Learning How to Use Thyme (15 Best Ideas to Cook with Thyme)
Whenever asked the question of “how to use thyme ?”, I honestly find it more challenging thinking of a dish that wouldn’t benefit from this herb rather than come up with one that would. Thyme has a slightly warm, sour note that adds a very pleasant sprightly profile to almost any preparation, be it sweet or savory.
Also, the fresh aroma that it leads off either in its raw or cooked state can make any dish extra appetizing. It wouldn’t be part of the classic French bouquet garni or the well-renowned Herbes de Provence if not for this versatility. Simply put, you don’t need to wander too much when thinking of how to use thyme as part of your cooking.
Understanding this herb, its origin, characteristics, and its available forms would be necessary to having a better grasp of how to use thyme in the kitchen. This article shall revolve on these facts as guidelines with the aim of enabling you to infuse this interesting new flavor into your own culinary creations without having the need to follow a given recipe strictly. Sounds good, right?
By the end of this reading, I’m confident that you’ll open-mindedly know how to use thyme in countless possibilities.
The Nature of Thyme
Thyme is an evergreen perennial herb. It belongs to the mint family and is closely related to oregano, hence its characteristic citrusy hint. Let this flavor profile primarily guide you on how to use thyme in your recipes.
Its lemony taste would definitely do a great job of cutting down that fishy taste in a seafood chowder for instance, or it would perfectly balance the richness of any cream sauce, and it would surely add freshness to an oil-based salad vinaigrette. With this in mind, the possibilities are in reality endless.
It is a moderately structured herb, commonly available in bunches or sprigs. A sprig is usually composed of a single woody stem with paired leaves or flower clusters. This means that its flavor wouldn’t be easily overpowered compared to a herb of a much lighter leafy structure such as parsley, but would not be recommended to solely go with more robust meats such as game for which a more woody herb would be a better option.
Using thyme in conjunction with other herbs, in this case, would work perfectly, though. Try pairing thyme with rosemary when roasting lamb or venison for example.
Thyme leaves are relatively little compared to other herbs such as basil or mint. Having it called for in a recipe means that these leaves can be used without any need for chopping.
Sprigs may also be used whole, stem included, if intended to be removed before serving or if to be left intentionally in the dish as a garnish.
As a final point, this herb’s relatively light structure makes it less resistant to heat in the cooking process and is an important consideration on using thyme. Let this remind you of adding it towards the end of cooking to make the most of its potent flavor and aroma.
Shall you need its characteristic taste to steep into your ingredient earlier and longer for a much concentrated flavor, like in a stew, try adding it to a marinade, or perhaps reinforce the flavors in the final dish by putting in an additional amount of thyme right before serving.
How The Past and Present Use Thyme For Cooking
Aside from its ancient uses as an embalming agent, and aromatic component for burning incense, thyme was used by Romans to add an aromatic flavor to their cheeses and liqueurs.
This is believed to be the start of its popularity in the culinary application and thus this growing question of how to make use of thyme in modern cooking.
It was then used together with bay leaf and a mix of aromatic herbs and spices to complete the traditional herb bundle bouquet garni, which was practically used to flavor every stock and stew in French cooking.
In their dried form, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary make up the Herbes de Provence which was widely used to flavor grilled items from meat and seafood, to vegetables.
Despite its constant evolution, modern culinary practices, all date back to traditional French cooking methods and techniques. The time-tested versatility of thyme in French cuisine, make it a staple herb in most kitchens then and now.
It's wholesome flavor and aroma make it a go-to herb for everything from soups, stews, sauces, roasts, to desserts, and beverages.
Fresh vs. Dried
Best cultivated in hot weather regions with well-drained soil, it can tolerate both drought and freezing climate conditions. Though being summer-seasonal, this herb can be had all-year-round through modern advances in greenhouse farming.
