Cooking can be a lot of fun. One of the things I love about it is the distinct lack of science it has compared to its sibling, baking. I'm not great with things like exact measurements. Cooking offers tasty results from a process that is much more free form and forgiving. That doesn't mean we're off the hook for how much of an ingredient we use, though. Too many garlic cloves or powder might be too much garlic for any given recipe.
If you spend enough time in the kitchen, eventually you are going to run into the problem of converting measurements. Some of this comes fairly naturally - we do it in our daily lives often enough. One area that can be particularly tricky is measuring herbs and spices. They can be bought fresh, dried, minced, or frozen. Knowing how much to use in a recipe can be a challenge. For example, if your recipe calls for fresh garlic cloves and you don't have a head of garlic, how do you convert the minced garlic cloves to powder measurement?
Some recipes like marinades, soups and salad dressings call for specific herbs and spices for a specific flavoring, but for most recipes, you can swap between fresh herbs and spices and dried versions. If your garlic bread recipe calls for cloves of garlic, since you're really only going for the garlic flavor, you can substitute garlic powder easily.
Converting herb and spice measurements doesn't need to be a pain. Learning a few basics will have you maneuvering recipes with ease. Here are some of the most common conversions.
A large clove of garlic is equal to 1 ½ teaspoon of dried garlic, or ½ teaspoon of garlic powder. A small clove equals ½ teaspoon of garlic flakes, and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder. But can you really ever have too much garlic?
If you're using dehydrated garlic powder instead of a clove of fresh garlic, double-check and make sure it's not garlic salt. You can still use ground garlic salt in place of fresh chopped garlic, but you'll need to adjust the overall amount of salt the recipe calls for.
Another form of garlic is garlic juice, which can be made by pureeing a bulb of garlic and straining the juice. One quarter teaspoon of granulated garlic is equal to 1/2 teaspoon of garlic juice.
Ginger is a pretty easy one to convert: ½ teaspoon of fresh grated ginger is equal to a ½ teaspoon of dried ginger. Good to know for when you're making stir fry or sauteed vegetables. Next time you're at the grocery store, don't walk past those whole cloves of garlic and ginger root. They have seriously good health benefits that can easily be used in many recipes.
In the middle of cooking and realize you're out of onions? Don't worry.
One medium onion is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of onion powder. This may vary a bit depending on the type of onion. In a pinch, you can also sub shallots or leeks, though the flavor will be milder.
No pizza is complete without this spice. One tablespoon of fresh oregano (about a large pinch) can be swapped out for one teaspoon of dried.
And if you're making pizza and only have fresh oregano, you are in for a real treat.
Rosemary is one of my favorite spices. It is also very, very strong: 1 sprig of rosemary is roughly a tablespoon.
When using dried rosemary, you need much less than you would use of fresh rosemary. A ½ teaspoon is all you need for every tablespoon of fresh.
Parsley is a staple herb, and fresh parsley is really tasty. About 3 sprigs of fresh parsley is equal to 2 teaspoons of minced, which is equal to 1 teaspoon
Bay leaf makes pasta sauce something special. One fresh leaf is the same as two dried leaves.
Basil is a staple of summer eating. It's also one of the best smelling herbs, and really easy to grow at home.
Should you find yourself out of fresh basil, it's easy to substitute. Five leaves of the stuff from the garden can be replaced with a teaspoon of dried basil.
When converting thyme, remember that six sprigs of the fresh variety can be swapped for ¾-teaspoon of dried thyme.
Dill is another herb that I don't think it's possible to have too much of. It makes everything it touches so much better.
But if you need to measure it, one teaspoon of dried dill is the same as one tablespoon of fresh chopped dill.
Sage is hard to forget because its leaves are just slightly fuzzy. Seven of them are equal to a teaspoon of dried, less fuzzy, sage.
Cilantro is not for everyone. If you enjoy cooking with it, one medium sprig of fresh cilantro is equal to a teaspoon of dried cilantro.
This article was originally published on November 3, 2016.