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Behind the Seasoning: Thyme - Uses, Benefits & Recipes

Close up spoon of dried thyme
There is no need to rush when talking about thyme. The earthy herb is a must have when it comes to pantry staples.

Our French Thyme is full of warm, earthy, and sharp flavors that compliment vegetables, proteins, and even grains. Read on to learn all about the details of thyme, where it comes from, and the best way to use it.

What is Thyme?

Thyme is a leafy herb that is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean. The herb is part of the mint family and related to the oregano, both of which are natural complements and are sometimes used together. It is believed to first have been cultivated by the ancient  Egyptians.

Unlike many spices, herbs can grow in a wider range of climates. As a perennial plant, thyme grows year- after-year in warm locations with rocky soil. For this reason, you’ll find it in a variety of European cuisines. Thyme is an essential herb to keep in your spice collection. The leafy herb can be used fresh or dried when cooking vegetables or proteins.

What does thyme look like?

Even though thyme is related to mint and oregano, it looks distinctively different. Thyme plants grow in small leafy clusters on woody stems. Another way to distinguish thyme from other leafy herbs is to smell some of the small leaves. Thyme has such a pleasant smell that is easy to separate from mint and oregano.

Types of thyme?

There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to thyme. Each variety has a stand-out quality that makes it great for different uses in the kitchen, however they can all be used interchangeably. Some common varieties of thyme include French Thyme, Common Thyme, Mediterranean Thyme, German Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Creeping Thyme, Wooly Thyme, and Mother of Thyme. Our favorite, French Thyme, can be bought in our store.

What is the difference between thyme and French thyme?

So, what is the difference between all of these varieties of thyme? While they all look similar and have a leafy green appearance, their taste can differ. Traditional thyme is pale green in color. As it grows, it develops a sharp flavor. French time grows with deep green leaves and a strong aroma. Unlike traditional thyme, French thyme has more flavor with notes of bitterness.

Sausage patties with blueberries and thyme

What Does Thyme Taste Like

There are a lot of flavors for your taste buds to balance when it comes to thyme. The leafy herb is warm, slightly peppery, and a little earthy. This depth of lfavor makes it an incredibly versatile herb that pairs well with many other spices and ingredients.

Fresh thyme tends to have a bright and peppery flavor, while dried thyme is more earthy due to its dehydrated consistency. The variety can alter the taste as well. Lemon thyme has a slightly lemony flavor, while orange thyme has more notes of orange. The name of the thyme typically reflects the flavor profile of the herb. But if you don’t have a specific variety, you can use any type and add other spices or ingredients to replicate the notes. For example, instead of lemon thyme, you can use thyme with a bit of lemon zest.

Thyme leaves & ground thyme

Thyme has a strong earthy, herby, and bittersweet flavor no matter how it is prepared. Fresh thyme leaves right from the stem offer a sharp, slightly minty flavor that is great to add to savory dishes. The fresh leaves are striking in taste and add an element of freshness no matter what you are cooking. Dried thyme, like most dried herbs, imparts the same flavor but turned down a notch. Since the thyme herb is dehydrated, the flavor isn’t as intense. It also stands up better to longer, slower cooking like roasts and stews.

Our dried Premium French Thyme is filled with peppery and earthy notes. Thyme leaves are very small and can be used whole but even though our thyme is sold as dried leaves, it can easily be ground down into a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.

Health Benefits of Thyme

Besides seasoning your food, thyme can also be super beneficial to your health. The thyme herb has been known to help lower blood pressure, prevent bacterial infections, fight acne, and alleviate coughs. The tasty herb is great to add to your diet to absorb the health benefits.

Healing benefits of thyme tea

Like mint, thyme leaves can be steeped in hot water to make a delicious cup of tea. Drinking thyme tea is reported to be an excellent way to absorb all of the nutrients of the herb and soak up the health benefits. Drinking thyme tea is known to help with digestion, calm down the nervous system, and soothe a sore throat. Plus, it is an antioxidant.

Clock made from dried thyme

How and Where to Buy Thyme?

You might not be able to buy time but thyme is one of the most common herbs used in cooking and is widely available. Fresh thyme can be found in your local market in the produce aisle. It is typically sold in sprigs by the stem. You’ll also find it in fresh poultry herbs as well as in our Poultry Seasoning. We carry Premium French Thyme in our store. The variety of thyme is earthier than the common blend and has a slightly bitter flavor.

Thyme Uses

The number of ways you can use thyme in cooking has no limit. When using fresh thyme, it is best to pick the leaves from the sprig and finely chop them. If using thyme herb in a marinade or when roasting meat, the whole sprig can be thrown into the recipe. Dried thyme can be used right from the jar. Unlike fresh thyme, there is no need for any chopping or picking. The herb, along with salt and pepper, is a great basic seasoning mix.

What is thyme used for?

