Garlic, Ginger, Onions, and More: How to Cook With Aromatics

Cooking with aromatics is the key to enhancing recipes with flavor and keeps you coming back, bite after bite. Garlic lovers know what we’re talking about: It’s probably the first food that comes to mind when you think of aromatics. Vegetables, herbs, and roots like garlic, ginger, and onions are packed with flavor and easily expel their own aroma at the base of a recipe. 

Some combinations of aromatics are especially common in different cultures and used as a flavor base to many dishes traditional to that cuisine: Like the Asian trinity of ginger, garlic, and scallions or a French mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery).

Bring On The Garlic: Why We Love Aromatics

Home cooks are likely familiar with cooking with aromatics and bringing out all that flavor. Cooking aromatics in oil is often the first step of savory recipes like soups, braises, and hot sauces— That part of the cooking process when you’re sauteing garlic and onions in butter and someone comes into the kitchen wondering what smells so damn good. At a basic level, the aromatics we’re talking about include and are just like spices, dried herbs, and other seasonings: You use it to season and flavor your food.

Other than garlic and standard onions— and depending on what we’re whipping up in the kitchen— we love cooking with aromatics like these:

  • Ginger
  • Chiles
  • Sweet and spicy peppers
  • Green onions (scallions)
  • Shallots
  • Leeks
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Celery

Fun Cooking Tips

Using aromatics in your recipes is one of the best fun cooking tips to take advantage of. You don’t need measurements when getting creative with ingredients for different types of dishes in a variety of cuisines. Get adventurous with herbs and spices alongside vegetables and aromatics you’re not familiar with— Maybe that’s lemongrass, or chile peppers, or even a simple blend of garlic, ginger, and green onions. Actually, those five ingredients sound like an ideal aromatic base for a flavorful Thai-style noodle dish!

Or, here’s an example of fun cooking tips with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink challenge, aromatics style: 

Grab those odds and ends from the back of your fridge when it’s time to clean it out. Look out for loose flavorful vegetables like celery, wilting herbs, or tubes of tomato paste or pesto. Tomatoes are sometimes considered an aromatic (we see you, sofrito!), especially in the case of tomato paste. Grab a can of neutral white beans and chop up all your aromatics into even pieces. Then, saute everything except the beans in a good amount of extra virgin olive oil. Take the time to release the aroma and caramelization from your aromatics and vegetables. Stir it all together with your beans and just a dash of salt and pepper and enjoy! This is a good way to make use of your leftover veggies and experiment with different flavor combinations to see what exactly will make your taste buds soar in delight.

How to Use Seasonings

If you’re not sure how to use seasonings, you’ve come to the right place. Here at Salt + Thread, we love all things good food, from the initial recipe development, to cooking the dish, and savoring that rewarding first bite! And we could essentially write a love letter to aromatics with all that it has done for us when it comes to seasoning and cooking delicious food. When it comes to how to use seasonings, it’s helpful to understand that they’re simply another aromatic ingredient to enhance your dish. 

Spices and seasonings are aromatics that have been dried out or otherwise processed. For example, ground ginger is simply dried and powdered fresh ginger. And if you’re looking for the flavor of bell pepper but don’t have any on hand, reach for some paprika! It’s just dried and ground sweet bell peppers. 

With that being said, these condensed versions of foods are much more potent than the fresh version. That means a single teaspoon of dried oregano, for example, packs as much punch as a whole tablespoon of its fresh counterpart. In general, we hope these flavorful aromatics and spices will help inspire you and help you get more comfortable in the kitchen.