Fresh herbs are always stunning. They’re an easy and healthy way to add flavor to your meals, while also offering health benefits and having plenty of uses around the home. It’s no wonder that we’ve been relying on them for thousands of years.
Despite their popularity, herbs are also confusing. There are so many different types out there, all with their own distinct flavors and variations in how they’re used. Most pair well with some other herbs and in some recipes, but poorly in others.
Because of this, you need a sense of the herbs in your kitchen. What do they offer? What do they pair with? Should you use fresh herbs or dried ones? Today, we’re digging into one of your options – fresh thyme.
Why thyme? Well, it’s delicious, so there’s that. Thyme is also one of the classic herbs, used in countless recipes and cuisines. So, understanding the herb just makes sense. The best place to begin is learning how to use fresh thyme. There are plenty of options here, including some familiar ones and some more unusual ideas.
How To Use Fresh Thyme (13 Fantastic Ways!)
Try Fresh Thyme Tea
Herbal teas can be as simple as steeping fresh or dried herbs in hot water for five minutes or so. Doing so with thyme gives you a comforting hot drink that’s completely caffeine free. The tea also provides a variety of antioxidants and plant-based compounds from the thyme.
The tea is delicious enough on its own or you can add other ingredients, like lemon, blueberries, or various spices. Some source of sweetness works well too, such as honey or stevia.
Make Compound Butter
Have you ever made compound butter before? It’s a simple idea, as you’re just mixing softened butter, herbs (fresh or dried), and perhaps some garlic.
Even just butter and fresh thyme works well, giving you an easy ingredient to use in your cooking. It’s best to stick with unsalted butter here, as this makes your compound butter as versatile as possible (salted butter could make some meals far too salty).
Make Thyme Pesto
Pesto traditionally relies on basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, often with a little lemon juice. While these ingredients are certainly delicious, they’re not your only option.
For example, you can ditch the basil entirely and use a combination of parsley and thyme in its place. Combining spinach and thyme also works well. Having a buffer ingredient like parsley or spinach is important, as your pesto won’t have the right color or flavor otherwise.
Stuff A Chicken With It
Thyme is a delicious ingredient in chicken stuffing, adding the perfect amount of flavor contrast. But things can be even simpler than that.
If you want all the flavor without much effort, try inserting a few fresh thyme sprigs into the cavity of the chicken before roasting it. While the flavor won’t be as good as making stuffing, it will still be delicious.
Make Thyme Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is a classic cocktail ingredient. It usually relies just on sugar and water, but you can make more complex versions as well.
For thyme simple syrup, you just need sugar, water, and some fresh thyme. Start by boiling equal parts of sugar and water together. Once the liquid has reached a boil, you can take it off the heat and add thyme sprigs.
After 15 minutes or so, the thyme will have infused into the syrup and can be strained out. You then have a sweet and herbal liquid that can be added to cocktails, lemonade, iced tea, and plenty of other situations.
Try A Thyme Bath Infusion
Thyme isn’t just useful for food. It can also be used for relaxation, like in a thyme bath infusion. Here, you’re placing fresh thyme in a bowl, pouring boiling water over top, and covering the bowl. The cover helps to trap the steam, while the thyme infuses into the water.
After 20 minutes or so, you can pour the water into your bath (straining out the thyme leaves in the process). The infusion gives your bath an amazing scent and may even provide health benefits.
Use It To Enhance Your Soups And Stews
The flavor of thyme works excellently in stews and soups, especially intense ones. It’s normally best to add the herb early and allow it to cook with your other ingredients for at least a few hours.
Doing so allows the flavor to infuse throughout the dish – and thyme is resilient enough to withstand the long cooking process. Also, try to use small amounts of thyme at a time. The herb has a strong flavor and can easily overpower your dish if you use too much.
Make A Honey Thyme Marinade
For a simple marinade, try combining honey, thyme, lemon juice, and olive oil. This combination imparts a delicious flavor to your meat, while also helping to tenderize it.
Freeze Fresh Thyme In Olive Oil
This simple trick helps to preserve your fresh thyme without making it difficult to use. The first step is to wash and dry your thyme. Then, you can add thyme leaves to sections in an ice cube tray and top up with olive oil.
Once the tray is full, you can put it in the freezer until the olive oil is frozen. This gives you small frozen blocks of oil and thyme that can be easily used while you’re cooking.
Include Thyme In Homemade Preserves
Homemade preserves, like orange jam or strawberry jam, typically rely just on sweet ingredients. Why not mix things up by adding herbs?
Orange Thyme Jam is a great place to begin, but that’s just one idea of many. You could even try adding a little thyme into your favorite preserves recipes. The herb will work with a large number of flavor combos.
