Rosemary 101 – The Basics

The following is a complete article about the herb rosemary, from what it is, to its health benefits, to how to prepare, preserve, and use it, to tips, ideas, and suggested recipes using rosemary, AND more! If you need information about this popular herb, hopefully you’ll find it here.


Rosemary 101 – The Basics

About Rosemary
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a small evergreen bush with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves. The bush produces white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. It is a member of the mint family. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region.

Rosemary has a pine-like fragrance and flavor that is balanced by a rich pungency. It has been used to flavor food since at least 500 B.C., and is still highly favored by many chefs today. Additionally, rosemary has been used since ancient times for its medicinal properties. It is believed to stimulate and strengthen memory. In the 16th and 17th centuries, rosemary became popular as a digestive aid. Today, researchers are focusing on the beneficial compounds in rosemary and are uncovering even more benefits from this ever-popular herb.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Rosemary
Rosemary is a good source of Vitamin A.

It also contains compounds that help to stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and improve digestion. Anti-inflammatory compounds in rosemary appear to help reduce the severity of asthma attacks. Rosemary has also been shown to increase blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration, which explains its age-old usage for improving memory.

How to Select Rosemary
The flavor of fresh rosemary is considered to be better than that of the dried herb, so most chefs will recommend fresh over the dried form.  Fresh rosemary is often sold in small bunches in sealed plastic packages in the produce section of many grocery stores. Look for sprigs that aren’t wilted, dried out, moldy, or discolored.

If you prefer dried herbs, most grocery stores carry dried rosemary in the spice isle of the store.

How to Store Rosemary
Storing Fresh Rosemary. To keep your fresh rosemary sprigs from drying out, wrap them loosely in a slightly damp paper towel or cloth, place it in a plastic bag or storage container, and store it in the refrigerator. Wrapping the sprigs tightly may invite mold, so be sure you wrap them loosely to allow some air around them. Rosemary should keep fresh for one to three weeks, depending on how long it has been since it was harvested.

Storing Dried Rosemary. Store dried rosemary in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.

How to Preserve Fresh Rosemary
Fresh rosemary may be stored in the freezer, either in ice cubes or as individual sprigs. It may also be dried, although the drying process does reduce some of the flavor. When using dried rosemary in place of fresh rosemary, use 1/4th to 1/3rd of the amount called for in a recipe.

Ice Cube Method. Remove the leaves from the stems, and chop them as desired. Place the prepared rosemary leaves in ice cube trays in desired amounts. Fill the trays with water and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag or container. When needed, place a cube or two in whatever food, soup, or stew as you’re cooking. Use within 4 to 6 months.

Freeze Individual Sprigs. To freeze individual rosemary sprigs, first wash and dry them well. Then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray and place them in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until frozen. Transfer them to a freezer bag or container and return them to the freezer. Use within 4 to 6 months.

Dehydrating Rosemary. Wash and dry your fresh rosemary sprigs. Place them in a single layer on food dehydrator trays and return the trays to the dehydrator. Set the dehydrator for a very low setting, usually 95 to 115°F, as indicated in the owner’s manual of your dehydrator. Dry the rosemary until the leaves are dry and brittle. The owner’s manual of your dehydrator should give you suggested drying times for herbs. Remove the leaves from the stems, and discard the stems. Store your dehydrated rosemary leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Properly stored dried rosemary will keep indefinitely, but the flavor will dwindle after one or two years.

Oven Dried Rosemary. Wash and dry your fresh rosemary sprigs. Place them in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place them in the oven at the lowest temperature possible. If you have a gas oven, the pilot light may provide enough heat to dry the springs. Allow them to bake until they are dry, brittle, and the leaves easily fall off the stems. The process can take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 or 2 days, depending upon the oven temperature and humidity level in your area. If your oven will not operate at a very low temperature (such as below 170°F), it may be necessary to leave the oven door open about 2 or 3 inches to keep the temperature down during the drying process. Once they are dry, remove the leaves from the stems. Store your dried rosemary leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Properly stored dried rosemary will keep indefinitely, but the flavor will dwindle after one or two years.

Hanging Rosemary to Dry. Rinse and pat your rosemary sprigs dry. Tie sprigs together at the base of the stems with twine or a rubber band. Hang them upside down in a well-ventilated, dry area. To keep the herb clean during the process, they can be covered with a paper bag by poking the cut ends of the stems through the bottom of a paper bag then hang them upside down. Or hang the sprigs upside down within a paper bag that has some holes punched into it. This allows air to reach the sprigs while keeping dust from settling on them as they dry. Allow them to dry for about 2 weeks, or until the leaves are dry, brittle, and can be removed easily from the stems. Check them regularly to be sure they have not gotten moldy or infested with insects. The drying process may take about two weeks. When they are dry, separate the leaves from the stems and store the leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Discard the stems. Store your dried rosemary leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Properly stored dried rosemary will keep indefinitely, but the flavor will dwindle after one or two years.

