We are always looking for ways to make mealtimes a little less bleak and a lot more delicious without paying out for rare ingredients that cost more than they are worth. One way that is sure to liven up your dish is a herb mix.
Two of the most popular herb mixes in the UK and US are herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning. When sat next to each other on the supermarket shelf, it can be difficult to tell the blends apart. But are herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning really that different?
The main difference between herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning is the herbs they use. Herbes de Provence uses savory and marjoram, which provides minty and floral undertones, while Italian seasoning gets a little sweetness from dried basil and parsley.
What is Herbes De Provence?
Before the 1970s, herbes de Provence was more of a description used by people in the South East of France for a bunch of dried herbs mixed together in various combinations rather than a specific combination.
But when Julia Child brought the attention of the average American to French cooking, herb and spices manufacturers designed herbes de Provence using common herbs found in traditional herb mixes in Provence.
Modern herb de Provence manufacturers vary in the dried herbs used and the ratio of those dried herbs as a mix. However, there are a few herbs that are typical of herbes de Provence.
Marjoram, thyme, savory, rosemary, and oregano often form the base of herbes de Provence. These herbs are key ingredients used in French cuisine, but the use of marjoram and savory gives herbes de Provence a slight Mediterranean feel.
You will find that most herbes de Provence mixes have a thyme or rosemary emphasis, which is then reflected in the overall flavour. The final herb blend has a complex earthy taste with minty undertones.
Thyme and rosemary are go-to pairings for a range of vegetables, especially root or summer vegetables. Lamb, chicken and oily fish dishes can also benefit greatly from the use of herb de Provence.
The main herbs in herbes de Provence include thyme, marjoram and rosemary as the core herbs. Some mixes will also include tarragon, savory, oregano, bay and even lavender.
What is Italian Seasoning?
You may think, as many do, that Italian seasoning is an Italian invention used across generations of Italian chefs and infused into the very heart of Italian cuisine…
… But that is not the case.
Italian seasoning, as most know it today, is thought to be an American invention and rarely used in Italy itself. The blend of dried herbs seems to be used in home kitchens worldwide, except in Italy.
The reason that Italian seasoning is called such is because of the dried herbs that it contains.
Fresh basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary are very common in Italian cuisine, forming the base tastes for the vast majority of classic Italian dishes.
Italian seasoning combines dried versions of these herbs to create one coherent mix that can add instant flavour to a dish in a more accessible way. After all, not everyone is lucky enough to have fresh herbs at their fingertips for every meal.
The ratio of herbs used in Italian seasoning differs from brand to brand, though rosemary and thyme seem to be the most common bases for the mixes, creating an earthy and slightly sweet profile.
Dried oregano, thyme, and rosemary are the core herbs used in most Italian seasoning blends. But dried basil, parsley, and even chilli flakes are also often used in various ratios.
Similarities Between Herbes De Provence and Italian Seasoning
When broken down, herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning are not that different. Here are examples of how the dried herb mixes are similar:
- 3 Core Herbs – No matter the brand you prefer, all herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning manufacturers will use the same core dried herbs to build the base of their mixes. They are oregano, thyme, and rosemary. As such, the blends can be used in similar instances.
- Complex Earthiness – Because herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning use the same base herbs, they are both very earthy. The base ingredients both use, what are known as, woody herbs.
- Dried Herbs – Part of what makes herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning so widely used in the west is their accessibility. Not everyone has the time to tend to fresh herbs every day, so buying a dried herb mix is a cheap and sure way to add flavour to any meal.
Differences Between Herbes De Provence and Italian Seasoning
Okay, so seeing as herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning are so popular in the West, how different can they really be? Well, here are just a few of the ways that the two dried herb blends differ:
- Added Herbs – Though their core ingredients are the same, it is the additional herbs included in herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning that separates them.
Herbes de Provence most commonly uses savory and marjoram to create an aromatic herb blend. This is also emphasised by the use of lavender in some cases. Italian seasoning keeps its additional herbs simple with basil and sometimes parsley for a sweeter finish.
- Herb Ratios – Not only do the ratio of herbs used in herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning differ from brand to brand, but they also differ from each other. Herbes de Provence tends to use more rosemary and thyme in its mix. Italian seasoning puts more emphasis on oregano.
- Place Of Origin – Technically, herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning as they are today are American creations. However, herbes de Provence originated as a concept in Provence, located in the South East of France, while Italian seasoning is considered an entirely American invention.
Herbes De Provence vs Italian Seasoning: Which Wins?
Although both are hugely popular seasonings to have in the kitchen cupboard, if you were only allowed to use one in the future, which would you pick? It’s herbes de Provence vs Italian seasoning:
Do You Prefer Herbes De Provence or Italian Seasoning?
Herbes De Provence and Italian Seasoning FAQs
Do you still have questions about herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning and their links? Then check these out:
Each herbes de Provence mix is different, though many Western iterations include lavender. This gives the mix more of a floral aroma which can be overwhelming unless used in moderation.
Yes, in marinades, either herb mix will work well. They will both add earthiness and warmth to a dish however there will be a subtle difference ins flavour.
Acacia may be a freelance writer by day, but they are a food fanatic by night. They are always trying out new recipes or finding different ways to elevate classical dishes. But their biggest culinary aim is to educate others on the basics of the kitchen so that they too can enjoy delicious food.