Combine It With Salt
Mixing fresh herbs with salt is a great way to preserve them. You can do this just with thyme and salt, or perhaps use multiple herbs at the same time – such as oregano and thyme or lemon thyme and rosemary.
Then there’s lemon thyme salt, which combines lemon zest, fresh thyme, and coarse salt. This would be excellent as a go-to seasoning for countless dishes.
Dry Thyme Inside
Drying thyme helps it to last much longer. If you dry the thyme inside, you’ll also be infusing the house with a lovely aroma at the same time.
Grow Your Own Thyme
Like many herbs, thyme can be easily propagated from cuttings. This allows you to grow entire new thyme plants from a handful of cuttings.
There are two techniques for doing this. One involves planting the cuttings in a small amount of suitable soil and allowing roots to develop. Alternatively, you can actually develop the roots just in a glass of water.
This trick isn’t limited to thyme you’ve grown yourself. You can even grow thyme plants using thyme sprigs from the grocery store.
5 Delicious Recipes Using Fresh Thyme
Rosemary Thyme Balsamic Meatballs
Meatballs can be a bit boring at times, but these Rosemary Thyme Balsamic Meatballs certainly aren’t. They’re packed with flavor from thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. This combination of thyme and rosemary is a common one, as it works so well, especially with beef.
The meatballs can be made using other types of meat as well, including ground chicken or ground turkey. You can also substitute the bread crumbs for other ingredients, such as hemp hearts or rolled oats. All the details can be found in the recipe.
Cheddar Olive Thyme Bread
This Cheddar Olive Thyme Bread takes an entirely different approach. It combines fresh rosemary with parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, olives, and red pepper flakes.
The seasoning ingredients elevate the bread to an entirely new level. It’s also an easy recipe, so it’s a good one to try for yourself.
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Why not use thyme to make dessert? These Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies are a perfect example. They rely on sugar, lemon zest, salt, thyme, and other traditional cookie ingredients. The lemon flavor is a fantastic contrast to the thyme, making the cookies vibrant and delicious.
Easy Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts With Thyme
This recipe for Easy Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Thyme is perfect if you haven’t used thyme much before. It only uses a handful of ingredients, including black pepper, oil, butter, thyme, lemon, and the chicken.
The entire meal takes just 30 minutes, including prep and cooking time. This makes it an easy weeknight dinner, even if you have a lot else going on.
Lavender Thyme Fluted Cake with Vanilla Crème Glaze
It’s hard to find a more elegant dessert than this Lavender Thyme Fluted Cake with Vanilla Crème Glaze. The combination of lavender, fresh thyme, and vanilla works extremely well – giving you sweet and herbal flavors.
The glaze is a part of the reason that the cake is so good. This is where the vanilla flavor comes into play. Not only will this glaze taste amazing, but it also makes the cake stand out visually.
What Does Thyme Taste Like?
Thyme is often described as having an intense herbal flavor, with some floral notes. The taste is similar to oregano, so much so that herbs can be used in place for one another.
Dried Thyme Vs Fresh Thyme
Drying thyme reduces its moisture content and intensifies some of the flavors. It’s best used in recipes with long simmering times (like six hours or more), as fresh thyme can make dishes bitter if it’s simmered for too long.
Notably, dried thyme retains its flavor for a year or more, and is usable far past this point. This means you can keep some in the cupboard for when you have no fresh thyme on hand. Fresh thyme has a much shorter shelf life, so you’ll need to order or grow it regularly.
Many recipes can be made using fresh or dried rosemary, but you should change the quantities. For example, if the recipe calls for a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, you’ll normally use a teaspoon of dried rosemary instead (the thyme flavor would be far too intense otherwise).
Also consider the recipe when making any substitution. Many fresh recipes, like salsas and salads, need to be made with fresh herbs instead of dried ones.
How Long Does Fresh Thyme Last?
Like most fresh herbs, fresh thyme doesn’t last a long time. You’ll often get between one and two weeks from it if you store it carefully in the fridge (and much less if you just keep it on the counter).
To get more from your thyme, you’ll need to dry it or freeze it. Freezing the thyme is surprisingly easy. You can do this with thyme leaves on their own or include the thyme in oil.
What Herbs And Spices Complement Thyme?
Thyme works well with various herbs, including rosemary, sage, and parsley. Thyme also pairs with oregano, but that’s because their flavor profiles are so similar. As a result, a meal with thyme and oregano won’t taste that different than one that just relies on thyme.
As for spices, garlic and black peppers are both excellent options. That’s not surprising, as these spices work well with plenty of ingredients.
Thyme and paprika complement each other too. While this is a less common pairing, it still turns up in plenty of recipes. Beyond this, you might experiment with allspice, cloves, or nutmeg. These all work well with thyme and with each other.