Curly vs flat parsley

The Best Ways to Use a Plethora of Parsley

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline — it’s hard to choose a favorite. But we’ll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community’s knowledge — and to keep the conversation going.

Today: Parsley is a great herb to have in the kitchen — but what do you do with 10 pounds of it?

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Parsley is sort of like cilantro’s fancier older sibling. Whereas cilantro is happy casually thrown in guacamole and chicken noodle soup, parsley does better sautéed with shrimp or mixed into a salad with beets and Welsh rarebit croutons. Some people have a strong aversion to cilantro, but parsley rarely offends anyone. Plus, when Alice Waters tells us she relies on an herb, we listen.
Of course, parsley is often used in relatively small amounts. So when Pamela731 asked the Hotline what to do with 10 pounds of the herb, the community came to the rescue. It turns out there are a lot of wonderful ways to use and store parsley, even when it feels like you have an actual ton of it. Here’s what fellow Food52ers had to say:

Use It Now:

  • Tabbouleh is one of the most popular ways to utilize a lot of parsley. Maedl advises using “a large proportion of parsley and mint. In most Middle Eastern countries, they use a very fine bulghur and there is more parsley and mint in the salad than there is bulghur.”
  • HalfPint suggests turning the parsley into a chimichurri sauce and pairing that with a nice steak. In a similar vein, Matt Piazza says: “You could make a bucketful of pesto!”
  • Parsley goes well in salads, too. Julie calls it a salad brightener, while ieatthepeach goes a step further and treats parsley like any other salad green, saying it’s “really nice with some cucumber and a light vinaigrette.”
  • Elisabeth recommends throwing some parsley into your next green juice or adding it to vegetable stock: “Parsley makes a great addition to homemade soup stock — just combine it with some potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, onion, garlic, salt, allspice berries, black pepper, and water, and simmer for an hour.”
  • A few users, like Jonee Austin and EmFraiche, suggest making Roberta’s Parsley Cake.

More: Here’s how we make vegetable stock — no recipe required.

Save Some for Later:

  • If you’re feeling parsley-ed out, you can save it for later by freezing it in ice cube trays and then transferring the cubes to a zip-top bag. Keep it simple and freeze parsley straight-up in olive oil, or turn it into a sauce or pesto first. DianaAdams blends parsley with garlic, mint, and olive oil, and uses the mixture in soups, pastas, and eggs.
  • You can also dry parsley to keep it longer, as Sam1148 points out. “Put it in a 200° F oven on a sheet of parchment paper, then turn the oven off after 10 minutes or so and let it sit overnight.” If the parsley isn’t fully dried out in the morning, repeat the process.
  • You can even make parsley jelly, which QueenSashy says goes well with meat dishes — think roasted lamb or ham hock.

If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, you can also give some of the parsley away, as Maedl and Sam1148 suggest.

Do you have a favorite way to use or store parsley? Tell us in the comments or join in the conversation over on the Hotline!

Lemon-Pepper Parsley Pesto

Do you ever have leftover parsley? If you’re like me, it happens from time to time! I created this Lemon-Pepper Parsley Pesto as a solution. It’s a fun, easy way to use up extra parsley and it can be used in SO MANY different ways. And don’t worry, I’ve listed the ideas below!

I know what you may be thinking…pesto is made with basil, and that’s true, but basil is not the only herb you can use for pesto. Give this Lemon-Pepper Parsley Pesto a try and I think you’ll agree!

What to Do with Parsley?

While it may seem that parsley is just a flavorless herb that should be reserved only for garnishes, I would beg to differ. I love using it in salads and with lighter flavored meats, such as chicken and fish. It adds a pop of fresh flavor to almost anything and is pretty at the same time.

What’s the Best Way to Store Fresh Parsley?

Treat fresh parsley like you would fresh cut flowers. Give the bunch of parsley a rinse with cold water, keeping the bunch together. Then gently wrap the bunch in paper towels to dry the parsley. Unwrap the parsley and place the parsley bunch, stem sides down, into a drinking glass so the leaves are sticking out the top of the glass.

