I used to have a bad habit of buying herbs, using a small amount, and leaving the rest to wilt in my fridge. But then one day I had a thought: Instead of throwing the herbs away, what if I blended them all up into an easy herb sauce? As it turns out, this was a brilliant idea.
Homemade herb sauce has so many uses, and now, I keep some in my fridge year-round.
Herb sauce isn’t anything new: Cooks around the world have been making some version of a green, herby sauce to liven up their dishes for years. Think of the great herb sauces in history: chimichurri, pesto, chermoula, salsa verde, gremolata, and so many more. It’s an extra infusion of flavor that brightens up almost any dish.
Here’s how to make your own.
How to Make an Herb Sauce With Whatever’s in Your Fridge
The best part about this sauce is that you don’t need a ratio or a specific recipe. Every herb sauce is one-of-a-kind! To make your own, simply follow these guidelines.
1. Start with tender herbs. Any tender herb and stems such as parsley and cilantro will work. Mint leaves can be used, but not the stems. Avoid woody, heartier herbs, like rosemary, sage, and thyme. They don’t blend well, and their intense flavors can take over the whole sauce. For those sensitive to licorice flavors, be mindful when using tarragon leaves and chervil—too much and they can overwhelm your sauce. (But if you like ’em, use ’em!)
2. Add fat and acid. I usually blend my herb sauce with olive oil, but a flavorless all-purpose oil works too. Just drizzle it in until you’ve reached a sauce-like consistency. The fat carries the flavor, and helps when marinating food. I also add lemon juice or vinegar to brighten things up, and sometimes, I’ll add capers or preserved lemon.
3. Toss in some alliums. I always add tender alliums to bring balance to the sauce, whether it be garlic, chives, scallions, ramps, green garlic, black garlic, or garlic scapes. Alliums are used as the aromatic base of most cooked recipes, so I apply that same logic here.
4. Season with salt. This is important! The salt brings all the flavors together and creates a sauce that will lift up most dishes.
My other rule of thumb? Consider what’s in season! In my house, I purchase parsley, cilantro, dill, chives, and scallions year-round, so some combination of those forms the base of my sauce. Then, I adjust based on the season. In the spring, I add ramps and green garlic. In the summer, I add garlic scapes, and oftentimes mint creeps in to add a cooling quality. Mint pairs so nicely with spring and summer produce (think: mint and peas and lamb).
All the Ways to Use Your Herb Sauce
To store your finished herb sauce, place a piece of plastic over the surface of the sauce to keep it from oxidizing as quickly, then stick it in the fridge. Then, put it to use all week long.
- Use it as a marinade for meat or tofu.
- Add ramen noodles, toss to coat, and make fried ramen.
- Stir it into risotto for an herby twist.
- Drizzle it over roasted potatoes.
- Stir it into potato salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad.
- Use it to dress up hummus or mayo.
- Add it to salad dressings (homemade or store-bought).
- Serve with beans (warm or cold).
- Stir it into creamy polenta.
- Serve it as a sauce for lamb, steak, or fish.
- Add it to soups or broth.
- Serve it with eggs (scrambled or fried!).
- Freeze it in small cubes for an instant flavor blast.
So here’s my challenge to you: At the end of the week, don’t toss out your wilted herbs. Give them new life by making an herb sauce. It takes mere minutes, and it will lend an extra layer of flavor to everything you’re eating.
Amelia Rampe is studio food editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2021 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.