Let’s be honest; everybody loves a good piece of chicken or chicken dish. It is a highly versatile piece of meat that pairs well with virtually any ingredient.
That is why recently, we have started to play around with different flavors, specifically herbs.
Herbs are incredibly aromatic ingredients that pack a punch and, when used correctly, make a good dish exceptional!
So, what are the best herbs that go with chicken? We recommend a wide variety of robust herbs like rosemary, thyme, lemongrass, sage, and bay leaves. You can also use soft herbs for more refreshing flavors, including oregano, tarragon, marjoram, parsley, cilantro, and basil.
This article will discuss every aspect of each herb, including its flavor, the texture while fresh and cooked, and exactly how and where you can incorporate them.
How To Pair Chicken
Chicken is a highly versatile ingredient to work with that can not only be cooked in a thousand different ways but can also be paired with virtually any component, spice, and herb.
This is why it is sometimes tough to pair ingredients with them, especially herbs.
If you plan on serving chicken as is and not incorporating it into other ingredients, there are a few ways you can narrow down which herb will work best.
First, look at how the chicken piece should be prepared. This will give you an indication of how you have to incorporate a herb with plain chicken and even if you will be able to.
If you want to make chicken dishes, there are many ways you can incorporate herbs into them. It can be something as simple as a dipping sauce or something more complex like a spice mix.
Using Herbs With “Plain” Chicken
Below is an indication of how you can incorporate fresh herbs into plain chicken recipes. These chicken pieces will be served and won’t be incorporated into other dishes like casseroles or stews.
Pan-fried chicken uses smaller pieces of chicken. Oil is heated in a pan, and the chicken piece gets browned while it cooks.
When using this method to cook chicken, the best way to incorporate the flavor of herbs is by adding them fresh and whole to the pan while the chicken is cooking.
The heat will transfer the flavor molecules to the oil, which you can then baste onto the chicken.
You don’t necessarily serve the whole herbs with the chicken when you pan-fry them, but you can garnish.
We also wouldn’t recommend using chopped herbs because they might burn, leaving you with an unpleasant taste and texture on your chicken piece.
Deep-fried chicken offers a fantastic opportunity to incorporate a wide variety of herbs. You have to chop them to incorporate them into the crumb, but you can also use dried herbs if you’d like.
Many people also like to flavor the oil with fresh, robust herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme before frying uncoated chicken pieces.
Baked chicken is arguably the most versatile way to incorporate many different forms of herbs. Whether using tiny chicken pieces or roasting a whole chicken, you can use whole or chopped herbs.
We recommend spreading chopped herbs over smaller pieces or adding whole herbs to the pan and continuously basting each piece (like the pan-frying method).
For whole chickens, you can stuff the cavity with a herb bunch and some garlic or make basting using a variety of chopped herbs.
The 11 Best Herbs For Chicken
Here we have the 11 best herbs that can be paired with chicken in many different ways.
Whether you are using them with plain roasted or deep-fried chicken, or if you are incorporating them into a chicken-based dish, each of these has its unique flavor and can be experimented with endlessly.
Let’s have a look!
RosemaryLet’s start with a classic chicken and herb pairing that has been around since 500 BC! This herb is an incredibly versatile flavoring that goes well with virtually any type of mild-tasting protein, like chicken and some cuts of beef.
The chicken has a very neutral flavor and acts as a blank canvas. Herbs easily infuse into it, especially fragrant ones like rosemary.
Rosemary has a very earthy and woody flavor profile with slight hints of lemon pine. It is a robust herb with hardier characteristics and can handle a ton of heat.
They do very well when used whole and cooked, like roasting chicken or pan-frying pieces.
This herb also pairs well with a ton of other herbs, making it very easy to create delicious herb or spice mixes. You can pair them with thyme, sage, tarragon, oregano, and marjoram.
We wouldn’t recommend using rosemary raw as its delicious flavors are best enhanced once cooked.
This is another classic and very well-known chicken pairing. Thyme has very similar characteristics to rosemary; it is also robust and has strong aromatic flavors.
Its hardiness means it can withstand high heat and will be fantastic when roasting or frying your chicken. However, it has very small leaves making it easy to incorporate into sauces, stews, and casseroles with no added work.
There are a few different types of thyme, but there isn’t one that is necessarily better than the other.
Lemon-thyme is one of our personal favorites because of its lemon-like refreshing flavor. Lemon-thyme pairs well with citrus and a wide variety of other herbs.
Thyme is also an excellent herb to make rubs with and create spice mixes.
Cilantro, also known as fresh coriander leaves, is a soft herb with bright green colors and tons of refreshing flavor.
The best way to describe its unique flavor is to imagine a combination of fresh parsley leaves and semi-sweet citrus fruits. Some people also describe it as having a sharper taste and a bit of a bite.
Because of their delicate soft leaves, these are best incorporated into recipes where texture doesn’t matter.
If you want to use them whole, we recommend either garnishing them raw or using them in soups, stews, and casseroles. They will soften and blend in with other similar textures.
The best way to use cilantro with chicken is in fresh recipes. Make some dips, sauces, salsas, or even guacamole using freshly chopped coriander leaves.
They will help add brighter colors as well as crisp, refreshing flavors.
Oregano, not to be confused with marjoram, which we will still discuss, has a very woody, citrus-like, and even floral, savory flavor. This is one of our favorite herbs because of its complex and interesting flavor profile!