Add enough cold water to cover the parsley stems but avoid covering any leaves that may be in the glass.

Cover the parsley with the produce bag you brought it home in. Refrigerate the parsley and use it as needed. Refresh the water in the glass every couple of days.

How Can I Use Parsley Pesto

The best part of this Lemon-Pepper Parsley Pesto is that it can be used in SO MANY WAYS! Check out these ideas:

  • Stir it into homemade soups for a pop of flavor (add it just before serving)
  • Spread on top of cooked fish, chicken, pork or steak
  • Toss it with cooked or cold shrimp or scallops
  • Use it as a dipping sauce for lobster
  • Use it as a spread on sandwiches or wraps
  • Spoon it on top of an omelet or cooked eggs
  • Spoon it on top of deviled eggs for a flavorful, colorful garnish
  • Add it to your favorite vinaigrette for more flavor
  • Stir it into plain hummus for added flavor
  • Spoon on top of cooked vegetables for added flavor
  • Add it to a baked potato instead of butter or sour cream
  • Toss it with mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower
  • Toss it with your favorite cooked gluten-free noodles
  • Toss with your favorite zoodles, veggie noodles or spaghetti squash

Can I Use Other Herbs for This Pesto?

Yes! If you don’t have enough parsley to get 1 cup, you can add basil or cilantro (or both) to make up the rest. Or, if you don’t dig the taste of parsley, this pesto would taste great using all basil.

If you LOVE (and, I mean, LOVE!) cilantro, you can use all cilantro in this recipe. If I’m making it with cilantro, I prefer to use half cilantro and half parsley since cilantro has such a strong flavor.

Can I Freeze Parsley Pesto?

If you don’t use all the pesto within a day or two, simply spoon the extra into clean ice cube trays. Freeze until firm, and then pop the frozen pesto cubes out of the trays and store them in a freezer bag or airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Next time you find yourself with a partial bunch of parsley you don’t think you’ll use, turn it into this Lemon-Pepper Parsley Pesto. Your taste buds will be glad you did! By the way, if you have extra cilantro, check out my recipe for Cilantro Pesto. Or, for a classic favorite, make this Basil Pesto.

5 from 1 vote Lemon-Pepper Parsley Pesto is a simple way to use up extra parsley. It’s like a sophisticated version of lemon-pepper seasoning and can be used in all the same ways you would traditional basil pesto. Author: Laura

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • In a small food processor combine parsley and walnuts. Cover and process until finely chopped. Add garlic, lemon peel, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and, if desired, cayenne pepper. Process until combined. Add oil; cover and process until well combined and nearly smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
  • Use immediately or transfer pesto to a bowl and cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap. Chill up to 2 days.

Notes

Yield: ½ cup (8, 1-tablespoon servings) Nutrition Info (per serving): 61 cals, 1 g pro, 1 g carb, 6 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g sat fat, 0 g fiber, 78 mg sodium

Poor parsley. Its songmates sage, rosemary and thyme are all so much more evocative — each one brings a scent, even a feeling, to mind, while the ear just elides parsley. And who doesn’t love basil? Even cilantro inspires fear and loathing, at least. Parsley’s barely thought of as an herb at all.

In American cooking, parsley’s most frequent role is as an absolutely expendable extra — a mere garnish. Picture any of millions of diner dishes with a sprig of parsley, valiantly curly and bright, consigned to a corner with an equally arbitrary half-moon of orange. You might eat the orange slice; you definitely don’t touch the parsley.

The party that is herbes de Provence does not invite parsley in, though this is understandable, because dried parsley is a dud. Dried parsley is definitely part of parsley’s overall PR problem: Compared to how other, admittedly more potent (you could say pushy) herbs smell and taste when dried, parsley’s like dusty leaf-particles of why-bother. (Check the aroma and taste of dried versus fresh rosemary, then parsley, and you’ll see. Never mind; don’t: You’ll just end up with dried parsley sitting there sadly among your spices until you throw it away.)

