Culinary Arts

How to Cook With Sage: 11 Culinary Uses for Sage

Written by MasterClass

Jun 19, 2019 • 4 min read

Sage is best known for its fuzzy exterior and intense herbal aroma, which makes it a bold addition to any dish. Hailing from the Mediterranean, this fragrant herb has transformed from an ancient medicinal tool to a versatile ingredient in dishes ranging from hearty American stuffings to light Chinese herbal teas.

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What Is Sage?

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region, recognizable by its soft, light gray–green leaves. A member of the mint family, sage has an earthy, sweet-yet-savory flavor that makes it the perfect addition to heavy, robust dishes like sausage, stuffing, cured meats, winter squash recipes, and creamy pasta dishes.

The form of sage that’s available in most supermarkets and farmer’s markets has many names including common sage, culinary sage, kitchen sage, true sage, garden sage, and dalmation sage.

What Is the History of the Sage Plant?

Thought to have originated in the Balkan Peninsula, sage has a culinary and healing history dating back many centuries. In ancient Rome, sage was used to heal ailments ranging from digestive issues to bleeding wounds. The plant’s reputation was so outstanding that in the Middle Ages the great European emperor Charlemagne ordered the herb to be grown in mass quantities for trade and medicinal purposes.

The Chinese, who imported sage from Europe, used the herb in natural medicine to treat ailments like kidney failure, joint pain, sore throat, typhoid fever, cold, and flu. Sage became so popular in Asia that the Chinese traded away four pounds of their native tea for every single pound of sage tea.

What Does Sage Taste Like?

Sage has a pronounced herbal flavor that is earthy, slightly peppery taste with hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon. It works well in heavier dishes with rich ingredients that can hold their own against such a bold flavor.

How to Cook With Sage

Thanks to its strong flavor and aroma, sage should be added early in the cooking process, rather than at the end of cooking like many delicate herbs. Frying a strong herb like sage mellows its flavor. Fried sage can be crumbled over a dish to heighten flavor at the last moment. Sage can also be used to add herbaceousness to sauces, compound butters, meat marinades, pastries, and breads. Add fresh sage leaves to cocktails and teas for an instant hit of herbal flavor.

In Italy, sage makes an aromatic addition to rich Italian tomato sauces and creamy pasta dishes, while in France chefs use sage in sausage fillings and pair it with other aromatic herbs like flat-leaf parsley, summer savory, bay leaf, and sweet basil in herb bouquets, like bouquet garni. In the United States and Canada, sage is best known as an ingredient in traditional Thanksgiving stuffings and turkey dishes. One of the best, and most common, pairings for sage is browned butter, which makes for the perfect addition to indulgent pasta dishes or simple chicken and vegetable recipes.

11 Recipes With Sage

  1. Chicken With Sage Browned Butter and Apples: Pan-roasted chicken cooked in sage-infused browned butter with sliced, sautéed apples.
  2. Sage Bread Knots: Herb-laced bread knots made with dried sage.
  3. White Bean, Sausage, and Sage Soup: A light tomato-based soup made with sausage, cannellini beans, chicken stock, white wine, fresh sage, and garlic.
  4. Classic Holiday Stuffing: A classic holiday recipe made with sliced crusty bread, butter, onions, celery, fresh sage, chicken stock, and egg.
  5. Roasted Acorn Squash: Sliced acorn squash tossed in olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper, roasted at 375ºF for 30 minutes.
  6. Chicken Pot Pie: A hearty chicken pot pie made with roast carrots, cauliflower, garlic, and onions in a creamy sauce with chopped sage and rosemary.
  7. Pasta With Fried Sage and Pine Nuts: Fresh pasta served in a sauce of olive oil, browned butter, kosher salt, and black pepper dressed with fried sage, toasted pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.
  8. Roasted Pork With Sage and Rosemary: Oven-roasted pork tenderloin marinated in olive oil, garlic, minced sage, and rosemary.
  9. Gin and Sage Cocktail: A refreshing herbal cocktail made with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, sage leaves, and cold water.
  10. Pumpkin-Sage Lasagna: A layered pasta dish with puréed pumpkin, heavy cream, dried sage leaf, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, kosher salt, and black pepper.
  11. Butternut Squash and Sage Soup: A creamy puréed soup made with roasted butternut squash, olive oil, onions, garlic, chicken stock, and sage.

What Are the Health Benefits of Sage?

With a botanical name coming from the Latin word “salvus,” meaning “healing,” it’s no wonder that sage—and sage essential oil—has a number of health benefits. The herb contains large amounts of vitamin K and B vitamins, and is also rich in vitamin A, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin E, and riboflavin. Sage is also packed with antioxidants, making it an effective antiseptic with the ability to boost the immune system and rid the body of harmful free radicals.

It can also be used topically to improve the health and appearance of skin, hair, and nails. Sage oil can be applied to hair or skin in order to cleanse the area and regulate oil production.

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