Flash-Fry Your Herbs For A Truly Out-Of-This-World Salad Topping

Everyone makes mistakes when cooking with fresh herbs, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to expand how you use them, including one great method: flash-frying. Doing this not only punches up their texture, it looks amazing, and it brings out more of their flavor. And while flash-fried herbs are great in a variety of meals as a garnish (or even just tempura-fried), they might shine brightest as a salad topping, where they provide a crispy, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth texture and perfectly complimentary flavors for any salad.

The best part is, flash-frying herbs for your salad is quick and relatively easy. There are a few things you should know, though. You have to make sure to pair the right fried herbs with the right ingredients, and you have to treat the herbs correctly beforehand to get the most out of them. And you should always use the freshest herbs, because even partially wilted ones won't take to the flash-frying process nearly as well.

Be sure to match fried herbs with the right salad

Of course, you want to use herbs that complement the salad in question. Fried parsley will work with anything, but fried tarragon does best with ingredients that benefit from its sweet, citrusy, grassy notes — like seafood, especially shellfish. Fried mint's refreshing flavor does particularly well with something like cucumber salad that can match its fresh, cool taste, but it also does well with seafood (which is why you should start using mint to season your fish). 

Fried lavender's floral notes make it a good match for fruit, particularly something like watermelon. Fried sage and thyme, meanwhile, have an earthy flavor which allows them to stand up to heartier salad fare like mushrooms or root vegetables such as potatoes, fennel, or parsnips. If you're going with poultry like in a grilled chicken Caesar salad, consider fried rosemary. And if your salad is tomato-forward, fried basil is the obvious classic pairing.

Other things to keep in mind when flash frying herbs

There are other things to know about how to flash fry herbs, too. You should always use the freshest herbs you can get. If the herbs are even slightly wilted, you won't get that texture you want out of the process. You should also dry the herbs as much as possible, as excess water will cause the oil to pop and spit out of the pan. You can't fully eliminate this, as herbs like basil or sage are going to have some natural moisture inside them, but you want to minimize the risk of oil burns.

What to do about the stems also deserves special attention here. If you're frying something like parsley or sage, you can easily eat the stem along with the leaves. This is a little trickier with a particularly woody-stemmed herb like rosemary or thyme, though. Instead, fry the sprigs whole, then remove the leaves.

Flash-frying herbs can be an amazing way to add a new dimension to your meal without much additional time or effort. Consider using them not just in salads, but tossed with French fries, garnishing fish, soups, and drinks — really, the only limit is your creativity.