This pairing is extremely popular in many European cuisines, including French, Italian, Spanish, and Greek. You can look at these ingredient profiles to get inspiration on using oregano with chicken.
This is another soft herb but also has some hardier characteristics. We like to use ours cooked regardless of how you prepare your dish—use it with your roasted dishes, in stews, soups, or even fresh on sandwiches.
Definitely use this herb in moderation, as some people don’t like its flavor. If you are just learning to use this herb, first try it out with some classic chicken pizza or pasta recipes.
Who doesn’t love basil?! This is an extremely unique, refreshing, and flavorful herb that is like no other.
Basil is a soft, delicate herb served fresh, deep-fried, baked, or inside a stew or soup.
Fresh basil has a flavor profile that we would describe as fresh mint, star anise, and a hint of black pepper. It is a herb that pairs great with savory dishes as well as sweet, so basically, it can work with any recipe!
Fresh basil can be incorporated into chicken salads, chicken pasta or pizzas, or on pulled chicken sandwiches.
Another amazing thing about basil is that it becomes deliciously crispy when baked or deep-fried. This means you can garnish your casseroles and baked lasagnes, or you can simply use some deep-fried basil leaves as garnish.
Alternatively, you can make a fresh basil pesto to pair with your chicken dishes or even use it as part of a Thai chicken stir-fry.
Lemongrass is a herb that not too many people use, especially in Western cuisines. It is, however, an extremely common and popular ingredient in South American and Asian cuisines.
It has very lemony flavors with hints of spicy ginger. It is also one of the most aromatic herbs you can get. Once crushed, your whole kitchen will smell like spring!
The herb itself isn’t very appetizing to eat, regardless of whether it is raw or cooked, which is why many people remove it before serving their chicken dishes.
This is the perfect herb that flavors your chicken without being served with it.
The best way to use lemongrass with plain chicken is to use it with pan-fried chicken and continuously baste the meat with the lemongrass-flavored pan drippings.
Alternatively, they work well in soups or stews- really anything with a ton of liquid that it can add its flavor to.
Sage has a very velvety and peppery flavor. Some people also describe it as earthy with hints of eucalyptus, lemon, and even mint.
As you can see, it has a very complex flavor profile, so naturally, it doesn’t pair well with every single ingredient.
Sage works best when served with plain chicken, be it deep-fried, roasted, or pan-fried. As soon as you add too many other flavors, it can lose its uniqueness and even create a bitter flavor profile.
If you want to incorporate it in chicken dishes like pasta or bakes, it is best to pair it with heartier, heavier or rich dishes. Those ingredients will be able to still shine without being overpowered by the flavors of sage.
Sage can be used in virtually any way, but like lemongrass, we prefer removing it from our food. This isn’t a must, and many people love to eat crispy sage leaves; it is simply a preference.
This is a very unique and underrated herb. Tarragon is often found dried in many countries and sometimes difficult to find fresh, but it is definitely worth the look as the two cannot compare.
Fresh tarragon has a very coarse texture yet has soft leaves. This means they can be used in the same way as sage. It also has an incredibly pungent flavor with noticeable licorice flavors (similar to fennel and star anise).
The biggest downfall to using tarragon in cooked dishes is that its delicious flavor becomes much more subtle. We wouldn’t use tarragon in stews, soups, or any other dish that has prolonged cooking times.
Of course, we wouldn’t have a list of herbs without including parsley! This is arguably the most widely used soft herb because of its very neutral flavor profile.
Parsley’s flavor is best described as peppery and slightly earthy. Seeing as most savory recipes include pepper, parsley blends right in.
What makes parsley different from very similar cilantro is that it can be used in literally any way!
Serve it raw as a garnish or incorporate it into salads, dips, and refreshing pestos. You can also use it in soups, stews, roasted chicken dishes, and even deep-fry them!
The possibilities are endless, and you should definitely consider being daring with this herb.
This herb, in our opinion, despite being incredibly delicious, should only be used in roasts, stews, or soups. Bay leaves are another type of robust herb and aren’t very appetizing to eat cooked, let alone raw.
These are always used whole to make it much easier to remove before serving your dish. While it does add incredible flavor, like lemongrass, it doesn’t have an appealing texture or raw flavor.
It is best used to help infuse liquids and your chicken. Bay leaves work incredibly well with very savory and rich dishes. Stay away from salads, stir-fry, or any refreshing dish, as they will completely overpower them.
As we have briefly mentioned, marjoram has a very similar flavor profile to oregano but is much sweeter. They also have earthy and woody flavors, making them great for very savory recipes.
Another very noticeable flavor that comes through is pine and citrus. Where this herb is different from oregano in use is that they pair well with more spring and summer-type recipes.
Definitely, experiment using this herb in salads or other fresh recipes; however, they also work great in soups and stews.
What Herbs Go With Chicken Soup?
For chicken soups, we would recommend the more robust herbs with stronger flavors that don’t become overpowering or bland when cooking. You want a herb that won’t disintegrate during long cooking times.
This includes herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, lemongrass, bay leaves, and maybe marjoram and oregano.
Some soft herbs will completely disintegrate and create mushy pieces that aren’t a very appealing texture to eat.
These herbs can be used alone with some additional spices or in combination with other herbs. You can research some basic herb pairings, but we would recommend pairing these:
- Rosemary and thyme
- Sage and rosemary
- Lemongrass and sage
- Thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves
- Marjoram and thyme
- Bay leaves and rosemary