Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD
If you’re looking to up your dessert game, consider adding candied rosemary to your recipe. This unique ingredient adds a sweet and savory flavor to any dish, from cakes to ice cream.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how to make candied rosemary at home so you can impress your friends and family with your culinary skills.
What is Candied Rosemary?
People often use candied rosemary, sometimes referred to as sugared rosemary, to garnish cakes and charcuterie boards or to include it in a pretty red cocktail.
It is essentially fresh rosemary, dipped in simple syrup, and then lightly coated in sugar.
However, you can also enjoy it as a unique and delightful treat all on its own, different from the usual lineup of winter snacks.
The Magic of Rosemary
Rosemary is more than just an aromatic herb; it’s a symbol of tradition and cultural significance. Its name, derived from the Latin words “ros” (dew) and “marinus” (sea), alludes to its natural habitat along the Mediterranean coast.
Here are a few reasons why people hold rosemary in high regard:
Ancient Symbolism: Rosemary was regarded as a symbol of remembrance in ancient cultures, often used in funerals, weddings, and celebrations. It was believed to enhance memory and loyalty.
Herb of Love and Protection: In folklore, rosemary is associated with love and protection. Brides often carried it in their bouquets as a symbol of fidelity and to ward off evil spirits. Ancient Egyptians included rosemary in their embalming solutions and placed fresh rosemary in tombs to protect the deceased.
Healing Properties: People have used rosemary for centuries in traditional medicine due to its potential health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants and is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Long-standing beliefs link it to the improvement of blood flow to the head, enhancing memory, and stimulating hair growth.
The flavor profile of rosemary is unique, seemingly combining earthiness, woodiness, and citrus into one awesome flavor.
In addition to ancient and traditional medicines, rosemary does seem to have positive benefits to our health. It is a plant, so all the usual things apply, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Peer-reviewed research has indicated that rosemary can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, reduce seizure severity in epilepsy (in rats), slow or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, improve learning and memory, reduce pain, and lessen symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol and opioid abuse.
Other research has shown impressive improvement in gut health as well. It appears to protect the liver from damage, and rosemary extract has been used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease in people.
Super cool, right?
The ingredient list for this candied rosemary is ridiculously short: rosemary, sugar, and water.
You can slightly alter the look of the final product by choosing sugar with larger crystals. However, these aren’t always easy to find, and (to me) the difference isn’t worth the trouble to get it.
Essentially, you will be making a simple syrup, coating the rosemary with it, then dredging it through sugar.
When making the simple syrup, you need to take care not to boil the water. Additionally, when you submerge the rosemary in the syrup, be careful not to leave it in the hot syrup long enough to start cooking it. Otherwise, it’ll wilt, and that won’t make a pretty garnish!
Before you dredge the rosemary in sugar, you’ll allow the rosemary sprigs to dry for 1 hour. Make sure you don’t touch it, or you’ll risk removing the syrup and creating spots that the sugar won’t stick to.
Variations and Flavor Combinations
I love the taste of rosemary so much, I wouldn’t want to add another flavor to the fresh herb and sugar.
However, if you want to give it a bit of a surprise, consider flavoring your simple syrup before coating your rosemary sprigs:
- Citrus – add the zest of an orange, lemon, grapefruit, or lime
- Spice – add a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger to the simple syrup.
- Lavender – Add dried lavender buds to the water as the simple syrup heats.
- Vanilla – a small splash of vanilla would complement the rosemary nicely.
- Other extracts – the baking/seasonings section of your grocery store. Choose one that catches your eye, and you haven’t tried before.
You could even consider taking this a step further and drizzle or coat the candied rosemary with melted chocolate!
Another option would be to try a different herb (candied thyme?), or even a mix of candied herbs. During Thanksgiving and Christmas time, you can find a large bundle of mixed, fresh herbs intended for seasoning your turkey.
Savory options for your candied rosemary include:
- Your meat-eating friends and family can sprinkle candied rosemary on roasted chicken, lamb, or pork.
- Toss candied rosemary with grilled or roasted mixed vegetables. Any would work, but I think that potatoes, carrots, and zucchini would work really well.
- Roasted butternut squash or your Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole would be amazing, topped with candied rosemary.
- Salads – add your candied rosemary to a fresh salad and a pretty, slightly crispy garnish or topping.
- Cheese Plates – dress up an otherwise boring charcuterie board with candied rosemary that enhances, not competes, the flavor of the cheese.
Sweet options include:
- Baked goods – top sweet treats with candied rosemary (and maybe candied cranberries?) for an easy way to decorate a winter-themed dessert. I think white cupcakes and yule logs would be particularly impressive!
- Baked goods (part 2) – you could also crush sugared rosemary and add to your batter or dough. I think this would be great in chocolate chip or sugar cookies.
- Ice Cream topping – crush the candied rosemary and add it on top of your favorite ice cream. However, this may be best when jazzing up a single flavor of ice cream, such as vanilla or chocolate. If you grab an ice cream with a ton of fillings, you may lose the rosemary.
- Cocktails and mocktails – you can muddle sugared rosemary to make your own signature drink. Otherwise, consider garnishing a drink in a fancy glass with a sprig of rosemary!
Wine Pairing Recommendations
Candied rosemary will likely pair best with a dry, white wine, in contrast with the sweetness of the candied herb.
Consider a Reisling, Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’re like me and are a staunch red wine fan, pinot noir may be your best bet.
All of that being said, as much as people love to talk about wine pairings, I’m a big proponent of choosing a wine you enjoy as your first criterion. Good wine pairing is a secondary consideration for me. Obviously, everyone will have their own opinions on this!
Preservation and Storage
Store your candied rosemary in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you notice spots that sugar has fallen off, you should be able to sprinkle some new sugar on that spot, and you’ll be good to go!
I haven’t tried to freeze this, but I doubt this would freeze well.
The Art of Presentation
Candied rosemary resembles snow on pine needles, so it makes a great decorative appeal for winter holidays! You can add sugared cranberries for added “wow.”
The prettiest use of candied rosemary I’ve seen is a short sprig balanced on top of an all-white cupcake. However, you could also use candied rosemary on top of a yule log to up the wow factor of that dish.
The combination of the sweetness and herbiness of the candied rosemary would make a great compliment to a savory charcuterie board. This would be an awesome idea for one of the holiday parties that will be coming up sooner than you know it!
No one has to know how easy it is to make it.
- 1.5 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 package fresh rosemary 1.5-2 oz
- Place 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water into a small pot. Heat gently, only until sugar is dissolved. Do not boil!
- Remove from heat and, in batches, gently place whole rosemary sprigs. Make sure the rosemary is coated, then remove with a slotted spoon.
- Place coated rosemary on a cooling rack or a sheet pan lined wiht parchment paper. Allow to dry for at least 1 hour. Hands off!
- Spread out the remaining sugar on a flat plate. Roll the rosemary in sugar to completely coat it. You may need to use a fork to separate the leaves to completely coat the branch.
- Add to your holiday cakes, charcuterie boards, or signature cocktails for a festive photo opportunity!
*Nutrition Facts are an estimate only. Differences are expected when making substitutions for any ingredient or when different brands are used.
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Candied rosemary is a delicious and unique ingredient that can take your desserts, snacks, appetizers, and even main dishes to the next level.
With just a few simple steps, you can make this sweet and savory treat at home. So, next time you whip up your favorite dessert recipe, try adding candied rosemary for a flavor that’s sure to impress.