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Herbs in desserts?

I use basil and mint in desserts, most often in ice cream, cookies and crepes.

Do you use herbs in your desserts? If so, which ones and how?

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  1. Rosemary and lemon is a nice combo for muffins, breads, etc. I've made lemon-thyme cookies before and people loved that they couldn't identify it immediately.

    I wonder if cilantro can be used in desserts...

    2 Replies
    1. re: staple

      There's a chocolate shop I go to that sells gelato and sorbet, including a cilantro-lime sorbet. It is wonderful. I make special trips when I'm in the neighborhood.


    2. Often! Basil in sorbet and gelee and with blackberries on pavlova, lemon thyme in simple syrup sauce, mint in panna cotta and fruit fools, lemon verbena in lemon olive oil cake, lavender in shortbread...

      EDIT - I forgot the rosemary chocolate sauce I make for either savoury dishes (i.e. braised short ribs) or for ganache, truffles and so on. I also use rosemary in citrus drinks (although drinks are not so much a dessert). I make rosemary preserves of all kinds including nectarine rosemary jelly.

      1. over at Tigers and strawberries, the chef in black has a recipe for szechuan peppercorn cookies.

        1. Mostly as you do, although I also love rosemary in dessert. Made a rosemary, honey, and pistachio ice cream last summer that was killer. Sometimes I'll steep a little basil or mint or rosemary in cream the night before whipping cream for a nice dessert. And there's a nice and dead-simple upside down pear rosemary cake in _The Herbal Kitchen_.

          Oh, herbed cream is also great in little chocolate pots.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

            Ooooh... steeping basil, mint, or rosemary in cream is a great idea! Never thought of that. Thanks for the idea.

          2. I have had lavender in a couple desserts and found it to taste like soap--especially the whipped cream.

            8 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              I was going to say, I've had lavender panna cotta. It was exceptionally well-made because I don't like lavender, and I loved this. (Before anybody asks why I ordered a flavor I don't like, I DIDN'T - it was comped due to a kitchen error on entrees.)
              I've also had cayenne ice cream, and if ginger counts ( I know, it's a rhizome), I've had a white chocolate/ginger mousse that was great.
              My sister the uncook added tarragon to sugar cookies once, and they were completely inedible, but it also had something to do with the cookies themselves.
              Does weed count as an herb to you? Couple of years ago I was gifted with a choco/mint brownie and plowed through it, marvelling that I couldn't taste the cannabis. However. I sure felt it a couple hours later.................zzzzzzzzzzzz........drooool........

                    1. re: mamachef

                      Ah the Bay Area. Ran into unannounced altered brownies at a party, only kicked in later, almost went facedown into the pizza I was eating. Molasses-spice cookies hide the flavor better than brownies, or so i'm told.

                    2. re: escondido123

                      I think it takes a really light hand. It is hard in some ways to judge the amount. I have heard of people using the flower, and I always thought you would use the leaf. I made some poundcake with a small amount of fresh lavender leaves and it was pretty good. It was very subtle. I think fresh is easier to use than dried.

                      1. re: wekick

                        I make a lavender pound cake almost every Easter with the dried flowers - it's delicious and subtle.

                    3. I agree with others that rosemary is excellent in baked goods, especially shortbread cookies, with or without lemon zest. I have also made an olive oil cake with rosemary and bittersweet chocolate chunks that was exceptionally good - the flavors worked perfectly together.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        @eight_inch_pestle and Ms. McGrath.


                        [smacks forehead]

                        That's gonna be great in my next ice ream batch.

                      2. I always throw some chopped herbs in a summer berry salad. I just toss a mix of berries with a touch of sugar, lime juice and one of the following: basil, thyme, mint, rosemary, sage, oregano...whatever fresh herb I have on hand works for me.

                        1. The first thing that came to my mind was Rechutti's Tarragon Grapefruit candy piece that I love...

                          1. I'm not a big mint fan, but have used Lemon Verbena, Lemon Thyme, & Lavendar in dessert dishes. Also like candied ginger.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Breezychow

                              We make a lemon verbena sorbet in summer.

                            2. I've used several varieties of basil... my favorite being cinnamon. I've used Lemon Balm, lemon verbana, kaffir lime, mint, lemon thyme, anise hyssop, sweet aztec, in various other deserts

                              23 Replies
                              1. re: VeggieHead

                                Oh yes - forgot about Anice Hyssop. I use that one in tea & dessert applications as well.

                                1. re: Breezychow

                                  I like hyssop, an under utilized herb, imo. Bee Balm is another forgotten herb, fruity and minty, nice on fruit salads.

