Savory is a term used to describe a food that is not sweet, but piquant and full-flavored. (Butter and cream sauces, for instance, are savory.)
It also the name of an herb closely related to the mint family. Savory has small, narrow, gray-green leaves, and as its name suggests, a warm, piquant flavor. Reminiscent of a cross between thyme and mint, the herb is often used to flavor to pâtés, soups, meat, fish and bean dishes. It is sometimes referred to as saturare, satureja or pepper herb.
Through the centuries, savory has been used as a medicine as well as a seasoning. The Greeks used it in an infusion to soothe earaches and toothaches and Roman midwives swore by it as an antiseptic.
During the Roman conquest, savory was brought to England, where it was used as an ingredient in stuffing rather than an herbal remedy. Charlemagne also included savory on his list of 74 specific herbs to be planted in his imperial gardens. The king is famous for saying herbs are "the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks."
The two main types are summer savory (Satureja hortensis) and winter savory (Satureja montana). Both have a strong aroma and spicy, peppery flavor, but the winter variety is slightly more pungent.
Dried savory is available year-round in the spice aisle at most supermarkets. The fresh variety is more likely to be found at a specialty produce market. It is also quite easy to grow in an indoor herb garden (or outdoors in warm weather).
- Fresh: Wrap in paper towels, seal in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator.
- Dried: Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
- Chop fresh savory leaves with a sharp knife and discard the stems.
- Crush dried savory in your hand or with a mortar and pestle right before using.
- Add to marinades for grilled meats.
- Mix into spice rubs for roasted pork or poultry.
- Add leaves to cooking water when preparing string beans.
- Use it to garnish hearty stews, soups and chowders.
- Combine with parsley and onions and cook into omelets.
- Blend with chives, lemon juice and mayonnaise and top chilled fish or chicken.
When savory is not available, use thyme, marjoram or sage.
Try one of our favorite savory recipes:
Roasted Filet of Beef with Whole-Grain Mustard
beans, cabbage, chicken, eggs, fish, pâté, peas, pork, sauerkraut, sausage, stuffing, succotash, turkey