Cooking with Lavender – A Culinary Herb Beyond Colorful Aromatics

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It was a long hot summer day, seven years ago in September, when I first discovered the wonders of cooking with lavender. A friend’s coworker had opened up a boutique ice cream shop and was experimenting in making different ice creams with various ingredients each week. The day I chose to drop in and try the ice cream was lavender day. It was earthy, it was sweet, it opened my eyes to the possibilities of an herb I had never before considered. I had always associated lavender with aromatherapy, essential oils, and bathroom decor. Since discovering the versatility of an herb like lavender, I’ve become wealthy beyond my dreams and have stopped aging. Kidding – playing with lavender recipes has turned into a fun way to delight the senses.

cooking with lavender field
Biodynamic Lavender Field

There are 47 species of lavender (Lavendula), which is a genus in the mint family Lamiaceae. Lavender is an Old World herb, found across Europe, Northern and East Africa, throughout the Mediterranean, and all the way to Southeast Asia. The color lavender refers to the color  specific species, Lavendula angustifolio, as pictured above.

Growing and Harvesting Lavender

Lavender thrives in dry, arid climates, where sandy or gravelly soil keeps it well-drained. Zones 5 through 9 will find lavender to be easy to grow and quite prolific. If you live in more humid areas, lavender seems to prefer being in a pot over being planted directly into the ground. Soils should be on the alkaline side, with a pH between 6.7 and 7.3 for ideal growing conditions. Prune in the early spring to promote branching and new growth. If your landscaping makes use of burms, mounds, or hills, the lavender plant will go wild.

You can harvest lavender at any time of year by cutting about a third of the stem from the plant. The flowers will keep their perfume for several months, even when dried. Hang the stems upside down in a dark well-ventilated place to preserve the purple coloring. I’ve found my garage to be the perfect spot for drying herbs, with a paper bag underneath to catch falling pieces.

If you are harvesting to eat – the entire reason you’re reading this post about lavender – look for stalk where the flowers are still closed. A stalk full of flowers just about to open will provide the best flavors for whatever dish you end up making. Once the flowers open, they become bitter and too floral.

Lavender in the Culinary World

From floral to sweet, earthy and savory, and everything in-between, lavender can be used in a huge variety of dishes and beverages.

Tips for Cooking With Lavender

A small amount of lavender goes a long way. Too much lavender can mean your dish can end up tasting a bit too much like that fancy soap you buy at the farmers markets. This is different from cilantro, which can taste like soap to certain people, no matter how much or little is used.

cooking with lavenderLavender is best used as a complimentary flavor to other primary flavors in your creation.

If a recipe uses fresh lavender and you only have dried lavender on hand, reduce the amount by 2/3, otherwise the dried lavender will introduce bitterness.

If you are buying lavender and not growing your own, make sure to buy organic or lavender marked as culinary grade.

Whether following the recipes below or developing your own lavender recipe, these are some common pairings to play with: strawberries, blueberries, pears, lemon, orange, honey, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and chocolate.

When using lavender in sweet dishes, integrate it by infusing it as a simply syrup or into cream.

When using lavender in savory dishes, heat it in a skillet very lightly to remove some of the more perfume heavy notes.

Lavender Recipe Roundup

Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. Seep for 30 minutes. Strain and store in a sealed container in the fridge.

Lavender Recipes for Food

Lavender Honey Ice Cream Recipe

Lavender Honey Ice Cream Recipe
Photo by Sarah at Sarah Mueller Designs

This simple and classic lavender ice cream recipe is perfect for summertime festivities and comes from David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop. The honey smoothes out the lavender flavor, making it a nice dessert. lavender is such an unusual flavor that it manages to be striking and mild at the same time.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 5 large eggs
Instructions
  1. In a small sauce pan, warm the honey and 4 grams (2 T) of your lavender. Once warm, let it steep for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, warm the milk and stir until sugar is just dissolved.
  3. While the milk warms, place the cream in a large bowl topped with a fine strainer. Pour the honey through the strainer and gently press on the lavender to release flavor.
  4. Whisk together the egg yolks, warmed milk and sugar mixture and a pinch of salt. Pour those back into the sauce pan. Place the sauce pan over medium heat.
  5. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan. When the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon.
  6. Pour the custard through the strainer into the honey and cream mixture and whisk to combine. Add the remaining lavender and cover with plastic wrap.
  7. Chill the mixture for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  8. Strain the lavender from the custard.
  9. Freeze the custard according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Vegan Blueberry Lavender Coconut Ice Cream Recipe

Wild Blueberry Lavender Coconut Ice Cream Recipe
Photo by Monique at Ambitious Kitchen

This deliciously vegan recipe is healthy and richly flavored. Once you’ve gone through the initial process of making ice cream, you’ll find this recipe easy to recreate.