                                  Beyond tea, chamomile is nice in custards, creme anglaise and rice pudding. I infuse fired chamomile flowers and/or tea bags in the milk for cake batters, with orange or lemon zest.

                                  Although not herbs, scented geraniums are great for lining cake pans and for flavoring sugar, or just to sniff.

                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                    I have some chamomile and have been meaning to make a syrup and put it over fruit.
                                    What would be a good combo with winter fruit? Bananas? Other thoughts?

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      I think a chamomile syrup would be good with citrus - oranges and grapefruits.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        Exactly. Orange, lemon, grapefruit.

                                        Btw, I meant to type "dried," not fired, in my post up thread.

                                    2. re: bushwickgirl

                                      I assume you fans of lemon verbena and anise hyssop grow your own? I never see either, even at the farmers markets.

                                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                        Yes, and Bee Balm also, home grown. I can't get the cut herbs but I can get the plants at my farmer's market.

                                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                                          Hmm, building our first raised bed(s) this year. Maybe I'll give one of 'em a shot.

                                          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                            Like I said, the anise hyssop will spread after a few years. Not a problem for me cause I love the stuff.

                                            The lemon verbena won't. At least in our zone.

                                            1. re: karykat

                                              You can bring lemon verbena inside in the winter.

                                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                We definitely have to in our climate (plus our rosemary, thyme, etc.) but sadly it doesn't do that well being inside for 7-8 months. But it is so very lovely!! I love to go outside and crush the leaves between my fingers and inhale its aroma on a several-times-daily basis in summer! :-)

                                                1. re: chefathome

                                                  It does have a wonderful aroma, the best lemon scent of any herb I know. I winter over for 6 months, but it requires some attention, warmth and humidity. Usually it goes dormant and regrows in the Spring. So good.

                                        2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                          Yes. Both grow easily here in the north midwest. The lemon verbena is an annual, at least here, but the anise hyssop grows like a weed.

                                          1. re: karykat

                                            I grow between 18 to 20 varieties of herbs each year - all annual, including rosemary, which I must bring in the house for our long and cold winters (Alberta). The chives and garlic chives occasionally make it through.

                                          2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                            I work on a farm that grows anything you can think of...plus many you prolly haven't. Our micro hyssop is a huge burst of licorice. Also a big han of the lovage and salad brunet.

                                          3. re: bushwickgirl

                                            Hyssop - is that the cucumbery one?
                                            My great-grandmother (died before I was born) used to put a leaf of rose geranium in her white cakes - put the stem in so the leaf sat on the surface. My mom said they were divine.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Anise hyssop isn't cucumbery. It's more licorice-like.

                                              Are you thinking of lovage? Kind of celery-ish.

                                              If there's a cucumber-like one, I need to know about it.

                                              That white cake sounds fantastic. I've grown scented geraniums but then not found good uses for them.

                                              1. re: karykat

                                                karykat, it's Salad Burnet with a decidedly cucumber flavor. Borage and Comfrey are considered to be cucumber flavored herbs also but not as pronounced in flavor as Burnet. All are good for salads, omelets, dips, mayo, tea, seafood preparations, flavored butters or vinegars, but alas, not desserts.

                                                I just love scented geraniums. They make good infused sugars and line your cake pan with a few rose or nutmeg scented leaves.

                                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                  It was borage I was thinking of. My absolute favorite is chervil - but I don't see it in a dessert.

                                              2. re: buttertart

                                                Hey, I've got a recipe for that cake in the Buttr'y Cookbook. Anyone want it?

                                            2. re: Breezychow

                                              I make a syrup with anise hyssop and put it over fruit in summer, especially peaches and nectarines. Think it probably has lots of other uses. I'd love more ideas. Because we have a really good supply of it.

                                              1. re: karykat

                                                The syrup would be amazing on pound or angel food cake or even pavlova.

                                                1. re: karykat

                                                  Here's a simple hyssop flavored sauce for, so the recipe states, lamb or veal, and I would think, nice with roast chicken:


                                                  More suggestions:


                                                  Any quick bread with a citrus flavoring, lemon for example, would be nice with the
                                                  addition of fresh chopped anise hyssop.

                                            3. Strawberries with freshly grated black pepper are awesome!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Euonymous

                                                Technically, pepper is a spice - not an herb...

                                                Now if we are talking spices; I heartily recommend chili pepper and white pepper in brownies, cardamom in cupcakes, and Chinese five-spice in custard.

                                                1. re: CarrieWas218

                                                  Chinese five-spice in a custard?? That sounds super interesting!

