In the restaurants I’ve worked at, “green” is a colloquial term for any herb-infused oil. As in, “Hey, my puree is dull, do you have some green to share?” If your spring onion soup looks a bit pale, “green” will save it. Have five minutes to come up with a special, and it needs a little pop? Drizzle that green, baby.
In a penny-pinching industry where product cost can affect the entire restaurant’s bottom line, there is no room to waste herbs. That's why many New American restaurants often turn them into herb oil. It’s one of the most eye-catching items one might come across in the walk-in pantry.
You can make this, too, especially when you have a few random herbs getting limp in your refrigerator. With a little neutral oil, a pinch of salt, and about 30 minutes, you’ll reap the rewards for weeks to come.
Now, I know “blanching” can send even the most seasoned home cook into a dither. Yes, it adds a whole other pot to your dinner preparation, but blanching the herbs—that is, dunking the herbs in boiling salted water and then immediately in ice water right after—is essential for color. If what you want is a GREEN thing, you must blanch and shock. You will end up with a little ball of the herbs after squeezing all the water out with a towel or paper towel or your hand. Throw it in a blender.
As for what herbs you can use, any soft, fresh herb will work (basil, parsley, chives, oregano, dill, or cilantro, for example). Want maximum green with a mild taste? Use parsley, which is not as punchy as basil or cilantro. (Pro tip: Try making a combination of parsley and mint, using 60% parsley. Your ricotta-topped toasts will thank you.) Want to use up all your old herbs? Throw them all in. Experiment, tasting as you go. Get crazy. Once you’re done blending, strain the puree through cheesecloth or a strainer. This takes about 30 minutes. When you're done, save the oil in a jar or a cruet and use generously.
Because you blanched, this herb oil will not lose its color after a few days, but will stay green for at least a month. However, a base rule with leafy herbs—unlike woody herbs like thyme or rosemary—is that they are used for finishing. Adding heat saps the flavor, so you want to don’t want to cook food in this oil, but simply top off foods, like roasted vegetables or crostini or pasta or vinaigrette or grilled meat (...), with your emerald green herb oil. —Taylor Murray
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe is perfect for utilizing the leftover herbs in your fridge. Any soft fresh herb will work (basil, parsley, chives, oregano, dill, cilantro, etc).
The oil can be used in a salad dressing or as a garnish for anything from soup to fish to eggs. This herb oil is also good if you want to make a green-tinted homemade aioli. —Josh Cohen
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 40 minutes
- Makes about 1 cup
loosely packed fresh herbs (only leaves, no stems) - use any combination of soft fresh herbs (see headnote for some options)
canola oil or grapeseed oil
- Create an ice bath by adding some ice to a large mixing bowl and then adding 3 cups of water. Set your ice bath aside.
- Set a medium size pot of water over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the fresh herbs. Let the herbs cook for about 20 seconds, until they wilt and darken slightly in color. Quickly transfer the herbs from the boiling water to the ice bath.
- Remove the herbs from the ice bath and squeeze out as much excess water from the herbs as possible. Take your time with this step, really try to get as much water out of the herbs as possible.
- Transfer the squeezed herbs to a high-powered blender. Add the oil and blend on the highest speed for 2-3 minutes. The heat from the friction of the blender will help to break down the herbs and create a deep green color in the oil. When you turn the blender off, the herb oil should feel warm to the touch and literally have a little steam rising from the top of it.
- Line a fine strainer with cheesecloth, and put a large mixing bowl underneath. Pour the oil from the blender through the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Don't force the oil through the strainer, just let the oil drain naturally through. This may take about 30 minutes.
- When the oil has fully drained through the strainer, you can store it in a small container in the refrigerator for up to a few months. Use this oil to garnish anything, from soups to fish to eggs. Enjoy!