Microwave Drying Rosemary. The microwave can be used to quickly dry fresh rosemary if you’re in a hurry and need dried rosemary right away or don’t want to take a lot of time to dry the sprigs. Rinse and dry your fresh rosemary sprigs. Spread them out on a layer of paper towels on a microwave safe dish or tray. Place them in the microwave and cover them with another layer of paper towels. Microwave on high for one minute, then for 20 seconds at a time until they are dry enough to be crumbled. Separate the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems. Use the leaves as needed or allow them to cool. Store your dried rosemary leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Properly stored dried rosemary will keep indefinitely, but the flavor will dwindle after one or two years.

How to Prepare Fresh Rosemary
Simply rinse rosemary sprigs under cool water and shake or pat dry. They may also be swished around in a bowl of cool water. The leaves can easily be removed from the stems by grasping the tip of the stem with one hand, then grasp the stem with fingers of the other hand and gently push your fingers along the stem, removing the leaves as you push upward. Whole sprigs may be added to soups, stews, and meat dishes. Just remember to remove the sprigs before serving.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Rosemary
* When storing fresh rosemary, wait to wash it until you’re ready to use it. Washing it in advance may invite mold.

* Add fresh rosemary to omelets and frittatas.

* Try adding rosemary to tomato sauce and soups.

* Make a dipping sauce for bread by combining pureed fresh rosemary leaves with olive oil.

* Mince rosemary leaves if not using whole sprigs. The leaves are needle-like and will remain tough even after being cooked.

* The flavor of rosemary is strong. When adding it to a dish, use less rather than more. You can always add more if desired.

* Because the flavor of rosemary is strong, it pairs especially well with strong-flavored meats such as goat and lamb.

* When adding whole rosemary sprigs to a cooked dish, be sure to remove them before serving. The stems will remain tough, and could possibly be a choking hazard.

* The flavor of dried rosemary is concentrated. Dried rosemary will continue to release its essential oils and flavors while being cooked. Excessive cooking may make it bitter. So, using it in moderation may help to avoid bitterness or an overpowering flavor from the dried herb.

* If a recipe calls for fresh rosemary and you only have dried, use one-fourth to one-third of the amount called for when substituting dried for fresh.

* If a recipe calls for adding one sprig of fresh rosemary and you only have dried, assume that one sprig equals one teaspoon of leaves. When converting that to dried, use 1/4th to 1/3rd teaspoon.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Rosemary
Bay leaf, fennel seeds, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, pepper, sage, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Rosemary
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. cannellini, fava, green, white), chicken, eggs, lamb, lentils, peas (split), pine nuts, pork, salmon, tofu, tuna

Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chives, eggplant, fennel, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radicchio, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and tomato juice, vegetables (in general), zucchini

Fruits: Apples, apricots, citrus fruits, figs, poached fruit, grapefruit, grapes, lemon, lime, olives, orange, pears, pumpkins, strawberries

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread crumbs, grains (in general), polenta, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (esp. cheddar, cream, feta, goat, Parmesan, ricotta), cream, milk, yogurt

Other Foods: Gin, honey, oil (esp. olive), sherry, vinegar, wine

Rosemary has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (breads, cakes, cookies, focaccia, scones, shortbread), bouquet garni, desserts, egg dishes, French cuisine, grilled foods, herbes de Provence, Italian cuisine, kebobs, marinades, Mediterranean cuisines, pasta dishes, pizza, risotto, salad dressings, salads, sauces, soups, stews, stock, stuffing, tomato sauce

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Rosemary
Add rosemary to any of the following combinations…

Balsamic Vinegar + Shallots
Balsamic Vinegar + Spinach
Butter + Lemon
Feta Cheese + Spinach
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + White Beans
Garlic + Olive Oil + Potatoes
Honey + Orange
Lemon + Tofu
Lemon + White Beans
Mushrooms + Thyme
Onions + Potatoes
Oregano + Thyme
Parmesan Cheese + Polenta
Parmesan Cheese + Tomatoes + White Beans

Recipe Links
Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

38 Recipes Packed and Perfumed with Rosemary

40 Fresh Rosemary Recipes

12 Ways to Cook with Fresh Rosemary Tonight

Rosemary Chicken

17 Fragrant Rosemary Recipes

39 Delicious Things to Do With Rosemary

Vegan Dijon Rosemary Sheet Pan Dinner

Rosemary Recipes

Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Mushroom-Rosemary Pot Roast (vegetarian)

Seared Tofu with Kale and Whole-Grain Mustard


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

3 thoughts on “Rosemary 101 – The Basics

  1. Dalva

    Good afternoon Judi, thank you very much for the information on Rosemary and other herbs. I am particularly interested in what and how to use Rosemary. This is because I have a Rosemary bush in my garden and before I cut it back I would like to see how I can use the leaves for a good cause. It was in this way that I found your video on You tube and now I am here dropping you these few lines. Thank you so much.

    1. Judi Post author

      Hi Dalva! Thank you so much for watching the video and checking out the blog post! I hope it gave you the information you need to use the rosemary from your garden. I had a rosemary bush when we lived in the South, and it was wonderful to have so handy. Take care, and blessings to you and yours 🙂

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