                                                1. re: YAYME

                                                  Yes! Kickass combo for gelato. I dig lavender creme brulee, too. Lavender simple syrup for fancykat adult beverages and hot fun in the summertime!

                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                    I second a touch of lavender in creme brulee - amazing. Lavender is also excellent in home made strawberry jam...

                                                    1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                      Ooh, now there's a combo I hadn't thought of! Nice!

                                                2. I have a couple of recipes, one for biscotti , another for a polenta shortcake, that have fennel seed which is one of my favorite flavors.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    c oliver, would you mind posting the biscotti recipe? I love fennel.....sounds like those would be sooo good with a mug of tea....

                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                      Argh! First three books I checked, I couldn't find. I WILL find it and post. I think I may have sent to a friend. Can't remember now if they had pistachio or pinenuts in them. I think it's time to sign up for EYB. I'm old, ya know.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Thank you for checking! I'll look forward to it. Oh, and I'm pretty old too. for what it's worth.

                                                      2. re: mamachef

                                                        Found it! From Zuni Cafe, Cornmeal Biscotti. p. 478-479


                                                        I subbed the pinenuts but left in the anisette. Also this blogger's changes were unnecessary for me -- and I'm no baker. They were easy just the way she wrote the recipe.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Thank you for taking trouble, c oliver. Appreciate it!

                                                      3. re: c oliver

                                                        Mine too! Would love your fennel seed ideas.

                                                        1. re: karykat

                                                          This is Hazan's Essentials "Polenta Shortcake with Raisins, Dried Figs and Pine Nuts" (also fennel seeds!), pp. 590-591.


                                                          Because it was metric, I posted the below and got the conversions:


                                                          This is so good, esp. with Greek yogurt.

                                                      4. We love the use of lemongrass in desserts, clean and fresh. This pound cake is one example,

                                                        15 Replies
                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                          Me, too. I make a wicked lemongrass syrup that I love to drizzle over pound cakes, angel food cakes and so on. I use so much lemongrass that I buy it nearly every week. As I asked our grocer to carry it I sort of almost feel obligated to continue buying it, too, and encourage my cooking class students to do the same! Not that I wouldn't purchase it, anyway, as lemongrass is one of my favourite things.

                                                          Dried lemongrass with sea salt and rosemary is a lovely seasoning for fish and shellfish.

                                                          1. re: chefathome

                                                            I couldn't agree more. Do you keep your lemongrass in the freezer? I find it an excellent way to keep it fresh and avail without drying out. Lemongrass syrup is delicious and would be excellent on this cake don't you think. Lemongrass tea is one of my favorites. I also like chocolates infused with lemongrass. Care to share a few specific recipes/uses for it. TIA.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Whatever is left I keep in the freezer. Wow, that cake recipe looks gorgeous! I am going to make it tomorrow and cannot wait to try it. Lemongrass syrup would be absolutely delightful with this cake. Chocolate truffles with lemongrass are MMMMM! Will look up some of my favourite recipes to share...some of course are Thai but others not so much.

                                                              I find it incredible that lemongrass is so very cheap (25 cents for 2 or 3 stalks), so packed with flavour and so underused. I have the product code memorized to save the grocery store clerks' time at check out.

                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                Yes. We need more lemongrass ideas! It's abundant in our farmers market in summer. And I still have a little left over.

                                                                1. re: karykat

                                                                  Our growing season is far too short to grow it here but I sure would love to do so. I am astomished that our grocery store on the Canadian prairies carries such fresh and plump specimens!

                                                                  1. re: chefathome

                                                                    So far only the Asian market provides me with fresh lemongrass bundles. Lemongrass powder, which I use in cookies, soups, stews and tea is avail everywhere I shop-but the powder is NOT the same thing as fresh.

                                                                    I make homemade soap sometimes and lemongrass is marvelous for that purpose as well.

                                                                    chefathome, I look forward to reading your recipe suggestions. And with chocolate is one of my fav ways to enjoy dark chocolate sauce or candies.

                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      I haven't tried lemongrass powder but sounds as though I am definitely not missing anything! Have you bought the paste in the tube? I suppose it's sort of ok but still nothing like fresh. Am on my way to look for some recipes to post...would like to hear yours as well.

                                                                      1. re: chefathome

                                                                        I found the paste too watery and once opened the shelf life is short. I don't recommend it. Making your own paste is easy enough. Powder is smokey in comparison to the fresh & light scent of stalks. It has its place; just diff.

                                                                        I'll also get back to you on some desserts we've made with fresh.