It is also widely available in dried form due to its excellent ability to retain its flavor in comparison to other herbs. Fresh varieties are much stronger-flavored though and should be an important consideration on using thyme.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Fresh thyme will stay fresh for roughly a week refrigerated. It is possible to freeze them fresh too and would be a better alternative to having it in dried form.
- Dried thyme can have a shelf life of not less than six months if properly stored. Leaving it in open containers would otherwise cause its potency to dissipate over time.
- Use fresh thyme in less quantity as opposed to using its dried counterpart. A single sprig will easily substitute for a tablespoon of dried leaves.
Different type of fresh thyme
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15 Excellent Ideas on How to Use Thyme
- Use thyme in a medley with parsley, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf for a more aromatic stock of chicken or vegetable. This would make for a more flavorful base for soups and stews.
- Put thyme sprigs in a bottle of olive oil and allow its flavors to infuse for about two weeks. This would be perfect for salads, crostinis, soups, or oil-based pasta dishes.
- Use thyme singly or in combination with other herbs to make your own herb butter. This would be perfect for toasts or as an add-on to any fried or grilled item.
- Use thyme with eggs. Add some leaves to your favorite omelet, or fold it into mayonnaise to go with your egg sandwich preparation.
- Make a thyme-flavored cream sauce. Add sprigs of thyme to the stock when poaching chicken or fish. Finish off the sauce by allowing it to reduce with some heavy cream.
- Add some dried thyme to bread crumbs to make for an interesting coating to fried chicken, calamari, or fish fillets.
- Try adding fresh thyme to your next ceviche. The fresh lemon essence would noticeably add in lots of freshness.
- Use it for roasting. Stuff sprigs of fresh thyme into turkey or roll it into pork roasts then round the dish off with a matching thyme flavored jus.
- Try using thyme when making your own jam, jelly, or marmalade. Put fresh sprigs in with the fruit to cook. A thyme-infused orange marmalade would turn out so fresh and so fragrant.
- Use thyme as an aromatic when boiling starches like pasta, rice, or couscous. Or add sprigs of thyme when boiling potatoes for mashing.
- Make a thyme infused tea or lemonade. You’ll be amazed how much zest this herb can add to your beverages.
- Infuse some fresh thyme when making syrups. Excellent for fruit-topped pancakes or when making citrus-based sorbets.
- Make some thyme-salt. Grind some dried thyme with sea salt and black pepper and take your French fries to a whole new level.
- How to use thyme for desserts? Make some thyme and berry Panna Cottas. Put in a few sprigs of fresh thyme into the milk and sugar base of a Panna Cotta recipe in place of vanilla for something less ordinary.
- Put sprigs of fresh thyme into a bottle of vodka to infuse, creating a new twist to your next cocktail mix.
The possibilities are endless. This list could go on, and I’m sure by now, having understood how to use thyme, you can come up with one that is entirely different from mine.
I’ll leave you with a simple recipe for a savory dish.
Poached Snapper Fillets in Thyme and Pink Peppercorn Cream Sauce
4 portions Snapper Fillets
1 cup Fresh Button Mushrooms, finely chopped
¼ cup Shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
½ stick Butter
1 teaspoon Pink Peppercorns
2 cups Heavy Cooking Cream
½ cup Fish Stock
½ cup White Wine
white pepper, ground
1. Brush the bottom of a pan with butter.
2. Layer in shallots, mushrooms, and pink peppercorns.
3. Brush fish fillets with lemon juice, and season with salt and white pepper on both sides.
4. Arrange fish on top of the pan.
5. Add in sprigs of fresh thyme bay leaf, stock, and white wine.
6. Bring to a boil then drop heat to low.
7. Cover and cook for 12 minutes.
8. Carefully take the fish out of the poaching liquid and set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen.
9. Allow cooking liquid to reduce and add in heavy cream.
10. Heat until cream starts to thicken.
11. Turn off the heat and refine the sauce by whisking in cold butter nuggets.
12. Fold in some fresh thyme leaves and serve on top of the fish.
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