The iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals, but what exactly is it?
Though perfecting the impossibly fluffy French omelet or sensitive soufflé can be a formidable task for any home cook, the most reliable way to instantly feel like an experienced French chef is with a sprinkling of the country’s most famous spice blend: Herbes de Provence. After all, every recipe feels just a little bit fancier with the addition of the aromatic mixture.
Hailing from the Provence region in southeast France, known for its endless vineyards, olive groves, and rolling hills of fragrant plant life, this ubiquitous mix has established itself as one of the most popular spice blends of all time—though its history is shorter than you might think.
While this herbaceous ingredient might seem like it would date back to the days of Louis XIV, the commercial sale of the blend merely goes back to the 1970s, when the Ducros France brand began marketing and selling a popular mix to overseas consumers. Prior to the spice company’s commercialization of the product, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the lexicon of cooks around the world was none other than Julia Child, who included a recipe for Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence in her classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Before Child, the term “herbes de Provence” was a lesser-known, all-encompassing descriptive term for the many herbs grown throughout the region.
Like most spice blends, from curry powder to Dukkah, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbes de Provence. While thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf are considered the standard base ingredients, other herbs that are often incorporated are oregano, basil, tarragon, marjoram, savory, sage, fennel, dill, and lavender. Although lavender wasn’t traditionally added to the blend, packaged Herbes de Provence sold in the U.S. have come to commonly include the ingredient as a touristic nod to the iconic lavender fields of the Provence region.
The most popular use of the mixture is to instill grilled items with an herbaceous, Mediterranean flavor, which is heightened by the addition of olive oil and heat. This fragrant blend is an idea rub and seasoning for a diverse variety of meats, like Herbes de Provence Crusted Lamb Chops, Oven Poached Halibut, and Roast Chicken. In addition to being applied to the meat directly before cooking, Herbes de Provence can also be sprinkled over coals, infusing the smoke with its flavors.
While fresh Herbes de Provence is traditionally sold in small clay containers, you can find a variety of dried blends in your grocery store’s spice aisle. If you’re looking to craft your own signature blend, start with this basic recipe and slowly introduce your own pantry additions. You’ll be feeling like a true Chef de Cuisine in no time—whether you’ve perfected your soufflé yet or not.