How to Use Savory in Cooking

Savory is an underappreciated herb that can elevate your cooking with its unique, peppery flavor.

As you embark on incorporating savory into your dishes, you’ll discover it’s not just a single herb but a group that includes both summer and winter varieties.

Summer savory, an annual, imparts a lighter, more delicate taste reminiscent of thyme and mint, while winter savory, a perennial, offers a stronger, more pungent flavor.

Utilizing savory effectively in your kitchen can add a new dimension to your meals, enhancing everything from beans to meats and stews.

A chef sprinkles savory herbs onto a sizzling pan of vegetables, adding depth and flavor to the dish

To get the most out of savory, understanding its culinary applications is crucial.

It’s a versatile herb that pairs remarkably well with a wide array of foods.

When using fresh savory, you can strip the leaves from the stems with a fork and add them directly to your dishes.

Both dried and fresh forms are potent, so a light hand is advisable to prevent overwhelming the flavors of other ingredients.

Integrating savory with other herbs, especially those within the mint family, can also create a complex bouquet of flavors that complement each other beautifully.

Preservation is key to prolonging the life of your savory herbs, ensuring that you have a steady supply throughout the year.

Drying is a common method where the leaves maintain much of their original character.

Properly preserved, savory can be an indispensable addition to your spice rack, ready to enhance your culinary creations with its robust character.

Whether you’re experimenting with new recipes or refining old favorites, the inclusion of savory is sure to impress with its distinctive taste profile.

Understanding Savory

Savory is a versatile herb that enhances your dishes with a unique flavor and offers various health benefits.

This section will uncover its rich history, distinct types, characteristic flavor profile, and nutritional advantages.

History of Savory

Savory has been valued since ancient times, particularly by the Greeks and Ancient Romans.

The Romans appreciated savory for its supposed qualities as a natural aphrodisiac and even infused it into love potions.

Originating in the Mediterranean region, savory has been a culinary and medicinal staple for centuries.

Types of Savory

There are two main types of savory that you can incorporate into your cooking:

  • Summer Savory: A fast-growing annual herb known for its sweet and spicy aroma.
  • Winter Savory: A perennial that tends to have a more pungent and bitter taste.
Summer SavoryLighter, sweeter flavor, similar to thyme.Annual
Winter SavoryStronger, more peppery flavor, reminiscent of mint.Perennial

Savory’s Flavor Profile

Savory imparts a robust, peppery flavor with a hint of marjoram, mint, and thyme.

It’s a popular herb used in seasoning meats, beans, and sauces.

Its taste also offers an ideal substitute for salt, making it beneficial for those looking to reduce their sodium intake.

Health Benefits and Uses

Savory is not just a culinary delight but also packed with antioxidants that may provide health benefits.

It’s used both fresh and dried in various dishes and can contribute to the following:

  • Enhancing the taste of meats and vegetables.
  • Serving as a seasoning for stews and sauces.
  • Offering potential digestive aid due to its antioxidant content.

Remember to choose the type of savory that best suits the flavor profile you’re aiming for in your dishes.

Culinary Applications

A chef sprinkles savory herbs onto a sizzling pan of sautéing vegetables. The aroma of the herbs fills the air as the vegetables begin to caramelize

Savory, an aromatic herb with a peppery flavor, enhances the taste of a multitude of dishes. Here’s how you can incorporate savory into cooking various foods.

Pairing Savory with Meats

Incorporate savory into your meat dishes to impart a robust, peppery note commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine.

For chicken or lamb, add fresh savory to infuse the meat with a vibrant taste during roasting or grilling.

Beef pairs well with the concentrated flavors of dried savory, either rubbed onto the surface before cooking or mixed into marinades.

Savory in Vegetable Dishes

Vegetables benefit significantly from the addition of savory. Its distinct flavor complements both root vegetables and green produce.

Toss a handful of fresh savory with roasted carrots or parsnips to elevate their natural sweetness.

Stir dried savory into sautéed greens like spinach or kale to enhance their earthy qualities.

Savory with Beans and Legumes

Savory is particularly well-suited for bean and legume dishes.

It combats the flatulence often associated with these foods while also offering a thyme-like flavor profile.

Add savory to bean soups and stews to create a flavorful broth.

When preparing simple legume salads, mix in a pinch of dried savory to tie together the various ingredients.

Using Fresh vs. Dried Savory

Balance is key when choosing between fresh and dried savory.

Fresh savory imparts a lighter, more immediate flavor ideal for quick-cooking and delicate dishes, such as herbed butters or dressings.

Use dried savory for a potent taste in long-simmered dishes, as it releases its flavor slowly.