                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                          Yes - after trying that purchased paste the first time, that did it. Your own fresh paste is very easy and ultra delicious.

                                                                          1. re: chefathome

                                                                            Okay, donuts, churros, puff pastry all enhanced with lemongrass-sugar. And your lemongrass syrup is a natural...even a drizzle of dark chocolate. I happen to make some kick a** churros and the lemongrass-sugar takes them to a happy place.

                                                                            Lemongrass in shortbread cookies add a brightness that you would expect from say rosemary, but subtle.

                                                                            Lemongrass tea used as the liquid ingredient in sweet pastry dough.

                                                                            I like the flavor of molasses & lemongrass together in muffins.

                                                                            On the savory side lemongrass and sweet potato work very well together. Hmm, sweet potato/lg churros....kinda sounds like something I should work on..

                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                              Lemongrass and molasses sounds like an awesome combination - have yet to try that.

                                                                              Lemongrass simple syrup with rosemary makes a nice sort of lemonade without the lemon! ;)

                                                                              Your ideas inspired me to start a new thread on lemongrass recipes. See you over there?! EDIT: I just did a quick search first and found lots of recipes and ideas already. So, I won't be starting a new thread after all!

                                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                                Good idea..there are plenty of recipes out there!

                                                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                                                One of my favourite savoury lemongrass recipes is Lemongrass and Chicken Summer Rolls: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Lemon-Gr....

                                                                                Lemongrass Syrup: just a glorified simple syrup but oh, so good on so many yummy things including exotic fruit. http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                                                    2. re: karykat

                                                                      Lemongrass in a baked egg custard tart with coconut, still warm from the oven - delish!

                                                            2. Herbs say savory to me so I'd like to see suggestions. Like the lavender panna cotta and would love to see a T&T recipe for the perfect one

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                last year during a heat wave, I made a melon salad with gallia and honeydew melon, then added a handful of mint leaves chopped to a chiffonade.

                                                                I put the bowl in the freezer til it just began to go slushy.

                                                                Sounds a little odd, but wow...it was so cold and refreshing -- I make it regularly when it's warm now.

                                                              2. Herbs go great in fruit sorbets: Peach and Thyme, Strawberry and Basil, Lime or Lemon and Rosemary...

                                                                Peaches with almost any herbs are my favorite actually: Roasted or grilled peaches with thyme are great on their own, but even better with a little yogurt, ice cream or sour cream and crumbled almond biscotti. I imagine any not-too-sweet nut or seed based cookie would go well with lots of herbs - I'd like to try adding herbs to pignoli, almond shortbread, or some sort of pumpkin seed cookie...hmmm...

                                                                1. This recipe is Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta but you can also use lavender..

                                                                  Same website but I love it! Greek Oregano Ice Cream...

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: chefathome

                                                                    Lemon verbena has a wonderful flavor. I miss the restaurant Verbena in NYC, the food there was exciting (first encountered lemon verbena in desserts there).

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      Agree 100% that it has a remarkable flavour. We grow our own as there are definitely no restaurants within a few hundred miles that include it on their menus. I also use it to stuff into roast chicken.

                                                                  2. I like to pair concord grapes with thyme - I've added thyme to grape pie, and last fall, I made a concord-thyme sorbet that was not bad, though I think I was a little heavy-handed with the thyme.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Krislady

                                                                      One of the best desserts of my life was made by a dear friend - plums sautéed in butter and brown sugar with thyme from his garden and his homemade strawberry ice cream. Just lovely.

                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                        That sounds just wonderful. Lots of different flavors that I imagine really complemented each other. I'm glad I've saved this thread esp. as a reminder that desserts don't have to be cloyingly sweet. Might turn me into a lover rather than a tolerator.

                                                                      2. re: Krislady

                                                                        Good to know. I have a whole bunch of de-seeded concord grapes in my freezer, courtesy of my uncle who grows them.

                                                                      3. Was just flipping through the current issue of Bon Appetit and this Honey-Rosemary Ice Cream sounded good:


                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          I just saw that, too - looks heavenly!

                                                                        2. some things i've played with...

                                                                          granny smith and lemongrass sorbet

                                                                          fruit compotes with basil syrup made from white wine, sugar, basil and orange or grapefruit zest

                                                                          lavender blondies and lavender custard

                                                                          thyme shortbread

                                                                          rosemary fig newtons

                                                                          and i want to try this http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/517073 dark chocolate and herbs cake with ricotta and caramel...

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                                            Lavender blondies --- do tell, Emme! I make blondies all the time, and I'm intrigued. Lavender is a favorite too.

