Healthy Cooking with Herbs & Spices

Recently we held a Healthy Cooking with Herbs & Spices class here at the Extension Office. Participants learned some of the benefits of using herbs and spices in preparing meals, how to properly plant and grow herbs at their house, and even got to take some plants home with them. It was a great class and I think everyone had a good time. I wanted to share on the blog some of the great information about using herbs & spices when you cook.


Often times in America the flavor in our foods come from fat, sugar, and salt. All which can be degrading to our health when not used in moderation. The good news is because herbs & spices pack a lot of flavor with very little calories they give us the ability to cook meals that our both flavorful and healthy. Next time you are cooking try using fresh herbs and spices and see if you can tell a big difference in the flavor. In many cases the low calorie herbs and spices will add so much flavor that we can greatly reduce the amount of salt, fat or sugar, that is called for.

Here are a few tips for cooking with herbs & spices:

  • You will have more success substituting fresh herbs for dried in a recipe rather than substituting dried for fresh
  • When making a new recipe start by adding a small amount of fresh herbs and gradually add more after tasting each time
  • Recipes using uncooked fresh herbs and spices will have a better flavor if they are allowed to marinate for several hours before serving (i.e. salsa)
  • Paprika, chili powder, and red pepper should be stored in the refrigerator rather than the cupboard or pantry
  • Ground herbs & spices will retain their flavor for approximately 1 year, whole herbs & spices for approximately 2 years


One of the recipes we made during the class was spicy hummus. This recipe does not take long to make and is only 80 calories per a serving. Serve it with some whole grain crackers or pita chips.

Spicy Hummus

1 tsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

15 oz. can Chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup bean liquid from chickpeas

1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh

1/4 cup sesame tahini

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. cumin, ground

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat olive oil in small skillet; sauté garlic until tender

In a food processor, combine beans, bean liquid, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, oil, salt, cayenne pepper and cumin. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir onions and chopped cilantro into bean mixture. Chill and serve.


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