Ingredients

  • 2 (15 0z) cans full fat coconut milk (coconut cream also works)
  • 1/2 cup Almond Breeze Almond Milk Coconut Milk Blend
  • 1/3 cup coconut palm syrup (honey works if not vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
  • 1 1/2 cups wild blueberries or wild berry mix
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar

Instructions

  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add coconut milk, almond milk coconut milk and coconut palm syrup (or honey)
  • Whisk until smooth and well combined and mixture comes to a slight simmer (takes several minutes). DO NOT BRING MIXTURE TO A FULL BOIL.
  • After mixture comes to a slight simmer, whisk once more, then transfer to a blender, add in lavender and vanilla. Blend for 30 seconds.
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours until very cold.
  • While the mixture is chilling,  make the blueberry syrup.
  • Add blueberries and coconut sugar to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Mash blueberries up with a fork and continue to stir mixture until it thickens; this should take roughly 15-20 minutes.
  • Once mixture is thick like a syrup, transfer to a bowl, cover and stick in the fridge.
  • Once ready to make the ice cream, add the cold coconut milk mixture to your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions until it resembles soft serve.
  • Transfer half of ice cream to a freezer safe container, then add half of the blueberry mixture, repeat with ice cream and blueberries once more.
  • Swirl mixture a few times with a knife to create layers.
  • Cover ice cream and freeze for 4-6 hours or until ice cream hardens.
  • Before ready to serve let the ice cream sit at room temperature for a few minutes.
  • Makes 8 servings; 1/2 cup each.

Full recipe and instructions with Monique at Ambitious Kitchen

Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread Recipe

Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread Recipe
Photo by Rashmi at The Primlani Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped dried lavender blossoms
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fleur de sel

Directions

  1. Sift the flour and fine sea salt together in a small bowl.
  2. Combine the sugar and lavender in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for 15 to 20 seconds to combine. Add the butter and mix until combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until it forms a soft dough.
  3. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut it into 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-inch shapes (circles, squares, or hearts) using a cookie cutter or knife. Place the shapes on the baking sheet, sprinkle with some fleur de sel, and place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes, until the dough is stiff.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  6. Bake the lavender shortbread cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The shortbread keeps for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Full recipe from Salty Sweets: Delectable Desserts and Tempting Treats With a Sublime Kiss of Salt

Lavender Buns With Cream Cheese and Fig Filling

Lavender Buns With Cream Cheese and Fig Filling
Photo by nightblue_fruit

Dough

  • 100% bread flour
  • 62.5% milk
  • 2% salt
  • 2.8% yeast
  • 16% sugar
  • 18% butter
  • 0.5% dried lavender, blitzed with the milk

Filling

  • 18% cream cheese (though I feel like it could be more, since it kind of disappears when you bake)
  • 12.5% sugar (or to taste)
  • dried figs, finely chopped (sorry, didn’t measure; I think it was 4 or 5 figs)

Topping (optional)

  • egg for wash
  • simple syrup for wash
  • chopped, toasted walnuts
  1. make the dough, knead it til it’s pretty smooth, and let it sit til doubled
  2. cream the cream cheese and sugar together
  3. roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle, about a nickel’s thickness, spread the cream cheese over the whole surface, and sprinkle figs on top
  4. fold it in thirds along the long edge, with the two sides going over the middle third
  5. roll out again to maybe just under finger thickness, working to make it wider rather than longer
  6. cut into strips along the short edge, maybe an inch wide (I weighed mine to be about 50g each; pretty good snack size)
  7. gently stretch the strip and twist it into a bun shape (everyone seems to do it differently, just search around and find a way that is easy for you. I also tried doing a single strand braid and that works pretty well too)
  8. proof on a baking sheet until about doubled
  9. egg wash then bake at 415F for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown (watch out for the bottoms, mine turned out slightly burnt)
  10. simple syrup wash right after they come out of the oven and top with walnuts

Peach and Feta Salad with Lavender Dressing Recipe

Peach and Feta Salad with Lavender Dressing Recipe
Photo by Sawsan at Honest Cooking

Ingredients

  • 3 cups romaine lettuce torn
  • 1 red onion cut into rings
  • 2-3 tablespoons of feta crumbled
  • 2 peaches cut into segments

Lavender Dressing

  • Juice of half a lemon (4 tablespoons)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Dressing

  1. In a bowl add the lemon juice, salt, mustard ,lavender, garlic and balsamic vinegar and whisk.
  2. Slowly drizzle the olive oil while you continue whisking until you have added the entire amount.
  3. Add the onion rings to the dressing and let sit while making salad to take the sharp edge off the onions.

Salad

  1. On the grill or in a pan on the stove top, lightly grill the peach segment.
  2. In your serving plate, arrange the torn lettuce, topped with the grilled peach segments.
  3. Take the onions out of the dressing and arrange on top of the lettuce.
  4. Crumble the feta cheese on top.
  5. Decorate with a few lavender twigs.
  6. Drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving.

Full recipe and instructions by Sawsan at Honest Cooking

Peach Lavender Jam

Peach Lavender Jam
Photo by Lindsay Landis at Love & Olive Oil

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 4 cups finely chopped peaches (from about 5 to 6 medium peaches, peeled)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid fruit pectin

Directions

  1. Place lavender flowers in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over flowers and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and discard flowers.
  2. Prepare canner and wash/sterilize 6 half-pint mason (or equivalent) jars. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use. Warm lids in hot (not boiling) water to sterilize and soften seal.
  3. Combine lavender liquid, peaches, lemon juice, and sugar in a very large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat and boil hard for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pectin.
  4. Ladle hot jam into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Screw on lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 3 weeks.