Poor unsung parsley didn’t make the cut for James Beard’s six essential herbs in his essential-reading “Beard on Food” from 1974, though he does acknowledge its ubiquity in an offhand, backhanded way: “Parsley too, of course, but that is so universal it goes without saying.” But it needs saying. The goddesses of cooking, Julia Child and Marcella Hazan, likewise, recommend its use everywhere, yet do not deign to discuss it, as far as I can find (and Hazan, especially, has unminced words on everything).

The handful of chopped parsley that’s supposed to be flung over so many dishes at the end seemed like such an afterthought to me that, for a long time, I just blithely skipped it. Then a couple summers ago, I happened to grab two Italian flat-leaf parsley starts and stuck them in two pots on the balcony. They went nuts! I started putting parsley in and around and over everything. And parsley was good! Parsley was beautiful! Parsley made life better!

Some say Italian parsley tastes less bitter than the diner-plate curly kind, but “bitter” is such a judgmental term. Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. crispum) is cute, all riled-up looking, and it stays full of lively texture in, say, a salad. Italian parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum) makes a more sedate confetti. Both look and smell and taste like freshness incarnate, full of verdant color and leafy life. Use whichever! Maybe you’ll like one better! That’s your prerogative!

When you buy fresh parsley, trim the ends off the stems right when you get home, and stick it in a cup (or a pretty little vase!) of water, as you would for cut flowers. If you don’t use it all right away, change the water every day. Don’t let it go to waste! Start putting it on everything. Don’t take the simplest, loveliest things for granted.

1. Put chopped parsley on everything: Don’t chop it too finely — bigger pieces are prettier and have more flavor. Throw it with abandon on top of grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, a cold green-bean salad, stews, soups, pasta, hot or cold grain dishes like couscous or quinoa or tabbouleh or …

2. Make a super-simple parsley salad: Throw it together along the lines of the Epicurious recipe that involves just a couple-few cups of Italian parsley leaves, a couple tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and a little salt (or, to get fancy, substitute umeboshi vinegar for the salt).

3. Make a slightly more complicated parsley salad: Try (or make your own variation on) Alton Brown’s parsley salad recipe, with flat-leaf parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, walnut and sesame oil, honey and sesame seeds. Find it online, along with a minute-long video in which he declares it’s “perfectly capable of playing first string” — my hero! And he notes that this parsley salad keeps for three weeks (!?) in the refrigerator, though how you wouldn’t eat it all up immediately is a mystery.

4. Make a salad with lots of parsley in it: Tear up any mild lettuce (butter is nice), and mix in plenty of Italian or curly parsley, roughly chopped (a cup or even two!), then dress with a favorite vinaigrette. I know this sounds boring. It is not. Or …

5. Make super-delicious creamy parsley salad dressing, and put it on a salad with lots of parsley in it: It’s just 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (whole milk is best), 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup (or more!) fresh parsley (either kind), kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, all mixed up together — chop the parsley and mix by hand, or use an immersion blender (easiest cleanup), regular blender or food processor. This also makes a great dip for vegetables. Or for chips. Or your life in general. This dressing is really, truly, surprisingly spectacular. (I stole the idea from Amy Pennington’s cookbook “Salad Days,” which has the same recipe but calls for dill. Nobody truly loves dill.)

6. Make tomato-parsley sumac salad: Mehdi Boujrada of local spice-and-oil company Villa Jerada sent me this one, and it is good. Combine 2 tomatoes (roughly diced), 1/4 cup white onion (more finely diced) and 1/2 cup parsley leaves (roughly chopped); drizzle with olive oil; then add sumac, salt and pepper to taste (start slowly, mix, add more, and when it starts to taste marvelous, add yet a little bit more).

7. Put parsley in a smoothie: This comes from Becky Selengut’s “How to Taste,” and she promises it gives “a burst of brightness.” (She also mentions doing this with mint … sure, fine.) Another Selengut parsley hint: Instead of discarding stems, stow them in a bag in the freezer, and throw them in when making stock.

