh taste and smell, similar to mint. It is used to flavor salads, broths, meats, fish, and beverages.


With an intensely sweet flavor, it is one of the most consumed spices on its own or in salads. Very common in Italian cuisine, it is used to flavor sauces and pasta. It is also served braised, fried in butter, or baked-on meats.

Holy leaf

Also called acuyo or momo, it is native to Mexico and grows in humid places. Heart-shaped, with anise flavor and aroma, it is used to season barbecues, tamales, fish, pipianes, and moles.


From the Mediterranean region. Its hard and elongated leaves of intense flavor, sweet and spicy, are used in small quantities to flavor sauces, broths, stews, pâtés, and terrines. It should be removed after cooking.


Small light green leaves with menthol and sweet taste. It is used in the preparation of sauces in European and Asian cuisines. It goes very well with fish, lamb, legumes, and vinaigrettes.


Small dark green leaves, very aromatic, slightly spicy, and fresh. It is used in the preparation of stews, salads, and liqueurs, it is also very useful in confectionery and pastry.


In Mexico, it grows wild and of a very different variety than in other countries. Its light bitter touch enhances all kinds of meats, especially kid, poultry, and fish; it is perfect in pasta and pizza sauces.


Aromatic and with a strong acid taste. Only the leaves are consumed, without the stalk, to freshen the breath and reduce the unctuous sensations of the meat. Common in the cuisine of the center, it is used in guacamoles, quesadillas, and tacos.


Of Mediterranean origin, it is believed to be the most used herb in the world's cuisines. It is used to flavor soups and broths and, due to its intense tonality, in the preparation of some green moles.


Similar in taste to the papalo, but more delicate. It is abundant during the rainy season. It is added chopped to guacamoles and sauces; it accompanies tacos placeros, barbacoa, and carnitas. In Oaxaca it is added to sopa de guías and mole de chivo.


Its elongated leaves of white and green color, of intense smell and menthol and citric flavor, perfume sauces, game, poultry, pork, and beef. It goes well with tomato sauces and baked fish.


Rough and spicy flavor; due to its strong aroma it is usually combined with fatty foods. It is common in Italian cuisine, where it is used to season pork, lamb, fatty cheeses, vinaigrettes, and butter.


It has small grayish-green leaves with an earthy and slightly spicy flavor that are used in dishes with long cooking such as stews, broths, and braises. It also flavors liqueurs and infusions.

Chef's Tips

Take note of some recommendations for preserving and using herbs.

Keep them well: Except for pipicha and papalo, which oxidize quickly and should be consumed the same day, the rest can be kept refrigerated for a week in an airtight container with damp paper in the base.

Make your vegetable garden: Aromatic herbs are easily grown on balconies, windowsills, or terraces. Start with thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and epazote, which are the friendliest.

Dry them: Open the bunches so that the humidity evaporates; spread them on absorbent paper or newspaper in a dry and warm place for a week and store them in airtight containers away from light.

Don't throw herbs away: If you have leftover cilantro or parsley, chop and mix with oil and salt for marinades for red or white meats; blend to make creams, or add to your salads, to give a touch of freshness.