The classic bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs used to add more flavor to your dishes. The word “bouquet” means “bunch of flowers” in French, and a bouquet garni typically consists of thyme, parsley and bay leaves, although other herbs can be included.
The French bouquet garni dates at least back to the Middle ages. The first notable mention of it is in the book Le Cuisinier François (1651) which was written by one of the earliest great French chefs, François Pierre de La Varenne. His book and recipes are thought to mark the transition from medieval cuisine to the modern French cuisine that has become so popular today.
Today, it is an essential part of French cooking, but it also works well as a flavoring agent in other cuisines. The flavors are added at the start of cooking and then removed before serving.
So let’s see exactly how to make a bouquet garni and what it is used for, shall we? Allons-y!
What is a Bouquet Garni?
A bouquet garni is a mixture of whole aromatic herbs that are tied together and used to flavor slow-cooked dishes. French food is rarely tangy or spicy, so it is fresh herbs that usually add all the flavor. A lot of French cuisine, and especially Provençale cuisine relies heavily on herbs like:
You will often see them on French websites where “add a a bouquet garni” is written as shorthand in the recipe.
It is customary to tie the herbs up with a string or put in a small sachet and put it into the stew for cooking. The bouquet garni is removed from the pot after cooking, and before the dish is served.
Difference Between a Bouquet Garni and a Mirepoix
While a bouquet garni is made of herbs, a mirepoix is made with vegetables. The cooking technique of making a mirepoix involved by lightly cooking vegetables, usually onions, celery, and carrots in butter or oil. It is cooked at low heat in order to gently extract the flavors without browning or caramelizing the vegetables.
Both add an aromatic flavor base to the stew, and in both cases, the underlying herbs and vegetables are removed before serving.
Fresh vs Dried Herbs
A bouquet garni can be made with fresh herbs or dried herbs. With dried herbs, you have the benefit of preparing it in advance and keeping for a longer period of time.
On the other hand, there is just something about fresh herbs full of flavor that adds to a dish. A fresh bouquet garni can be preserved in the freezer, so you have the option of doing that as well, if you prefer.
How to preserve it
There are a couple of ways to store a bouquet garni. If you have a dried bouquet garni, keep it in a very dry place so that the humidity doesn’t get to it, such as a jar in a pantry.
For a fresh bouquet garni, you can place it in the freezer. Just place it in place in an airtight glass container and it should last for several months.
Dishes using a bouquet garni
Many traditional French recipes include using a bouquet garni in flavoring their sauce. Some of the most popular and well-known dishes are:
- Boeuf bourguignon
- Blanquette de poulet
- Carbonade flamande
- Daube de boeuf provençale
It can also be included as a flavoring in any type of soups, sauces, or stews. I usually write out the ingredients in my recipes, but indeed it is the bouquet garni that these dishes require.
Tips for your bouquet garni
While a bouquet garni is not tricky to make, the most important part of making it is finding the right string to use:
- Use unwaxed string or a cooking sachet so that it doesn’t leave an aftertaste in the food.
- Do not use rubber band as it will leave a rubbery taste in your sauce.
- When cutting the string, keep a good length at the end so that you can easily fish out your bouquet garni at the end when you need to.
- Make your bouquet garni proportional in size to the dish you are preparing. If it is too large, it will overflavor your dish.
Bouquet garni (Recipe)
- 2-3 leaves of parsley
- 1 leek green leaf
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small celery branch
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- Start with the leek leaves on the inside and surround by the other herbs.
- The bay leaf is usually on the outside
- Wrap the herbs with an unwaxed string to hold them together.
- After cooking, remove the bouquet garni and throw away before serving.
Please note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual.
You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for entertainment purposes only.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other French cooking tips. Bon appétit and à bientôt !