When it comes to cooking, thyme adds an earthy flavor to whatever you are cooking. The herb is great to use both in its fresh and dried form. The herb can be used to season meats, stocks, soups, and more. Not a lot of thyme (or time) is needed to elevate vegetables to the next level. A simple sprinkling while roasting or is enough to make the vegetables stand out on their own. It can even be used when baking by adding the herb into doughs and batters.

Can you eat thyme by itself?

While you can eat thyme by itself, it is better to use the herb as a seasoning and add it to other dishes. If you want to have thyme on its own, try brewing a cup of thyme tea. Just like mint tea, the leaves can be brewed in hot water to create a tasty and soothing herbal and caffeine-free drink.

Thyme Substitutes: What to Use Instead of Thyme

If you find yourself out of thyme and need to replace it quickly, there are many spices and herbs that will work in its place. Oregano is perhaps the closest you will get to the original herb. While the two herbs are closely related, oregano is slightly sweeter and not as earthy, so some adjustments may need to be made. 

Other substitutes that will work for thyme include mint, marjoram, parsley, basil, rosemary, or tarragon. All of these herbs are leafy greens with similar flavor profiles. The best one to use will depend on what you’re cooking and what flavor notes you want to bring out. Some have sweeter or sharper notes, so make sure to taste for seasoning when using these as a substitute.

If you need to replace dried thyme, you have a few options. Consider what dish or cuisine you're using it in and then swap thyme out for Italian Herbs, Za’atar, Herbes de Provence, or Poultry Seasoning. The spice blends all share similar profiles and will help you reach your seasoning goals.

What Other Spice, Seasoning, and Flavors Pair Well with Thyme?

When it comes to thyme, the herb is really good at making friends in the kitchen. Thyme is an excellent herb to pair with lots of other leafy herbs. Mixing it with basil and rosemary is always a good idea and great for a last minute seasoning for proteins or vegetables. Surprisingly, thyme also pairs well with other spices and ingredients like allspicenutmeg, cloves, as well as garlic and lemon peel.

Thyme seasoning

If you don’t want to mix up your own spice blends, you can taste these flavorful pairings for yourself with many seasoning blends. Pizza & Pasta Sprinkle, Za’atar Seasoning, and Herbes de Provence are just a few that feature the herby, earthy flavor of French Thyme.

Saffron & Squash Risotto with thyme

Thyme Recipes

There are so many different ways to use thyme when cooking. Below you’ll find some of our favorite ways to highlight the herb.

Main Courses: Thyme is one of those herbs that always has a place in a main course. Use the dried herb to accentuate the flavor of meat, highlight freshness, and bring the whole plate together.

  • Saffron & Squash Risotto: Saffron may be the star of this dish, but that doesn’t mean the thyme doesn’t shine. The spices work together to create a balanced risotto that melts in your mouth. 
  • Southern Gold Pot Pie: Use the thyme in this recipe to highlight the filling that brings the whole pot pie together. 
  • Fall Harvest Lasagna Rolls: Ditch the full pan of lasagna and opt for lasagna roll-ups instead. They will cook in half the time and shine through with thyme flavor.
  • Vegan Pot Pie: Meat is not always needed to make a main course that is out of this world. Case in point: this vegan pot pie. Thyme elevates the veggies to the next level.
  • Steak and Potato Crusted Quiche: Steak, potatoes, and thyme are always a good pairing. The potatoes work as the crust in this playful version of steak and potatoes.

Soups, Stews, and Sauces: Use dried thyme to bring the flavors together in one pot. The thyme works alongside other herbs and spices to create a balanced flavor profile.

  • Golden Beet and Parsnip Soup: Dried thyme cooks alongside golden beets and parsnip to create a warming soup that is great for any time of the year.
  • Baharat Lentil Stew: Bring the best Middle Eastern flavors to the table with this hearty stew. The thyme pairs with Baharat to make a meal with knockout flavors.
  • Sauce Tomat: Use dried thyme to bring this French mother sauce to life. Once you nail this sauce, you’ll understand why it is used over and over again.
  • Espagnole Sauce: This French mother sauce is deep and rich in flavor. Serve the sauce alongside roasted meats for a savory touch.

Baking: Herbs are not always the first thing you think of when baking. However, thyme adds a flavor to breads and dough that is earthy and balanced. Try it out for yourself and watch your tastebuds fall in love.

Seasoning Mixes: If you can’t find a recipe or mix that will work for your flavor profile, make your own! Thyme is excellent to combine with other spices and herbs to make outstanding marinades and rubs. 

  • Homemade Seasonings: Follow this guide to make a blend of homemade seasonings that will work for you when cooking proteins and vegetables.
  • For 4-5 T of Mediterranean Herb Mix: Crack 1 Tbsp fennel seeds and mix with 1 Tbsp each of dried savory and thyme, 1 1/2 tsp each of dried cracked rosemary and lavender, 1 tsp each of dried marjoram and basil, and 1/2 tsp dried tarragon.

Mix of dried herbs

 

For more herby flavor inspiration, shop our Herbs collection. Go Behind the Seasoning to learn more about Oregano and Basil.

Have a favorite way to use thyme? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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