8. Make a super-simple parsley sauce, and put it on everything: Put a half a bunch of parsley (use mostly leaves, about a cup), a clove of garlic (I prefer a smaller one or half a big one), 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil together, and blend well. You could add lemon juice and zest, and call it gremolata; add toasted nuts and Parmesan, and make it pesto; sub a bit of shallot for the garlic; add a little anchovy paste for a lot more oomph (but less pure parsley taste). Again, an immersion blender is your friend here, though a regular one or a food processor is fine; you also could chop and blend by hand. This sauce is magical on a juicy steak, or a piece of fish (maybe cooked en papillote), or on vegetables, or inside a grilled-cheese sandwich, or drizzled on a soup or stew, or … It also keeps for a long time in the fridge — just let it warm to room temperature to use.

9. Make garlic-parsley butter, and apply with abandon: Called, fancily, “Beurre Maître d’Hôtel” in French, this is just butter (say 1/2 cup), fresh lemon juice (a tablespoon or so), garlic (optional, a clove or two, minced finely) and finely chopped parsley (1/4 cup) creamed together — start with the butter alone, then slowly add the rest in order. Add a little lemon zest for more, well, zestiness. Again, apply to seafood, grilled meat, vegetables, life.

You might think it’s weird to love parsley, but you’ll see!

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Italian Parsley Vs. Curly Parsley: SPICEography Showdown

Italian parsley and curly parsley have been the quintessential garnishing herbs in Western cuisine. There was a time not too long ago when a chopped parsley garnish seemed essential for fine dining dishes. These days, most cooks agree that garnishes should do more than make your dish pretty. When it comes to the two parsleys, which you choose can have a significant impact on the flavor and visual appeal of the food that you are serving. Compare the two in the SPICEography Showdown below.

How does Italian parsley differ from curly parsley?

The first difference between flat leaf parsley and curly parsley has to do with leaf-shape, as the herbs’ names indicate. Flat leaf parsley’s leaves are straight like the cilantro leaves while the leaves of curly parsley have a ruffled appearance.

Italian parsley is the variety most often used in Mediterranean cooking because of its bright, herbaceous flavor. Many cooks regard it as a seasoning herb similar to basil or oregano. In comparison, the taste of curly parsley is somewhat muted and often gets likened to that of grass. Curly parsley may also be bitter if the leaves are old. Even so, you should note that the amount of flavor you get from this parsley is variable.

Can you use Italian parsley as a substitute for curly parsley and vice versa?

Whether the two primary forms of parsley are interchangeable is a controversial question. Many cooks believe Italian parsley is the only one of the two that can do double duty as a garnish and seasoning herb. Others disagree. The difference in how many cooked perceive parsley comes from the idea that curly parsley is relatively flavorless and is only useful for improving the look of a plate.

The truth may be more nuanced as curly parsley is sometimes flavorful, but this may depend on the age of the plant and the soil in which it grew. Finely chopped Italian parsley can work in a recipe that uses curly parsley as a garnish since it can pass for finely chopped curly parsley. Its brighter flavor will usually be an asset to dishes that call for curly parsley.

If you have no choice but to use curly parsley in place of Italian parsley, you can use more of it to compensate for its relative lack of flavor. Use twice the amount of curly parsley that your recipe requires for Italian parsley. Also, note that curly parsley can offer a more enjoyable texture than Italian parsley in some dishes. It is more durable in that it can go a long time without wilting even after you chop it up.

When should you use Italian parsley and when should you use curly parsley?

Use Italian parsley for Italian dishes and for any application where you need the herb to add something to the flavor profile. Use Italian parsley when you want a garnish that adds something to the food more than just decoration.

Curly parsley works best as a garnish, so you can chop it and sprinkle it over the dish to add a splash of color. Note that curly parsley often gets associated with French dishes. When French recipes call or parsley, the authors usually mean curly parsley.