Remember, when substituting dried savory for fresh, use about one-third the amount due to its concentrated nature.

Herbal Combinations and Substitutes

A wooden cutting board with fresh savory leaves and a mortar and pestle alongside various herbs and spices. A cookbook open to a page on using savory in cooking

When using savory in your cooking, it’s essential to understand how it interacts with other herbs and what you can use as a substitute if it’s unavailable.

Savory in Herb Blends

Savory blends well with a variety of herbs to enhance the flavor profile of your dishes.

One classic combination is herbes de Provence, a French blend incorporating savory with thyme, rosemary, oregano, and sometimes marjoram.

Herbes de Provence ComponentNote
SavoryImparts a piney, peppery flavor characteristic of the blend.
ThymeAdds a subtle, earthy tone.
RosemaryContributes a woodsy, citrus aroma.
OreganoProvides a slightly bitter, robust taste.
MarjoramOffers a sweet, citrus and pine flavor.

Substituting Savory in Recipes

Should you find yourself without savory, don’t worry; there are several herbs you can use as substitutes.

Consider the dish you’re preparing and choose a substitute that complements the other flavors present.

  • Thyme: A universal substitute, thyme shares similar pungent and peppery notes.
  • Sage: Works well in heavier dishes such as those with pork or beans, where savory would typically be used.
  • Oregano: Brings a robustness to dishes, perfect for tomato-based sauces where savory’s boldness is desired.
  • Rosemary: With its strong flavor, use sparingly as a substitute, particularly in Mediterranean dishes.
  • Marjoram: Milder than savory, but it can still provide a similar warmth in soups and stews.

Growing and Harvesting Savory

Growing savory in your herb garden provides a flavorful addition to your culinary arsenal. With proper care, you can harvest and store savory to enhance your dishes year-round.

Cultivating Savory at Home

Savory, particularly Satureja hortensis, is an annual plant that thrives in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.7 and 7.3.

  • Planting Zones: Aim for zones 6-9 for optimal growth.
  • Sunlight: Choose a location in full sun, though savory tolerates partial sun.
  • Watering: Water consistently, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between watering.
  • Spacing: Space plants about 6 to 12 inches apart to ensure ample air circulation.

This herb can be cultivated directly in your garden or in pots, which is beneficial for the perennial variety to move to warmer areas during colder months.

Harvest and Storage Tips

When your savory plant reaches maturity, it’s time to harvest:

  • Timing: Harvest just before the plant flowers for the best flavor.
  • Technique: Clip stems using scissors, leaving at least a third of each plant to encourage new growth.

For storage, you have a couple of options:

  • Drying: Tie cuttings in small bunches and hang upside down in a dry, ventilated area.
  • Freezing: Chop the savory and freeze it in an airtight container or bag to preserve its flavor.

Cooking with Savory

Before incorporating savory into your dishes, understand that this herb is a potent flavor enhancer. It’s known for adding a peppery and piney note to meats and stews, imbuing them with an aromatic complexity.

Recipes Featuring Savory

  • Chicken: Season your roast chicken with a mix of dried savory, salt, and pepper for a crisp, flavorful skin.
  • Beef and Pork: Create a robust dry rub with ground savory, garlic powder, and smoked paprika to elevate your beef or pork roasts.
  • Lamb: Pair lamb chops with a marinade of fresh savory, olive oil, and lemon zest for a tender and savory dish.
  • Fish: Enhance delicate fish fillets by baking them with a topping of breadcrumbs mixed with minced savory, parsley, and lemon juice.
  • Sausages: Add dried savory to your homemade sausage mixture for a heightened, herby flavor.
  • Stews and Soups: Incorporate whole sprigs of savory into the pot for an aromatic base in your stews and soups.
  • Stuffings: Mix chopped savory into bread stuffing to imbue a warming undertone in poultry or vegetable stuffings.

Seasoning Techniques with Savory

  • Dry Rubs: Combine crushed savory leaves with spices like cumin and coriander for a vibrant dry rub.
  • Herb Crusts: Create an herbal crust for meats by blending savory with other herbs and breadcrumbs.
  • Marinades: Infuse marinades with savory to tenderize and season meat, particularly poultry and pork.

Making Savory Infusions

  • Oils: For a savory oil, steep fresh savory sprigs in warm olive oil to capture its essence. This is ideal for salad dressings or drizzling over grilled vegetables.
  • Vinegars: Enhance vinegars with savory to create a punchy base for sauces or vinaigrettes, complementing both vegetables and meats.

Innovative Uses of Savory

Savory, with its robust peppery flavor, lends itself to a wide array of culinary applications. This versatile herb can elevate traditional dishes and inspire contemporary creations.

