If you want your cooking to be packed with flavor, you’re going to need herbs. And while dried herbs certainly have a place in the kitchen, nothing beats the bright, nuanced aromas you’ll get from fresh ones.
Whether you want to try your hand at growing them yourself or buy them from your local greengrocers, flavor-packed herbs are the number one way to take your cooking to the next level.
As herbs vary in shape and size and are used in different dishes, it’s useful to know the best way to chop each one. Here’s our advice on how to chop and slice herbs without bruising them. We’ll be covering leafy and thin herbs, and we’ll also tell you how to store them.
Before you begin, ensure any washed herbs are dried thoroughly and choose a sharp knife. If there’s one thing you should remember in your herb preparation, it’s to use the sharpest knife in your drawer. It will help you slice through your herbs without pressing down on them — the main reason that herbs bruise!
Leafy herbs (parsley, oregano, cilatnro)
When chopping parsley, you’ll need to remove any tough stems and fold as many leaves into a bundle as possible. Then, with your finger tips pointed inward (to prevent any injuries!), slice along the parsley in a rocking motion. If you want it finely chopped, you can cut in a crisscross until you’re happy with the size.
To prepare oregano, start by removing the leaves from the stem. Do this by holding the stem and stripping back the leaves against the direction of growth. As with oregano, you’ll then want to bundle the leaves together as tightly as possible. Chop through the leaves, working along the bundle from one end to the other. You can decide whether you’d like a fine or thick chop, and cut accordingly.
Before chopping up cilantro, check your bundle for any discolored leaves. Then, decide how much of the step you want to discard. If you just want the leaves for garnishing, you might get rid of most of it. If you’re cooking up a curry or stew, the stems (which hold a lot of flavor) will be a great addition to the mix. When scattering onto cooked food for an extra dash of taste and aroma, chop the cilantro leaves into rough chunks. If you want the herb to blend into your cooking, mince it into small pieces.
Large leafy herbs (basil & mint)
Basil leaves make a wonderful garnish for homemade pastas and other authentic Italian dishes. It can add a true Mediterranean touch to the flavor profile of other dishes, too. To chop it, simply roll the leaves together and slice across them (from leaf tip towards the stem) to achieve ribbons.
You can cut basil into thinner slices if you like, but ribbons blend rather nicely into rich tomato-based dishes or bakes that use leafy green vegetables.
To chop mint, you’ll want to create the same sort of ‘roll’. As mint leaves are smaller than basil leaves (so a little more fiddly to work with), try working with fewer leaves at a time. This might mean your prep takes a little longer, but most dishes only require mint in small quantities.
Cutting your herbs by rolling them into this cigar-shaped bundle is known as ‘chiffonade’. It’s a great way to cut most large leafy herbs, so feel free to try it on those similar to basil and mint.
Thin herbs (rosemary & thyme)
Rosemary and thyme require a different chopping technique as you’ll want to avoid their tough stalks. To remove the fragrant leaves from a sprig, hold the top of the sprig and run your fingers in the opposite direction of growth. Gently pull at the leaves to remove them. You might need to repeat this action a few times to get them all.
You can add whole leaves to your cooking if you’re making a hearty stew or herb-centric bake. However, if you’re adding small amounts as subtle seasoning then feel free to sweep the leaves into a pile and chop them even finer.
To chop chives, work with a small bunch at a time. Trying to chop too many herbs at once makes it more difficult to achieve a carefully controlled, consistent chop.
First, take your bunch of chives and cut them in half (across the middle of the chives). Scoop them back into one bunch. Then, in a rocking motion, slice the chives into thin circles. Again, you could use a hachoir blade to help with the rocking motion, but it’s a good idea to go slowly to achieve the thinnest cut possible.
Our Ashden Mezzaluna with Acacia Board set is the ideal tool kit for chopping chives, basil and parsley. With its curved blade, the hachoir even makes light work of chopping tougher herbs like rosemary and thyme. Just ensure the herbs are removed from the stalk before you start chopping!
How to store chopped herbs
While dried herbs can sit in your cupboard for months without losing their flavor, fresh herbs can wilt fast — especially if they’re not stored correctly. If you know you’re not going to use a bunch of fresh herbs, try to cut off the amount that you’ll be chopping up and leave the rest intact. Herb leaves that are still attached to the stems will last longer than small, chopped up pieces. We recommend using our Freshly Cut Herb Keeper Pot, which will keep your chopped herbs fresh for up to 10 days longer than if you just kept them in the fridge.
The best thing you can do to have a constant supply of fresh herbs is to grow a few different herb plants yourself. You’ll be able to cut off what you want, when you want. It not only gives you fresher, more fragrant herbs, but it also reduces waste. To grow healthy herbs with ease, use our Self-Watering Single Potted Herb Keeper Pot.
We hope that this guide will help you make the most out of your fresh herbs. If you bruise your herbs, you can still use them in your cooking. They’ll just turn a less appealing color. Of course, if you’re using your herbs as a garnish, then avoiding bruising is even more important. They’re meant to be appetizing, so keep them looking their best.
Good luck with your chopping!