                                                                          2. I make a danish braid filled with apples, toasted hazelnuts and rosemary. I sometimes use basil in citrus desserts.

                                                                            1. What a gorgeous thread! :) Thanks for starting it ipsedixit!

                                                                              1. May be a little off topic, but my uncle makes amazing savory short-breads every Christmas time. My favorite is his rosemary shortbread, but he experiments with various herb blends (including adding lemon) and they all are terrific.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                  IMO, totally ON topic. And a great idea. I love shortbread and making it somewhat savory sounds perfect. I don't suppose he'd share his recipe?

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    I will do my best. He has the recipes and loves honey. I have bee hives and lots of honey...

                                                                                2. I made lavender brownies and thought that was pretty creative till I discovered Alice Medrich figured it out years before I did. :) Regardless, I used the Ghirardelli brownie recipe, then lavendered up the sugar: 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon buzzed with the sugar in the mini food processor. They smelled incredible and tasted even better. You can take a look at 'em here, if you wish. If lavender brownies don't move you, lavender sugar in and of itself could be a creative way to play with lavender in the kitchen.

                                                                                  1. Lavender. So delicate, such a pretty flavor.

                                                                                    I've made lavender shortbread and it tastes fairy-tale-magic. Unusual, surprising, lovely with tea or coffee in the afternoon.

                                                                                    Blueberry lavender ice cream. Mmm.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: twilight goddess

                                                                                      <tastes fairy-tale-magic>. Lovely, tg.

                                                                                      1. re: twilight goddess

                                                                                        Do you have a recipe for the shortbread? How can I not want to try fairy tale magic?

                                                                                        1. re: thursday

                                                                                          Just add a bit of lavender to your favourite shortbread recipe. My favourite recipe is in "Fat", a great book. A touch of lemon zest is also nice with lavender and shortbread.

                                                                                      2. About 20 years ago I found a Lorenza de Medici recipe for Miascia that is still one of my favorite desserts. It's an Italian bread pudding, with raisins, lemon zest, cornmeal, apples, pears, and grapes, topped with olive oil and rosemary before baking. I have also used other fresh fruit in season, but always with pears. The aroma of the baking rosemary and pears is heavenly!

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                          That sounds wonderful. Is it a recipe you share?

                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                            Happy to share. I found it in a magazine, so I think that makes it public domain. But Lorenza de Medici gets the credit. I can't give the exact amounts for the milk used for soaking, it seems to vary with the type of bread used. The original recipe I saw called for 2 cups, when I saw it reprinted it called for 1/3 cup. The first was too soggy, the second too dry. I go in between, judge by how the bread absorbs it.

                                                                                            Oven is preheated to 375.
                                                                                            Soak 1/4 cup raisins in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain.
                                                                                            3 cups sliced or cubed stale, good quality, white bread (I use a country Italian or a ciabatta. I sometimes even leave some of the crusts on) are tossed in some milk (start with 1/3 cup and add as needed, depending on the bread) for a few minutes, just to moisten, not heavily soak.
                                                                                            Mix the batter by blending 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, a pinch of salt, 1/3 cup sugar, zest of one lemon, 2 tbs flour, and 2 tbs cornmeal.
                                                                                            Peel and slice apples and pears (3 fruit, your combination, I like 2 pears to one apple). Mix them with the raisins and 1/2 to 1 cup seedless red grapes.
                                                                                            Use a tart or quiche pan, 10 to 12 inches, buttered and lined with parchment. I like using a springform too. Lay the bread on the parchment and arrange the fruit on top. Pour the batter over the fruit and bread. Sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary (amount to taste, I use two or three tablespoons, overkill for some), and one tablespoon sugar. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
                                                                                            Bake at 375. Another discrepancy here, one recipe called for 7 minutes, the other for an hour! I just watch it and check it with a toothpick. I can't remember the exact time it takes, but it's closer to an hour than 7 minutes!

                                                                                            I hope if you try it you'll post your results!

                                                                                            1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                              Thank you so much. I'll definitely report back.

                                                                                        2. I was just flipping through a very, very old "Buttery Cookbook" (a Buttery is the New England version of a cold pantry) and found a recipe, c. 1850, for "herb cookies" which are basically a sugar thin with herbs of choice added: they suggested fennel, caraway, coriander, cardamom or marjoram. I thought it was fascinating, very very modern for the time it was written in.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                                            Wow, those sound amazing, don't they? 'Course fennel and caraway esp. are two of my faves.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              I think caraway thins and a cuppa would be the perfect mid-afternoon "revivification" snack.

                                                                                          2. Coriander is a great addition to desserts and cookies.