Your Ingredient Toolkit – Thyme

Thyme is one of the most unexpected ingredients in my “toolkit” of things that I use to tweak and improve recipes.

It’s a strange spice. It has a woody, somewhat bitter taste that reminds me a bit of bay leaves, and not something you’d think “man I need to add this to my food!” It’s not like pepper or garlic where you can say “yeah, that’ll work!” or “yeah, that won’t work.”

But the power of thyme isn’t in it’s taste per se – it’s how it works with other tastes.

Thyme has this strange ability to blend flavors together and enhance them – especially vegetable tastes. Time and again I’ve found that dishes that are vegetable-heavy but are missing “something” are improved by adding or increasing thyme. It seems to enhance or “turn up” the flavors.

I’ve found this is especially true in dishes with tomatoes in them. Thyme just makes things work when tomatoes are involved. If your tomato sauce or other dish needs a certain “oomph” consider some thyme.

It also plays well with other “leafy” spices – basil, oregano, rosemary, etc. If you’ve got a heavily spiced dish that’s not quite working, thyme may be what you need to tie it all together.

I usually find you don’t need more than 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of ground thyme to get the effects in an average-sized dish. So it’s not much effort to give it a whirl, though I think it’s taste could be overdone, so I’d start low just in case.

Next time you can’t get that dish right, give thyme a shot!

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at