Fish can be hard to pair with flavours as it is often very delicate and not something you want to overpower. It’s easy to throw rosemary and thyme at meat, but what are the best herbs for fish?
Popular herbs to use with fish include dill, perfect for salmon due to its light, slightly bitter taste; parsley, offering a fresh, mildly peppery note; tarragon, providing a slight anise flavour; chervil, known for its subtle hint of liquorice; and thyme, which has a delicate, earthy taste.
Our 7 Favourite Herbs for Fish
Although several herbs work well with fish, some work well with particular types of fish. Knowing when to use which herbs when is vital. Below are our seven favourites for herbs for use with fish and how to use them:
Dill pairs exceptionally well with salmon and trout. It’s a core pairing with lox for good reason!
Try adding fresh dill into marinades, sprinkling it on the fish before baking, or mixing it into sauces like tzatziki or dill and lemon butter sauce. Beware of overusing dill, though, as its flavour is quite potent; start small and add to taste.
Coriander lends a bright, slightly citrusy flavour to spicy fish dishes, fish tacos, and Asian-inspired fish recipes. The leaves can be used as a garnish or in salsas and marinades.
Be aware that coriander is divisive; some people have a genetic trait that makes it taste like soap! And yes, this is supported by science.
Yes, coriander seeds have a subtle, lemon-like flavour to them. Although usually used in curries, they can work well on various meaty fish such as monkfish and salmon.
This versatile herb works with nearly all types of fish. Use parsley in gremolata (an Italian condiment made from lemon zest, garlic, and parsley), sprinkle it fresh on finished dishes, or use it in a fish stew.
Remember that flat-leaf parsley tends to have more flavour than curly-leaf parsley, the flavour is strongest just after chopping and it will lose a lot of flavour when cooked in a dish.
As the name suggests, lemon balm imparts a mild lemony flavour that suits delicate fish like tilapia or seabass. After all, you probably know that lemon and fish are a match made in culinary heaven.
It can be used similarly to dill or parsley, but be mindful that its flavour is mild and can be easily overpowered by other ingredients. Use fresh lemon balm for the best flavour.
This delicate herb has a subtle anise flavour and works well with light fish dishes or seafood salads. Sprinkle chervil on the fish just before serving, or use it in a cream sauce.
It loses flavour quickly when heated, so add it at the end of cooking or use it fresh.
Tarragon has a liquorice-like flavour that pairs well with grilled or baked fish like halibut, snapper, or seabass. It’s great in butter sauces or sprinkled on just before serving. It also works well when used in a parcel when cooking fish en papillote.
Use it sparingly, as its flavour can become overpowering. Fresh tarragon has a more nuanced flavour than dried.
Basil pairs wonderfully with fish like swordfish, salmon, and cod. Try it in pesto over baked fish or tomato and basil sauce. Basil’s flavour can be lost when heated for too long, so add it near the end of cooking or use it fresh.
The Ultimate Salsa Verde for Fish
Combine a handful each of fresh dill, parsley, and basil with two minced garlic cloves, the zest and juice of one lemon, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth, then slowly drizzle in olive oil until you achieve your desired consistency.
Which Herbs Do NOT Work With Fish?
While taste can be subjective and depends on personal preferences, a few herbs are generally not the first choice when preparing fish due to their strong (therefore, overpowering) flavours, which might overwhelm the delicate flavour of the fish.
Sage has a strong, slightly peppery flavour that can overpower most fish. It’s more commonly used with fattier meats and in stuffing.
Oregano is another robust herb that can be too powerful for fish. It is typically better suited to Italian dishes and heartier meat cooked in a stew.
While rosemary can be used with certain types of fish, its pine-like flavour can often be too intense for lighter, more delicate fish dishes – especially light white fish fillets.
Although used in some specific fish dishes, mint is not a common pair with fish. Its sweet flavour is usually more at home in salads, desserts, or drinks than most main-course fish dishes.
Yes, you can use dried herbs with fish. However, remember that dried herbs are typically more potent than fresh ones, so use them sparingly and rehydrate in a little warm water if possible to release their flavours.
Hailing from Liverpool, Oliver is an adventurous chef with a penchant for exploring diverse cuisines and novel ingredients. Ollie, combining his love for local British flavours with global influences, brings innovation and charm to home cooking.