Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is an annual herb commonly used as a garnish. Chervil looks much like parsley. The herb is native to the Caucasus, an area that borders Europe and Asia. It has a light flavor that some say is similar to anise or licorice. Chervil loses flavor as it is cooked, so it is usually added to dishes at the end of preparation.
Chervil is also sometimes used as a medicinal herb. Some, but not all chervil health benefits are supported by scientific studies. Learn more about how to incorporate this herb into your diet.
In lab settings and in animal studies, chervil has demonstrated antioxidant effects. Antioxidants help prevent or delay cell damage. Cell damage, specifically oxidative stress, may occur when your body is exposed to free radicals.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “oxidative stress is thought to play a role in a variety of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.” In lab studies, antioxidants have been shown to counteract oxidative stress.
Getting antioxidants from whole foods (such as herbs, fruits, and vegetables) is generally preferred by medical experts over getting antioxidants in supplement form.
Chervil has been used for centuries in alternative medicine to treat or improve certain medical conditions. These include:
- Digestive disorders
- High blood pressure
- Pockets of infection
- Kidney stones
- Reducing water weight
There is not enough scientific evidence, however, to know for sure if chervil can help treat or prevent any of these conditions.
When you cook with chervil, you are most likely going to use the fresh version of the herb. In addition, you are likely to use a small amount. For that reason, adding fresh chervil to your food is not likely to change the nutritional value of the dish.
Dried chervil is also available in stores. A one-tablespoon serving of dried chervil provides just over four calories, according to USDA data. Most of those calories come from carbohydrate and a small amount comes from protein and fat.
A typical one tablespoon serving of dried chervil is also not likely to provide significant micronutrients. However, you will get a small amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and folate. Minerals in marjoram include calcium, iron, and magnesium, selenium, potassium, and manganese.
Selection, Preparation, and Storage
Chervil has a flavor that is often described as minty or mild. Some compare it to tarragon and others say it tastes more like parsley. Chervil is often used in French cooking. It is one of several herbs (along with parsley, tarragon, and chives) used to make “fines herbes”—a blend used traditionally in France. The herb is commonly used in egg dishes and is used in some traditional French recipes for bearnaise sauce.
Fresh chervil is not always easily found in the produce section of your market. It is in season during spring and may only be available at that time. Dried chervil is available in the spice section of many markets. However, dried chervil is not known to have the delicate and distinctive flavor of the fresh variety. Still, some cooks use the dried version in vinaigrettes and on top of vegetables (blended with butter).
Chervil is delicate and does not store well in the refrigerator. However, if you wrap fresh chervil in a damp paper towel and store in the crisper of your fridge, it is likely to stay fresh for about a week. (It can also be frozen and kept longer.)
Like all dried herbs and spices, store dried chervil in an airtight container in a cool dark space. Properly stored, it is likely to stay good for three to four years.
Experiment with chervil by adding it to your omelets and scrambled egg dishes. You can also add chervil to soups (such as potato soup) or top meat and vegetable dishes with a fresh sprig.
Try any of these chervil recipes and ideas:
- All-Purpose Allergy-Safe Vegetable Broth
- Post Workout Beet Juice
- The How-To Guide for a Healthy Salad
Possible Side Effects
When used in typical amounts to flavor food, chervil is likely safe for most people. It may also be safe to use medicinally but since medicinal doses are usually higher, there is not enough scientific evidence to know for sure.
There are some reports of allergic reaction to parsley which is closely related to chervil. If you are allergic to parsley or if you suspect an allergy to chervil, seek personalized advice from your healthcare provider.
Lastly, chervil should not be used in medicinal doses by pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant. Medical experts caution that chervil may cause genetic changes in a developing fetus.
What is the best substitute for chervil in recipes?
It depends in part on how you use this herb. If you plan to use it as a garnish, parsley is the best substitute. The two herbs are closely related and have a similar taste and appearance. In cooked recipes, some chefs substitute dried tarragon.
Can I eat chervil stems?
Yes, the entire sprig of chervil is edible.