Parsley

​If you’ve taken a close look at the fresh herb section of your grocery store, you may have noticed two different types of parsley in the produce cooler: curly parsley and Italian (flat leaf) parsley. Given that recipes generally call for “fresh parsley” without specifying a type, is there a difference between the two?

In restaurant kitchens, Italian parsley is pretty much the standard. How much so? According to one of our chef instructors, if you phone a restaurant supplier and ask for two pounds of parsley, they’ll ship Italian parsley by default. While it’s a bit harder to find than curly parsley, it’s easy to wash and easy to chop on a cutting board, especially when cutting in a chiffonade style. This ease of use is part of the reason for its popularity in restaurants.

In home kitchens, curly parsley is king. You may know curly parsley best from its role as a garnish on countless diner breakfast platters, where it holds court next to a half-slice of orange. On the plus side, it’s widely available and it has a lovely fresh flavour. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a pain to wash thoroughly, and chopping something that springy isn’t always easy. The taste is strong with a very “dark green” flavour. Compared to Italian parsley, it’s tougher, heartier and grows readily in a backyard garden.

Either type is great for adding an extra layer of flavour in a wide variety of dishes. You can add whole parsley leaves into a salad, for instance, or add finely chopped parsley to finish a soup, pasta or stir-fry. It adds a bright, clean flavour and extra colour.

While both parsleys have their own unique flavour, most recipes that call for “parsley” can use either type. If your recipe calls for a specific type of parsley, you’re best to stick with the recommendation. While some substitution is possible, the texture and appearance will change along with the flavour. In some recipes – typically those where a small quantity of parsley is used – these changes don’t matter as much as in recipes where parsley is a key component.

Also note: If you’re looking for Italian parsley at the grocery store, make sure you don’t accidentally grab cilantro, which is often right next to it in the cooler. Remember that Italian parsley has poky leaves, like on a maple tree, whereas cilantro has rounded leaves, like clover. They are completely different things, and substituting one for the other will yield wildly different results.

Curly Parsley Uses: What To Do With Curly Parsley Plants

Curly parsley grows in most every herb garden, often along with flat-leaved parsley. Many recipes only call for parsley. So, what to do? Let’s take a look at the differences in parsley varieties and learn more about curly parsley plant care and uses.

What is Curly Parsley?

This is an easy-to-grow type of parsley with round curly leaves. The taste is stronger than that of the flat-leaf type and not too similar. Curly parsley uses include garnishing plates, often along with a fruit slice. You may also chop it finely and use as the parsley called for in those recipes, although the round curly leaves require more effort to wash than the flat-leaved type.

This is part of the reason restaurants use flat parsley, as well as for its milder taste. The home gardener can easily grow both types of parsley and, depending on the recipe, decide whether to use curly parsley vs. flat parsley. You might get creative and use both.

How to Use Curled Parsley

Using parsley in a dish along with other herbs basically includes it as an additional layer of flavor that complements other herbs. Since the taste is different between the two parsleys, the final flavor may be somewhat different.

Experiment with the two herbs and see which flavor you prefer in different dishes. Parsley also adds color to your cooking. You might want to add less, or even more. Since parsley is so easy to grow, you can always have it on hand.

Curled Parsley Plant Care

Start curled parsley from seed when temperatures warm outside. For an early crop, plant seeds indoors a few weeks before outside soil temperatures warm. You may purchase young plants that are already hardened off and plant them outside when all danger of frost is passed.

Parsley is a low-maintenance plant needing sunlight, regular water, and occasional feeding. Harvest regularly to promote growth. It is a biennial plant, meaning it grows for two years. Most treat it as an annual and allow it to be taken by frost the first year.

If you wonder what to do with curly parsley during winter, add it to an indoor winter herb garden or start a young plant in summer and pot it for indoors. If you live in an area where the plant can live outside during winter, it will continue to grow and produce. However, leaves will likely become tough and bitter during the second year.

Be sure to include this easy-care specimen in your herb gardens, both indoors and outside. It may be dried or frozen for long-lasting flavoring and garnish.

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