Spices That Defy Expectations: How to Use Herbs in Desserts

Summer is in full swing, and that means the garden is overflowing with fresh, fragrant herbs. Bright bouquets of basil, pungent sprigs of rosemary and woody sage leaves not only make a statement in savory dishes, but can take an ordinary dessert to another level.


But what about the rest of the year? You can enjoy these herb-centric desserts year-round thanks to the extensive selection of fresh herbs available in most grocery stores and markets. Keep an eye on the fresh fruit selection, too, and you might just find yourself enjoying herbalicious berries all year long.


Try macerating juicy strawberries with rosemary and honey and drizzle on top of fluffy pound cake for strawberry shortcake with an herbal flair. Or try adding chopped rosemary to your favorite sugar cookie or biscotti recipe. Both are the perfect aromatic pairing for a frosty glass of iced tea on a summer afternoon.


We all know that mint and chocolate are a match made in heaven. Try adding fresh sprigs of mint to a decadent flourless chocolate cake or homemade coffee ice cream. It adds an irresistible coolness and refreshing element to contrast the rich chocolate.


Sage and lemon, you say? You better believe it. Try a smooth lemon curd tart and add a dusting of sage for an earthy, fresh-from-the-garden flavor.



Summer is in full swing, and that means the garden is overflowing with fresh, fragrant herbs.


I love a good grilled dessert, especially when entertaining in the warmer weather. Treat your guests to syrupy-sweet grilled peaches, drizzled reduced balsamic on top and a chiffonade of fresh thyme that will lend a lemony, minty aroma.


One of my all-time favorite herbs is basil. It’s so versatile and adds a brightness and dimension that I can’t live without. If you have an abundance of fresh basil (I always seem to have a patch overflowing in my garden), try my recipe for Buttermilk Panna Cotta With Basil Rhubarb Puree— it’s a delight for both the eyes and palate.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta With Basil Rhubarb Puree

Serves 6


  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 fresh strawberries

Panna Cotta


  1. Pour water into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Lightly spray six 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups with nonstick spray.
  2. Heat cream, lemon peel and sugar in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase heat and bring just to low boil, stirring occasionally. Add gelatin mixture; remove from heat. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Cool mixture to lukewarm, stirring often.
  4. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla; divide mixture among prepared ramekins. Refrigerate panna cotta until set, about 4 hours. Do ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.
  5. Using small, sharp knife, cut around panna cotta in each ramekin. Place plate atop each ramekin and invert, allowing panna cotta to settle onto plate. Top with berries and serve chilled.

Rhubarb Puree


  • 12 stalks rhubarb
  • 1 bunch basil, whole with stems
  • Sugar to taste


  1. Chop the rhubarb into small 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. Put rhubarb and whole basil with stems in a medium saucepan with the sugar and water.
  3. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft.
  4. Remove the basil stems.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender) and purée until smooth.


Born in India and raised in Atlanta, Chef Palak Patel grew up surrounded by traditional Indian cuisine. As her love of all things culinary expanded, she experimented with food, marrying the flavors of her native country with those of her adopted one. Her zest for travel further broadened her flavor palate as she globe-trotted, feasting on everything from local street food to la haute gastronomie. Palak shares these experiences as a TV personality, writer and one of the food industry’s newest and sassiest rising stars, gaining critical acclaim from victories in shows like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network. Palak also battled it out against 24 other seasoned chefs in the Sears Chef’s Challenge, winning $20,000 for the Los Angeles Food Bank. Palak has been a guest on multiple Food Network shows, Marie Claire’s The Fix and Bravo’s Blood, Sweat and Heels. She has been featured in Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and India Abroad, and is a regular food and travel contributor to Table Magazine. Palak also has partnered with high-profile brands such as BMW and Barclays to curate menus for large events, HelloFresh as a guest chef and Mashable about creating a personal brand. Learn more, and contact us to book Chef Palak Patel.

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