Microgreens Are Small in Size but Big on Flavor and Nutrition—Here's How to Use Them in Your Cooking

Just a sprinkle is enough to take any dish to the next level.

misc microgreens
Photo: jurden / Getty Images

They seem to be ubiquitous in trendy restaurants these days, but what are microgreens? Think of them like the shoots of salad vegetables picked after the first few leaves have developed, says chef François Payard. Microgreens is a marketing term used to describe a growing category of young, tender, edible varieties of vegetables and herbs. Micro broccoli, micro wasabi mustard, micro kale, and micro watercress are all common varieties of microgreens. They're larger than sprouts and smaller than baby vegetables. Microgreens can be grown indoors in very shallow soil. In fact, many home chefs and professionals may take to tending and harvesting a windowsill microgreen garden themselves for peak freshness.

What Do Microgreens Taste Like?

Microgreens vary, but as their name suggests, they taste like tiny, leafy greens. They have bursts of flavor reminiscent of the vegetables they could grow up to be. Typically, they are consumed raw and are relatively mild yet also earthy and fresh, and they can bring out flavor notes in a dish that may otherwise taste rather flat. Do not consider them a substitute if a recipe calls for a certain amount of kale or watercress. Rather, think of them as an accent, like a sprinkle of cinnamon on a hot cocoa or a dash of bitters in a cocktail.

How to Use Microgreens

"I use microgreens to add color and a burst of flavor to a dish," Payard says. "You can use them as garnish for any dish and even for drinks, as well as to add seasoning to soups, layer them on any sandwich, add them to stews, and mix them into any salad." At his new restaurant, Southhold Social, on the North Fork of Long Island, N.Y., you'll see microgreens atop dishes as a garnish—including in unexpected places, such as micro basil on a dessert. Pretty much, wherever you want to add a hint of beauty and a small pop of fresh flavor, microgreens are an asset, whether you're making a microgreen omelet in the morning or have a more complex recipe that can just use some extra oomph.

Microgreens are so versatile that no meal planning is required, they can be used on top of reheated pizza, takeout Thai, or your signature weeknight casserole. In fact, there's really no place microgreens don't belong.

Chefs will often use tweezers to set microgreens just so, but you can use clean fingers to (gently) place them as a garnish on an individual plate or shared dish. Using microgreens will make your contributuion to any potluck will look a lot more gourmet. And if you're planning to snap an Instagram photo to show off your cooking, a sprinkle of microgreens truly takes that dish to the next level.

Where to Buy Microgreens

Many grocery stores, farmers' markets, and CSAs have started selling microgreens. They're quick to grow and supplies can easily be replenished (typically no supply chain issues here!). They're also small enough that they don't take up much truck or shelf space. And they also consume very little water but they produce chorphyll, so microgreens can be considered eco-friendly.

Brands like AeroFarms sell their microgreens—in both single varieties and mixtures such as a "Micro Super Mix"—online and in grocery stores, and their 2-ounce packages are perfect for garnishing multiple meals. Willo, a direct-to-consumer agriculture share, ships fresh microgreens (along with other produce) straight to your door, and has some unique varieties like micro coriander, pink radish microgreens, and onion microgreens. If you want to grow your own, several gardening and home stores sell kits.

While microgreens may cost more than boxes of salad greens, a package weighing a few ounces typically costs just a few bucks, and those microgreens can go far.

Storage Tips

"The best way to store microgreens is in a covered container in the bottom of the fridge," says Payard. They'll typically last three to five days, and you'll want to check on them during that time to make sure they don't get too moist and wilt. Microgreens are too delicate to freeze, but if you have some that need using up, consider making a pesto or soup with them that you can freeze. Of course, once defrosted, garnishing that dish with fresh microgreens will spruce it up.

Health Benefits

In addition to their aesthetic and flavor qualities, microgreens are super healthy. A University of Maryland and USDA study in 2010 found that the tiny vegetables contain up to 40 times more nutrients than their fully mature counterparts. Further studies have echoed those findings, indicating there's a lot of vitamins and minerals in such a small package. Microgreens are so easy to consume (a handful is an acceptable snack), that there's almost no excuse not to add an extra dose of nutrition atop your next meal.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles