Cooking With Lavender

Bring garden-fresh flavors to the dinner table by cooking with lavender.
English Lavender

English Lavender

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has been a mainstay of herb gardens for many years. Their flowers and foliage are highly aromatic and are often used for culinary purposes.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has been a mainstay of herb gardens for many years. Their flowers and foliage are highly aromatic and are often used for culinary purposes.

Passionate about lavender? Go beyond growing and crafting with this beautiful herb to cooking with lavender. This versatile herb brings a sweet floral flavor to desserts and beverages, and it also adds a just-right herbal note to savory dishes. Choosing lavender for cooking depends a little on the recipes you want to prepare and a lot on the natural flavors in different types of lavender.  

Growing lavender for cooking doesn’t require any special treatment, except you must make sure you don’t apply pesticides or other chemicals to your plants. It’s unlikely you would, since one of the uses for lavender is as an insect repellent, but if your lavender is growing beside other perennials you apply systemic pesticides to, then cooking with lavender is off limits.  

To get started in cooking with lavender, it helps to understand which lavender varieties work in the kitchen. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a standard culinary lavender that brings a sweetly spicy flavor to dishes. The varieties of English lavender also work well in the kitchen—‘Munstead’ and ‘Lavender Lady’ flowers have flavors similar to English lavender. ‘Hidcote’ English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’) offers blooms with a richer purple hue and a fruitier flavor.  

If you fall in love with cooking with lavender, you should try to find and grow ‘Rosea’ English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Rosea’). Its pretty pink flowers have a sweeter, almost candy-like scent and taste. The white flowers of ‘White Ice’ (Lavandula angustifolia ‘White Ice’) bring a similar flavor to desserts and syrups.  

Cooking with lavender is a centuries-old practice that dates to the Middle Ages. When cooking with lavender, you’ll use the flowers and young leaves in most preparations, although you may slip chopped older, tougher leaves into marinades. You can use blooms and leaves fresh, dried or fresh-frozen. For best flavor, pick flowers that have just opened. Remember that dried lavender flowers and leaves are twice as potent as fresh, so use half as much when substituting in recipes calling for fresh lavender.  

A common preparation when cooking with lavender is to use the blooms to season butter and sugar, which is then used in desserts. To make lavender butter, whip roughly one-half cup of chopped flowers into 1 cup of softened butter. For lavender sugar, seal at least six entire flower heads in an airtight container with at least 5 cups of sugar. Seal for at least one week. Flavor grows stronger over time.  

Use lavender butter and sugar in shortbread or sugar cookie recipes, or try it in tarts or pastry crust. Lavender makes a wonderful sorbet or ice cream flavor, or use the blooms to infuse honey with a delightful floral taste. Lavender beverages, including lemonade, hot chocolate, tea and wine spritzers, make refreshing additions to tea time, meals or quiet evenings.  

You can also tackle cooking with lavender in savory dishes. Lavender flowers are a standard ingredient in Herbes de Provence, which can be used to season vegetables and meats. Lavender marinades and rubs give meat a wonderful herbal flavor. Whenever you have lavender stems on hand from making dried lavender wreaths or bunches, toss those stems on hot coals to infuse grilled entrees with a smoky herbal flavor.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Family Planting: Herb Border

A herb garden is a feature the whole family can enjoy.

Pruning Lavender Plants

Learn about pruning lavender, including tips on when to prune.

Planting Lavender

Learn about planting lavender, including tips on when to plant by region.

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Have some extra space in your yard or garden? Plant a fresh and simple herb garden only steps away from the kitchen.

How to Plant an Herb Container Garden

Herbs have been grown all over the world for centuries for their flavor and healthful benefits. Learn how to plant an herb container garden.

How to Plant an Herb Bed

Forget your spice cabinet, and grow your very own herbs with this step-by-step planting guide.

How to Sow and Plant Culinary Herbs

Essential recipe ingredients, herbs are great for beginners. Many will grow in the tiniest of spaces in hanging baskets, on windowsills and among other crops.

How to Plant a Mini Herb Garden for Your Porch

Skip the dried, store-bought herbs and pick yours straight from your own miniature portable garden.