5 Mistakes You’re Making with Herbs and Spices

Red Lentil Stew with Cliantro

Fresh Cilantro Truly Makes the Flavors of this Red Lentil Stew Pop


Fresh and dried herbs and spices can take everyday cooking from good to great. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to use herbs and spices in ways that maximize both flavor and health. Here are 5 common mistakes that many people make with seasonings. I’m also sharing my free guide to help you use herbs and spices for flavor and nutrition.

First, you should know that herbs and spices have health-boosting effects beyond simply using them to reduce your sodium intake. Like fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices are loaded with disease-fighting compounds. Though research is just emerging, compounds in herbs and spices likely shield our health in many ways. They may:

  • act as antioxidants
  • act as antimicrobial agents
  • protect against cancer
  • fight pain
  • aid blood sugar control
  • reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • improve blood vessel function

Mistake #1: You shake over a hot pan

Shaking a seasoning bottle over a steamy stew pot or a hot pan of roasting chicken will allow moisture to creep into the bottle. The remaining seasonings will lose flavor, clump together and may lose health benefits. Instead, poor herbs and spices into your hand or use a measuring spoon. My favorite spoons are shaped to fit nicely into a spice jar.using herbs and spices
Be sure to store dried herbs and spices in a cabinet or drawer to keep them from heat, moisture and sunlight, all of which deteriorate those fragrant, health-shielding gems.

Mistake #2: You add herbs and spices too early or too late

Thyme, rosemary and bay leaves  hold up to the heat, so add them early in the cooking process. The flavor of most other herbs will fade with too much cooking time, so add them late in the cooking process or add them more than once. Basil, tarragon and cilantro are delicate. It’s best to stick to the fresh versions and to add them at the end of cooking or even after cooking. They make a tasty garnish that really finishes a dish.

Make seasonings last longer and 4 other tips to use herbs and spices for flavor and health.Click To Tweet

Mistake #3: You don’t add enough herbs and spices

If you like a particular flavor, go for it. Add a little, and if your dish can stand some more, add a bit more. I typically add more cinnamon, cumin and coriander than many recipes call for because I love these flavors. I also prefer a heaping of fresh herbs in a grain-based or bean salad. If I’m going to chop 3/4 cup of parsley, for example, I may as well chop a full cup for a much better tasting tabouli.

Mistake #4: You stick with the same old thing

Find your adventuresome side, and try something new. So you don’t waste money, buy dried herbs and spices from a store that sells them in bulk. You can purchase as little as a spoonful or enough for a single recipe. I buy mine at Whole Foods. That may strike you as pricey, but since I can buy such a small amount, I am actually saving money.

Not sure how to find something new? Start with whatever ethnic foods you enjoy in restaurants and search a few recipes online.

Mistake #5: You’re adding sodium without knowing it

Premixed seasoning blends are a terrific way to save space in your spice cabinet as well as a way to save money. Try lemon pepper, Italian seasonings, garlic and herb, jerk seasonings and more. Just be sure that they are sodium free. I know that it doesn’t sound like it should have salt, but lemon pepper usually does. Many others do too.

Don’t forget to download my free guide How to use Herbs and Spices for Flavor and Nutrition.

If you have a favorite tip to using, storing or growing herbs and spices, please let me know.

Cheers to delicious, disease-fighting food!

Jill Weisenberger

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.

Leave a Reply


  1. Piyush Arya on March 28, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Well! I believe it is more useful to add dry spices instead of fresh ones and that too in the beginning of cooking.

    • Jill Weisenberger on March 29, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      The beauty of creative cooking is that we get please ourselves and those we cook for. So I agree that if you found a way to season that you prefer, then you are right to stick with it. I definitely prefer using both dried and fresh herbs and think that some are tastier fresh and others are tastier or more convenient dried. Happy cooking!

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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.

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