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Just like a little bouquet of flowers can brighten your day, a Bouquet Garni can improve the outlook of all your favorite soups, stews, lentils, and beans. You don’t really need a specific Bouquet Garni recipe, but once I show you how to make one, all you need is your favorite fresh herbs, a length of kitchen twine, and your imagination.
I can’t help but imagine how using a bouquet garni first began, probably thousands of years ago. The very first cooks in the world must have been like mad scientists, trying their best to make their food as delicious as possible. Snipping off a little bit of this herb or that plant to add to the pot, to see what it would do and how it would taste. Culinary magic!
And today, a bouquet garni, which translates to “garnished bouquet” from French, is still used all around the world, mainly to add some depth of flavor to kitchen pots that stew and simmer.
The use of fresh herbs and aromatics is a salt-free, fat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and completely natural way to season food. Talk about healthy! And it’s less wasteful–it puts those parsley stems to work. I can finally stop tossing them in the garbage.
This is such an easy little how-to, that I fully expect you to take off running with your own bouquet garni ideas and never revisit this recipe again, unless it’s to tell me all the fabulous things you make with your new French culinary technique.
Bouquet Garni Pronunciation:
First things first: you gotta say it right to tell others about how great it is. Bo-kay’ Gar-knee’.
What is Bouquet Garni made of?
A bouquet garni is little more than a bundle of fresh herbs, and maybe some spices, that are tied together and placed in a pot to enhance the flavor of what you’re cooking. They’re removed later and discarded. A bouquet garni is similar to a sachet. A sachet usually uses dried herbs and spices, or small ingredients that are too tricky to fish out. I cover sachet-making, too, in How to Make a Sachet.
But honestly, a bouquet garni is made of whatever you think would be delicious in your recipe. Look at the main ingredients in what you plan to cook, and think about complimentary flavors that would taste good with them.
Bouquet Garni uses:
These little bouquets like to be submerged in a lot of liquid, so they’re ideal for using for:
- Poaching fish, chicken, or shrimp
- Cooking lentils, beans, and other legumes
- Soups, curries, stews
- Stocks and bone broths
- Rice, quinoa, farro, and other grains
Bouquet Garni vs Mirepoix
There’s an ever-so-slight distinction between a bouquet garni and mirepoix, which sometimes confuses people. Mirepoix is a flavor base that consists of onions, carrots, and celery. Usually these ingredients are diced up and added first thing to a pot, much like soffritto or a Louisiana trinity. They cook way, way down and give a rich, savory flavor to the recipe.
While you definitely can add a carrot or a stalk of celery to a bouquet garni, it won’t ever have the chance to caramelize and be eaten in the dish, since it’s removed before serving.
Think of a bouquet garni as a more of a subtle addition. It’s at its most powerful when submerged in poaching water to gently season meats, lentils, beans, and other legumes.
Bouquet Garni Recipe Ideas:
Kaffir lime leaf, cilantro, and a sliver of ginger root for Indian-style lentils, Curried Couscous Salad, or chickpeas.
Parsley, thyme, bay leaf, for a classic bouquet garni for Easy Beef Bourguignon.
Rosemary, basil, oregano in an Italian tomato sauce for Sunday supper.
Bay leaf, lemon peel, and cilantro for Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice.
Thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns for Mediterranean Lentil Salad.
Tarragon, bay leaf, and pink peppercorns in the cooking liquid of poached chicken for chicken salad.
Thyme, celery stalk, and bay leaf for Chicken Quinoa Soup.
How to make a Bouquet Garni without cheesecloth:
All you have to do is gather up your fresh herbs. What you choose is entirely up to you, but I like to keep it simple. I almost always use parsley stems, because parsley goes with everything, and I always have leftover stems.
Tie a short bit of kitchen twine around the bundle and knot it. Tie it tightly–the fresh herbs will shrink as they cook.
How to make a Bouquet Garni with dried herbs
You can find jars filled pricey little tea bags (technically called sachets) for sale in the grocery store, already loaded with herbs, but you don’t need to shell out the cash; it’s easy to make your own with bouquet garni bags you find online, or by bundling up all your ingredients in a square of cheesecloth. There’s no need to buy bouquet garni.
To make a sachet with dried herbs, simply arrange your ingredients in the center of a square of cheesecloth, then gather up the corners to make a little package. You may want to use less dried herbs than you would fresh, since they’re concentrated and dried–just a thought. Tie securely with kitchen twine.
How to Make a Bouquet Garni
- 4-6 Parsley stems
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2-3 Fresh thyme sprigs or any other green herb: sage, rosemary, tarragon, basil, cilantro, oregano, summer savory
- 1 teaspoon Black peppercorns optional
- cotton or hemp unwaxed twine
- 4″ square of cheesecloth optional
- Place a short length of twine on a work surface. It needs to be long enough to tie around everything.
- Stack the herbs and bay leaf on top of the twine in a small pile so that stems are parallel to each other.
- Tie the twine around the herbs to bundle them together. Knot to secure.
- If using peppercorns, use the cheesecloth. Place herbs, bay leaf, and peppercorns in the center of the square and gather up by the corners, tying with twine to secure.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.