The main distinction between herbs and spices is the part of the plant that they come from. Herbs come from the leaves of plants, specifically herbaceous ones. Herbaceous plants do not have woody stems. (Learn more about herbaceous plants in our plant curriculum!).
Examples: mint, thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, rosemary, cilantro*, tarragon
Spices come from the roots, fruits, bark, and seeds of plants (or anything that is not a leaf).
Examples: coriander*, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, saffron
Herbs can be eaten fresh or dry. You can have fresh basil in your pasta sauce, or you can substitute it with dried basil. When cooking, use less of a dried herb than you would a fresh herb – dried herbs are pretty flavorful.
Spices are dry and pack a lot of punch. Use only a small amount for flavor initially and increase as needed.
*Some plants produce both herbs and spices. Cilantro comes from the leaves of the cilantro plant and coriander comes from its seeds.
What’s up with salt & pepper?
Any guesses? Black pepper is a spice but salt isn’t an herb or spice – it’s actually a mineral!