Full recipe and instructions by The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round

Honey White Wine Lavender Vinaigrette Recipe

Honey White Wine Lavender VinaigretteIngredients

  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 sprig fresh lavender leaves, chopped fine (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients except olive oil.
  2. While whisking, slowly pour olive oil into the dressing.
  3. Can be stored in a sealed bottle in the fridge for up to a month.

Full recipe and instructions by Sumptuous Spoonfuls

Lavender, Lemon, and Honey Spatchcocked Roast Chicken Recipe

Lavender Lemon and Honey Spatchcocked Roast Chicken Recipe
Photo by Kerry Saretsky at French Revolution Food

Ingredients

  • 1 whole small chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1/2 lemon, the other half cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 loaf hearty sourdough bread

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack in the center. Cut the backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears. Lay the the chicken breast-side-up in an enameled baking dish. Press down on the breast bone to break, so that the chicken lies flat. Season generously, front and back, with salt and pepper.
  2. In a bowl, mix together lemon juice, lemon zest, lavender, thyme, and the olive oil, and honey. Stir to combine. Add the butter, and using a fork, mash the mixture together until homogenous
  3. Slather the lemon, lavender, and honey butter all over the top and underside of the chicken. Roast for 20 minutes. Nestle lemon wedges under chicken and return to oven. Continue roasting until until golden with charred bits and an instant read thermometer inserted into breast registers 150°F and the thighs and legs register at least 165°F, 15 to 25 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut it in half. Serve with pan juices and roasted lemon wedges, along with bread for soaking up juices.

Full recipe and instructions by Kerry at French Revolution Food

Roasted Squash With Kasha and Lavender Recipe

Roasted Squash With Kasha and Lavender Recipe
Photo by Winnie Au for Eye Swoon

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup kasha (dry-roasted buckwheat groats)
  • 1 squash (we used honey squash)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lavender
  • ¼ cup greek yogurt
  • a few teaspoons of honey

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a flat sauté pan to melt. Add the kasha, or buckwheat groats. Use a ratio of 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to 1 cup of kasha. Bring to a high heat and cook until bubbles start to form and the kasha starts to brown. Season nicely with salt.
  2. Cut the squash down the middle lengthwise and season with oil, salt and pepper. Place the squash, cut-side down, into a 425-degree oven. This will roast the squash and steam it within.
  3. For serving, you can add anything you want. In this dish we used lavender, greek yogurt and honey. You can also feel free to garnish with pomegranate seeds, coconut flakes or cocoa nibs.

Read the full recipe and instructions by Chef Gerardo Gonzalez at Eye Swoon

Lavender Recipes for Drinks

Lavender Collins

Lavender Collins
Photo by Meghan at Fox and Briar

Ingredients

  • 1 and ½ ounces gin
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce lavender syrup
  • sparkling water

For Lavender Syrup

  • ¼ cup dried lavender
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water

Garnishes (optional)

  • lemon slices
  • lavender sprigs

Instructions

Lavender Syrup

  1. Add ½ cup water and ¼ cup lavender to a sauce pan, bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain out flowers and discard.
  4. In a clean saucepan, add ½ cup of sugar and 3 Tablespoons water.
  5. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  6. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then stir in lavender liquid.
  7. Whisk until fully combined, remove from heat and transfer to a storage container.

Drink

  1. Add gin, lemon juice and lavender syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake until cold, then strain into a glass filled with ice.
  3. Top with a splash of sparkling water, then gently stir.
  4. Garnish with lemon slices and lavender sprigs.

Read the full recipe and instructions by Meghan at Fox and Briar

Vodka Pear Lavender Lemonade Recipe

Vodka Pear Lavender Lemonade Recipe
Photo by Ashley at Sugar and Cloth

Ingredients (yields one large glass)

  • 1 pear, juiced
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 2 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 ounces water
  • 3/4 oz lavender simple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 10-12 stalks fresh lavender or about 1/4 cup dried

Instructions

Make lavender syrup by boiling 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and lavender in a pot. Turn to low and simmer for 10 mins. Let cool and strain out lavender. Juice pear and strain any pulp. Combine all remaining ingredients into a shaker and shake. Strain into a tall glass with ice.

Cooking with Lavender


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6 Comments
  1. Mike, I loved this post! Thank you so much for all of the time you put into your research and for sharing all of these wonderful recipes.

  2. These are good collection of recipes using lavender. I’m dying to try that Lavender Ice cream. I really thought Lavenders are only used for fragrance and essences. 🙂

    1. Joy,

      I’ve done several variations of lavender ice cream – the honey lavender recipe is REALLY good. I’d recommend making it when you’re ready to enjoy it pretty quickly. It can turn to rock hard ice in the freezer after a few days. If you use crystalized honey, the end result will become a bit creamier. Good luck and report back with your taste bud trip report!

  3. This is super informative! Thank you! I remember buying some lavender from Trader Joe’s one time and wanting to cook with it, but I had no idea where to start!

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