Contemporary Savory Fusions

As you embrace the global pantry, consider incorporating savory into a variety of cuisines. Innovative chefs find that savory harmonizes well with summer vegetables like tomatoes and asparagus, offering a bridge between the sweetness of ripe produce and the herb’s intrinsic peppery taste.

You might create a European fusion by adding savory to a traditional ratatouille, enhancing the Mediterranean notes of the dish.

Experiment with savory in Asian-inspired dishes. For instance, try integrating fresh savory sprigs into a stir-fry with mushrooms and root vegetables. You can also add it to a warm soup with beans for a comforting meal.

The herb’s flavor complements the earthiness of mushrooms and the starchiness of potatoes. Paring savory with tomatoes in a pasta dish not only adds depth but also complements the tomatoes’ acidity with its slightly bitter undertones.

Savory in Baking and Desserts

Moving beyond its traditional role as a seasoning for savory dishes, you can integrate savory into baking. Consider crafting a distinct herb-infused bread by folding chopped savory into your dough. This approach can introduce a subtle, unexpected flavor to a classic loaf.

For a creative twist, integrate savory into desserts. The herb can add a nuanced, mint-like quality to sweet dishes. A light sprinkle of savory in a fruit salad might enhance the overall taste profile without overpowering the sweetness of the fruits.

Additionally, savory can pair well with custard-based desserts, such as pots de crème or savory-infused crème brûlée. It lends a flavorful yet balanced contrast to the palate.

Preservation and Storage

Proper preservation of savory will ensure its flavors are retained for your future culinary use. Both drying and storage, as well as capturing its essence, are key to maintaining its pungent scent and taste.

Drying and Storing Savory

To dry savory, you need to harvest the leaves and flowers when they are free of dew, and the essential oils are at their peak. Hang them in small bunches in a well-ventilated, dark, and dry spot. This can take 1-2 weeks. Once completely dried to a crumbly texture, strip the leaves and flowers from the stems.

Store your dried savory in an airtight container away from direct sunlight to protect its mild yet pungent scent. This method allows savory to keep its characteristics for up to a year, making it a reliable pantry staple.

Preserving Savory’s Essence

To preserve the full essence of savory, consider freezing. Lay fresh savory leaves on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag. Frozen savory retains its robust flavor better than dried and can be used directly in cooking, delivering a fresh taste even out of season.

Savory Beyond the Kitchen

A chef sprinkles savory herbs onto a sizzling pan of vegetables, filling the air with an aromatic and mouthwatering scent

Savory isn’t just reserved for culinary delights; its uses extend to home remedies and garden aesthetics, offering benefits that may surprise you.

Savory in Home Remedies

You might find savory helpful for digestive issues such as indigestion and gas. This herb’s potent, earthy, and pungent characteristics make it a natural candidate for soothing the stomach. For instance:

  • Indigestion Relief: A tea made from savory leaves can help alleviate digestive discomfort.
  • Natural Aphrodisiac: Referenced historically as an “herb of love,” savory has been considered a natural aphrodisiac.

Savory’s scent, closely resembling oregano and thyme with hints of pine, is not only pleasing but also potentially therapeutic.

Savory as an Ornamental Plant

In your garden, savory can double as an ornamental plant, thanks to its vibrant flowers and appealing structure. Here’s how you can integrate it:

  • Display: Plant savory where its bright flowers can complement your garden’s aesthetic.
  • Scent: Position savory in areas where you can enjoy its earthy aroma.

While typically sought after for its culinary uses, savory’s versatility as a home remedy and an ornamental plant emphasizes its multifunctional nature.

Tips and Best Practices

A chef sprinkles savory onto a sizzling pan of vegetables, adding depth and flavor to the dish. A cookbook lies open nearby, showcasing various ways to incorporate savory into cooking

When using savory in cooking, it’s important to select quality herbs, maximize the flavor they impart to your dishes, and be mindful of common pitfalls. The following tips and best practices can help you incorporate this potent, peppery herb effectively.

Selecting Quality Savory

Fresh Savory: Look for sprigs with vibrant green leaves, indicating freshness and potency. Fresh savory should have a scent reminiscent of thyme or mint, signaling that its flavorful oils are intact. Store fresh savory in the refrigerator, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag for up to a week.

Dried Savory: When purchasing dried savory, choose brands with good turnover to ensure freshness. Dried savory should possess a strong, peppery aroma. If it’s sweet and delicate, this may reflect a fresher batch. It’s more concentrated than fresh, so use it sparingly. Store in an airtight container away from light and heat for up to six months.

