Herbes Salées

Homemade Salt Herbs

About Herbes Salées (Preserving Herbs in Salt)

In the page where I give my favorite beef bourguignon recipe, I mention that I like to use herbes salées in my potatoes.

As with most salted foods, the origin of Herbes Salées – the famous salted herbs of Québec – goes back to the days when refrigeration did not exist. Our ancestors needed a way of preserving herbs over the winter.

Those cold, long winters also played their part. My heart goes out to the French pioneers, who had no idea how cold their new land was, and how short the growing season.

From the homeland, they already knew about salting foods. Since time immemorial salt was used for preserving all sorts of edibles. Another example of a salted food that we use in these pages is salt pork.

Herbes salées recipes were very flexible. You salted what you had, what you liked, what you grew or could trade with the neighbors.

Here's a list of herbs found in various regional
herbes salées recipes:
  • Beet Greens
  • Carrot greens
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Celery Leaves
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Dandelions
  • Green Onions
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Rosemary
  • Spinach
  • Summer Savory
  • Thyme
  • Turnips
In Québec, you can buy these herbs in jars everywhere. The list of ingredients on the brand that I buy reads as follows: 

celery, onion, salt, carrots, parsnips, parsley, chervil, savory, leeks, chives, spinach

The law requires that ingredients be listed in order of quantity, so in this case celery, onions and carrots are the major players.

Herbes Salées or Salt Herbs

Here are two basic recipes. The first one is for those who have to buy their herbs (at a farmer's market, hopefully, and organic, too!), while the second one is for those who grow their own.

Use only fresh herbs, not dried.

You could vary your mixture according to the dish you will be adding them to. For instance, you could omit strong-flavoured ingredients like turnips from a mixture destined to chicken, and include tarragon, if you have any.

Or you could salt just one type of herb. This is a picture of the large jar of salted cilantro (fresh coriander/chinese parsley) that I keep in my fridge, for seasoning certain Mexican or Oriental dishes. I do this because the nearest store carrying cilantro is over an hour away.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless!

Note that the salt will not dissolve. It may draw some of the water from the herbs, forming a bit of brine, and that's okay.

Herbes Salées for City Folks

Naturally, you can vary your herbs according to the lists above.

1/2 cup (125 ml) parsley, leaves and stems
1/2 cup (125 ml) peeled carrots
1/2 cup (125 ml) leeks, white and green parts
2 tablespoons summer savory
2 tablespoons chives
2 tablespoons celery, including the leaves
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A pinch of rosemary
1 scallion or green onion, white and green parts
1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 to 125 ml) coarse (pickling) salt, kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • Rinse the herbs in cold water and dry them well.
  • Chop everything very finely (see picture).
  • Mix well and divide among several small jars.
  • Refrigerate.

Herbes Salées for Gardener Types

This is just a guide. Use whatever your garden produces, as it becomes available:

1. Deposit 2 tablespoons each of finely chopped chives, savory and parsley in the bottom of a container large enough for all your herbs.

2. Cover with coarse salt and press lightly.

3. Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped carrots; cover with coarse salt and press lightly.

4. Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped celery leaves; cover with coarse salt and press lightly.

5. Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onions; cover with coarse salt and press lightly.

6. Etc.

Leave for at least 3 weeks before mixing and re-packing in smaller jars.


Use your herbes salées mostly as herbal seasoning for cooked dishes and put them in early so they'll have time to rehydrate and diffuse their aromas.

Always add your herbs before any other kind of salt. They are very salty! (Think of them more as a "seasoned salt" than a herb seasoning.)

They have a particular affinity for potatoes. That's why I use them on the small potatoes I often serve as an accompaniment to beef bourguignon. I just mix some melted butter with salt herbs and toss the potatoes in it.

I love them in mashed potatoes! Add 1 one tablespoon of herbs for 6 portions. Add pepper to taste.

Try them in soups, gravies, fish, meats and meat pies, meat loaf, stews, ground meats, pasta, rice, omelets, chicken, stir-frys, etc. -- start with just a little and be sure to wait until the salt dissolves before tasting and adding more, or any other salt!


Homemade salt herbs keep just as well as commercial ones; salt is an excellent preservative. But you should still store them in the refrigerator.

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