5 Best Herbs for Favoring Beef

Korean chef seasoning meat in kitchen

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Cooking with herbs can be a wonderfully creative experience as you experiment with different herb flavors, both individually and in combination. Beef recipes have unique needs, however, because this substantial meat calls for herbs and spices that are savory and have their own strong flavors that can hold their own.

Picking a list of "best" flavorings and herbs to use with meat recipes is a subjective decision, with different experts choosing different flavorings. For example, Spices Inc., an organization devoted to promoting the use and sale of spices, includes a very broad list of best flavorings that includes: basil, bay, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, curry powder, dry mustard powder, garlic, onion, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. 

On the other hand, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a governmental agency devoted to health, lists a smaller group of best flavorings for beef that includes: bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, and thyme.

Here is our own list of the five great herbs for flavoring beef, based on personal experience. If you are unsure of herb and food pairings or feel you need a bit of guidance, this list will offer some assistance. Where possible, we recommend using fresh herbs rather than dried herbs in your recipes. If you can, growing your own herbs will ensure maximum freshness and best taste. 

  • 01 of 05


    Basil plant
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    Basil is a bright and powerful flavor that pairs well with the deep flavors of beef dishes. Delicious cooked into a recipe, basil should be added towards the end of the cooking time to brighten and add a new facet of flavor.

    Because basil doesn't dry well (it can often become black and tasteless when dried), try storing it by blending with just enough oil to make a slurry, and then place in ice cube trays to freeze. Once they are frozen, pop them out and place in a freezer bag to store. Just place one cube into your gravy or sauce at the end of the cooking time, and heat until melted.

    Here are some recipes you can try: 

  • 02 of 05


    Close up of rosemary leaves
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    Rosemary has a piney flavor is a wonderful pairing with the sometimes heavy or greasy flavors that beef dishes can have. Use rosemary to flavor roasts and tough cuts of meat that will be cooked for long periods of time. Some recipes making use of rosemary include:

    Consider growing rosemary as an indoor herb, which will taste much better than the aged version from the store. A  rosemary plant can be successfully grown next to your stove by using a grow light. Rosemary works well either dried or fresh, so try drying it and keeping dried rosemary in glass jars for easy access. 

  • 03 of 05


    Isaac Wedin/flickr/CC 2.0

    Sage is an often overlooked herb unless it is for holiday recipes. This is unfortunate since the flavor of sage holds up well to the stronger flavors in a beef dish, adding a fragrant aroma and warm taste. Sage is easy to add to many beef recipes, including:

    Sage is another herb that grows well indoors, sure to thrive if you provide adequate lighting. Both fresh and dried sage tastes wonderful, so use either version in your beef recipes.

  • 04 of 05


    cookbookman17/flickr/CC 2.0

    Thyme is synonymous with beef dishes. Used fresh or dry, thyme will only round the flavors and add a touch of depth that only herbs can provide. Some recipes you can try that contain thyme include:

    Thyme is also easy to grow in an indoor garden and will do fine in a sunny window. Many chefs like to grow several varieties lined up on the window sill—the lemony taste of lemon thyme is a favorite. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05


    Parsley bouquet
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    Parsley has come into its own in recent years and has become much more than simply a garnish. Cooks who are familiar with this tasty herb know it can hold its flavor if used fresh and added to the end of cooking.

    Parsley brightens and adds a fresh note to those winter beef dishes that can be heavy. Some examples:

    Although not commonly grown indoors, it is possible to grow this biennial herb indoors if you give it time to mature. Because it is such a slow growing herb, try to buy a fresh parsley plant late in the summer and bring it indoors for the winter.