10 Dinner Recipes That Pack Massive Flavor with Herbs — Not Added Fat

By Grace Jidoun
|
June 13, 2022
30-Minute Herb-Roasted Pork Loin
Image credit: Foodie Crush

Herbs and spices provide more antioxidants than almost anything else, and add, dare we say, a whole lot of pizzazz to recipes — which means that bold flavors can come from fresh herbs rather than extra butter, oil, or sugar. Many of these recipes call for a generous sprinkling of herbs, while others use concentrated herb-based sauces, like chimichurri and pesto, to provide focused flavor. The beauty is that you can easily customize any herb-packed dish to your tastes. You can make a dish staggeringly bold by adding an extra chile, or cutting back if you seek aromatic depth. Like any creative endeavor, seasoning is a process that requires tasting as you go, and you’ll develop your palate the more you experiment. Think of the measurements as guidelines that coach you through the process rather than strict rules.

Read next: I Lost 25 Pounds Relying on This One Kitchen Tool

When choosing leafy herbs, freshness counts. You can extend the life of most herbs by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and storing them in a plastic baggie. Heat breaks down the chemical compounds in dried spices. It may be convenient for cooking, but never store bottles directly next to or over the stove. 

1. Lamb Chops with Chimichurri

Lamb Chops with Chimichurri

Image credit: Food by Mars

This lamb dish gets its magic from one of our favorite sauces of all time: Argentinian chimichurri. The verdant, uncooked garlic sauce is packed with parsley, which is often dismissed as a garnish, but is actually delicious, rich in vitamin K, and beneficial to bone health. Chimichurri is as ubiquitous in Argentina as barbecue sauce is in the U.S., and it’s way healthier. Drizzled over lamb chops, it cuts the meat’s richness and brightens the entire dish. Feel free to double the amount and serve it with grilled vegetables, too.

2. Red Lentil Patties

Red Lentil Patties

Image credit: Dels Cooking Twist

These red lentil patties are the perfect vegan alternative to burgers. Paprika, cumin, and cilantro are hallmarks of Moroccan cuisine, and lend this dish the unmistakable flavors of the region. The red lentils are the nutritional superstars here, and provide a healthy amount of plant-based protein. This recipe binds the ingredients with oats, but those who aren’t vegan may find it more convenient to use a beaten egg. We love these patties served over a salad, but if you’re craving bread, try them with whole-grain pita. 

3. Grilled Mexican-Inspired Salmon

Grilled Mexican-Inspired Salmon

Image credit: Feasting at Home

Cumin and chili powder in the spice rub not only turbo-charge the taste of this salmon, but also boost weight loss, too. Look for wild-caught salmon, which has less saturated fat and pollutants than farmed. You don’t have to sear both sides with the salmon, but it’s extra delicious if you choose to. One bite gives an herby, spicy note of avocado salsa, and the next rewards you with a crunch from the cilantro-dressed romaine.

4. Garlic-Herb Grilled Chicken Thighs with Summer Succotash

Summer Succotash

Image credit: The Healthy Epicurean

A burst of green — from parsley, cilantro, basil, and chives — takes classic Southern succotash to an unexpectedly dramatic place. Not to evangelize, but this recipe may convert you to the church of the fava bean. Cultivated for 6,000 years, it was considered magical in ancient Europe (remember Jack and the Beanstalk? That was a fava!). Perhaps they are magic: studies show that favas alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in addition to being a good source of folate, essential to preventing congenital disabilities. Toss in chopped jalapeño for a feisty finish. Succotash can serve as a very light, vegan main, but we’d serve with garlic-herb grilled chicken thighs or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  

5. 30-Minute Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

30-Minute Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

Image credit: Foodiecrush

Pork loin is a lean cut compared to big fatty chops, but the herbaceous rub infuses the meat with a complex flavor. The classic trio of rosemary, thyme, and oregano are aligned on a health level, too: All three are rich in polyphenols, which cut the risk of heart disease. The recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet to get the finest, crispiest crust on the pork, but any oven-safe skillet will work here. We like the versatility of the sautéed spinach as a side, which goes with nearly any savory spice, or try it with a leafy green salad sprinkled with fresh herbs. 

6. Green Bean and Cannellini Salad

Green Bean and Cannellini Salad

Image credit: The Delicious Spoon

Lazy summer days call for standby recipes that come together in minutes. For this green bean and cannellini salad, all you have to do is steam the green beans until crisp-tender, then shower everything with parsley, basil, rosemary, and oregano. Fresh herbs are the key player, and you can show off whatever you have on hand. If you want to experiment, mint and dill are a lovely combo, as are sage and marjoram. Two types of beans provide a double whammy of fiber, renowned for myriad health benefits including protection against diabetes and some cancers. Serve this as a light entrée, or bulk it up with sautéed shrimp.

7. Quick(er) Chicken Mole

Slightly Quicker Chicken Mole

Image credit: The Forked Spoon

One of the world’s great sauces, mole is a rich, dark Mexican specialty famous for its long list of spices. Mole is so iconic that it was recently the focus of a scientific study that revealed the sauce’s high fiber and antioxidant levels. The traditional cooking method can take all day, but this version is finished in under two hours — which is still quite a long time, but honestly, if you have a Sunday afternoon to spare, it’s well worth the time for such spectacular results. Four types of dried chiles, nine spices, and a bit of dark chocolate give this sauce a uniquely complex flavor. And here’s the best news: you can freeze leftover sauce for up to 3 months. 

8. Roasted Eggplant with Pesto

Roasted Eggplant with Pesto

Image credit: The New Baguette

We are at the peak of basil season, and one fantastic way to use a ton of this Mediterranean herb is to make a pesto. Italian for “pounded,” pesto is a fresh, flavorful sauce traditionally made with pine nuts and crushed with a mortar and pestle. In this roasted eggplant with pesto recipe, three cups of antioxidant-rich basil are whizzed in a food processor with pumpkin seeds and miso for an intriguing twist on the classic. This recipe calls for salting the eggplant before cooking to draw out the bitter juices (a traditional method), but bitterness isn’t usually an issue if you buy eggplant in season.

9. Cold Soba Noodle Salad

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

Image credit: Nyssas Kitchen

The sky’s the limit for fresh herbs in this vegan recipe. Mingle and merge your favorites and then garnish with more. The toasted sesame dressing brings all the flavors into harmony. Soba noodles are Japanese gluten-free noodles made from buckwheat flour and are prized for high levels of manganese and thiamin. When shopping, read the label to make sure they’re made with one hundred percent buckwheat flour. A whopping three cups of snap peas and radishes are a gorgeous addition — they offer a visual bonus that boosts the immune system.

10. Carrot Soup with Turmeric, Ginger, and Coconut

Carrot Soup with Turmeric, Ginger, and Coconut

Image credit: The Foodie Physician

This is a foolproof way to get more turmeric and ginger into your diet, which has the combined effect of reducing inflammation and chronic pain. This soup recipe is easy to make as long as you have a blender and a few pounds of delicious sweet carrots, which are often taken for granted despite their cancer-fighting properties. Elevate this soup with homemade chicken stock, or you can easily substitute vegetable stock to make this vegetarian.  

Read next: 9 Great Chicken Recipes That Can Be on the Table in 30 Minutes Flat

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