Calendar Recipe Box Shopping List Address Book

The Difference Between Herbs and Spices

The Difference Between Herbs and Spices

Both herbs and spices make cooking tastier and more fun.

By Karen Berman

  Print: Full Page
Text Only
  Email: Article
   Find: More Articles

What’s the difference between an herb and a spice? Some people think they mean the same thing, but technically, they don’t.

Both are used to add flavor and aroma, as well as nutrition, to all kinds of foods, but herbs are typically leaves, stems or flowers that are used to season foods, while spices are usually seeds, barks, pods or rhizomes. (This is true in the United States, at any rate. In some places, certain terms are used to refer to both the herb and the spice; coriander, for example, is understood to mean both the seed and the leaf. In the U.S, though, coriander is the spice and cilantro is the herb.)

You can buy herbs fresh or dried — or you can grow fresh herbs yourself in your garden or in a flowerpot. There’s nothing like fresh herbs to add a fresh, lively note to your cooking, and they make lovely garnishes, too.

A few jars of dried herbs in the pantry can be a lifesaver when you can’t get fresh. Some dried varieties, such as oregano, have a more intense flavor, so some cooks prefer to cook with those. (Measure 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of chopped fresh.)

Spices are sold ground or whole. They don’t go bad, but they do lose their potency over time, so they shouldn’t be kept for more than a year, at most. You can grind whole spices yourself in a food processor or spice grinder. Or you can buy a coffee grinder and use it exclusively for spices grinding. A mortar and pestle requires a bit more elbow grease but works well, too.

Storing Both Herbs and Spices
You should store your spices and dried herbs in tightly sealed glass containers and keep them in a cool, dry, dark spot. Dampness, light and heat are the enemies; the first can cause spoilage; the second and third can rob your seasonings of flavor and aroma.

Both herbs and spices make dishes sing with flavor and aroma. Use them judiciously but often. You won’t be sorry!


Enter your email address to receive delicious, family-friendly recipes, exciting promotions, helpful articles and more delivered right to your mailbox. What could be better?


Season with Gusto!
Culinary herbs and spices make food taste better than ever.
View Full Article

Cooking with Dried Herbs and Spices
No kitchen should be without these culinary heroes.
View Full Article

Spice Up Your Cakes
Whether you prefer a light spice cake or a rich ginger cake, these desserts are perfect for the holidays.
View Full Article

The Magical World of Indian Spices
Indian food is well loved all over the world. Bring some of its irresistible flavors into your kitchen.
View Full Article

Marinades and Rubs for Summertime
Rely on marinades and spice rubs from McCormick to flavor meat destined for the grill.
View Full Article

Spice and Herb Rub for Lamb
This blend is great on lamb.


Raspberry Apple Spiced Tea
Few beverages warm a holiday heart as much as Mary`s Raspberry Apple Spiced Tea. Runner-up in The Culinary Institute of America`s Holiday Recipe Contest we congratulate Mary of Ada, Oklahoma on her submission of her specialty Raspberry Apple Spiced Tea.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Just one slice of this kissed-with-spice quick bread gives you 25 percent of the vitamin A you need in a day.

Pumpkin Spice Ghost Cake
Surprise your trick-or treaters with this hauntingly-good pumpkin spice cake with a rich cream cheese frosting.

Tagged With: spices, dried spices, cooking, herbs, storing spices

Simply fill out the required fields to begin enjoying the benefits of – it’s fast and it’s free.
* required

Concerned about privacy? Rest assured, we never sell or share your personal information.
See our Privacy Policy.