Maximizing Flavor in Dishes

Herb Combinations: Combine savory with other mint-related herbs like thyme or rosemary to build a harmonious and complex flavor profile. Add savory early in the cooking process for dishes that require longer cooking times, allowing its full flavor to infuse into your dish.

Table for Herb Ratios:

HerbAmount of FreshAmount of Dried
Savory1 tablespoon1 teaspoon
Thyme1 tablespoon1 teaspoon
Rosemary1 tablespoon1 teaspoon

Meat Pairings: Utilize savory’s robustness to enhance the taste of meats. Its peppery flavor pairs well with poultry, pork, and game. For a more tender and savory twist, create a bouquet garni including savory to slip into broth-based meat dishes.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Overpowering with Savory: Given its potency, it’s crucial to balance savory with the other flavors in your dish. Begin with smaller amounts, taste regularly, and adjust accordingly to ensure it complements rather than overwhelms.

Mistaking the Varieties: Don’t confuse summer savory, known historically as the ‘herb of love’ for its lighter and sweeter properties, with winter savory, which has a more intense and earthier flavor. Match the variety of savory to the dish’s flavor profile for the best results.

FAQs and Troubleshooting

A chef adding savory to a sizzling pan of vegetables, with a cookbook open to a page titled "FAQs and Troubleshooting: How to Use Savory in Cooking."

In this section, you’ll find focused answers to common questions about savory and solutions to typical cooking issues when using it. This herb brings an earthy, peppery flavor to dishes, which can be substituted with thyme or sage if needed.

Common Questions About Savory Usage

Is savory similar to other herbs?

  • Yes, savory has a flavor profile that is somewhat reminiscent of thyme and sage. It offers a slightly bitter, spicy note to dishes.

Can I replace savory with another herb?

  • If you’re out of savory, thyme or sage can be good substitutes. Use them in a 1:1 ratio when replacing savory.

What are the culinary best uses for savory?

  • Savory is quite versatile:
    • Meat Rubs: enhances flavor, especially for pork and chicken.
    • Beans and Lentils: reduces bitterness and adds an aromatic touch.
    • Herbal Teas: provides an earthy, mint-infused flavor.

Troubleshooting Savory Cooking Issues

My dish tastes too bitter after adding savory. What can I do?

  • Bitterness can be balanced by:
    • Adding a pinch of sugar or honey.
    • Increasing the amount of aromatic vegetables like carrots or onions.

Savory’s flavor is overpowering in my spice blend. How should I adjust it?

  • Modify the spice blend by:
    • Reducing the quantity of savory.
    • Adding more mild spices like paprika or black pepper to mellow the spiciness.


Incorporating savory into your dishes is a straightforward way to enhance the flavor profile of your meals. Summer savory is recommended as a substitute for thyme due to its similar taste and versatility. You can incorporate this herb into a wide array of recipes, such as savory pies, stews, and meat dishes.

Here are some tips for using savory:

  • Beans: Add savory to beans to not only boost flavor but also to reduce the side effects like flatulence.
  • Meats: Season meat with savory to impart a robust taste.
  • Herb Blends: Create your own herb blends combining savory with other herbs like rosemary or thyme for a unique flavor.

When using savory, remember:

  • Fresh vs. Dried: Fresh savory is less potent than dried, so adjust amounts accordingly.
  • Pairing: Savory pairs well with a variety of foods, experiment to find your personal preference.

Frequently Asked Questions

A chef sprinkles savory herbs onto a sizzling pan of vegetables

In this section, you’ll find targeted answers to common queries about using savory in the kitchen to enhance your dishes.

What herbs can be substituted for savory in recipes?

If you’re out of savory, you can use thyme or marjoram as a substitute. They share a similar peppery quality, though the flavor will not be identical.

How should dried savory be used when seasoning chicken?

When using dried savory to season chicken, start with one teaspoon per pound of meat. Dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor, so you can use less than you would with fresh savory.

Can you provide a list of recipes that highlight summer savory?

Some recipes that showcase summer savory include bean soups, lentil stews, and herb butter. Summer savory’s lighter flavor pairs well with eggs and cheese dishes too.

What dishes are best complemented by the flavor of winter savory?

Winter savory’s robust taste is well-suited for heartier dishes. It pairs excellently with game meats, roasted potatoes, and bean-based recipes.

How does the taste of savory compare to other common herbs?

Savory has a peppery bite similar to thyme but also offers a unique, piney undertone. Its flavor is more assertive than parsley but less minty than oregano.

In what kind of recipes is ground savory most commonly utilized?

Ground savory is often used in spice rubs for meat. It is also used in stuffing recipes and to season beans and lentils. It’s a common ingredient in recipes from Mediterranean cuisine.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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