What Is Rosemary?

A Guide to Buying, Using, and Storing Rosemary

Fresh Rosemary

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Rosemary is an aromatic herb that is used as a flavoring in a variety of dishes, such as soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Rosemary is often paired with chicken and other poultry, lamb, pork, steaks, and fish, especially oily fish. It also goes well with grains, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, and spinach. 

What Is Rosemary?

Rosemary has a long history of both culinary and medicinal use. It grows in bushes with wood-like stems and short, pine-like needles, and the plant features white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. Although it resembles pine in both appearance and scent, rosemary is actually a member of the botanical family Lamiaceae along with sage and mint. Rosemary is a perennial evergreen that is often grown as an ornamental shrub because of its ability to withstand harsh conditions.

Fresh vs. Dried

Because rosemary has a low moisture content even when fresh, it retains its flavor after drying. Dried rosemary tends to have even tougher leaves and may need to be crushed or chopped prior to adding to recipes (but in any case, follow the recipe). 

Fresh and dried rosemary

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Fresh rosemary

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Dried rosemary

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Fresh rosemary

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What Does It Taste Like?

Rosemary has a flavor that is variously described as piney, resinous, astringent, peppery, lemony, and woodsy. It features notes of evergreen, citrus, lavender, sage, and mint. 

Cooking With Rosemary

Rinse fresh sprigs of rosemary under cold running water and pat dry. Recipes usually call for whole leaves, which are easily removed from the woody stems. Whole sprigs of rosemary may be added to stews and meat dishes. 

Rosemary is most often used to season meats, especially lamb, pork, and chicken. Chopped rosemary can be added to bread or biscuit dough, and the flavor will infuse throughout during cooking. Potatoes, beans, and lentils also pair well with rosemary. Rosemary can be quite potent and is therefore usually used sparingly.

Because both fresh and dried rosemary can have a tough, pine-needle-like texture, it is usually chopped or crushed with a mortar and pestle before adding to recipes. Sprigs of rosemary with the stem intact can be added to soups and stews and then removed prior to serving.

To remove the leaves from a rosemary stem, simply pinch the tip of the stem and pull back toward the base and the leaves should easily pull away. The leaves are usually then chopped further to prevent using large, tough pieces of the herb.

Rosemary, along with other herbs, can be used to flavor olive oils and cheeses. The popular combination of rosemary and olive oil has found its way into crackers, chips, and soft cheese spreads. Rosemary and black pepper have also become a trendy gourmet flavor combination.

Recipes With Rosemary


Rosemary has a unique flavor, so substituting a different herb will produce a different flavor profile. With that said, herbs like thyme, sage, marjoram, savory, and tarragon can be substituted for rosemary. Just make sure to use a fresh herb where the fresh version of rosemary is called for and dry for dry. Herb blends, like Herbes de Provence, which are heavy on the dried rosemary, can also be used in place of the dried version.

Sometimes you may need to substitute fresh rosemary for the dried version, or vice-versa. To do so, one teaspoon of dried is about the equivalent of one tablespoon of fresh. Note that the dried version needs to be added to a recipe early, whereas the fresh version goes in towards the end of cooking time. 

Where to Buy Rosemary

You can find dried rosemary in the spice section of a grocery store. Fresh rosemary may be sold with other herbs in the produce section, often in bunches or small packages containing a few sprigs. 


Fresh rosemary should be kept refrigerated in a plastic food storage bag with a damp paper towel. Fresh rosemary will keep for about one week in the refrigerator. Dried rosemary should be stored in an airtight container away from heat and moisture. When stored properly, dried rosemary will retain its flavor for up to six months.