What are “aromatics”?

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“Aromatics” is a term used for the vegetables, herbs and spices used expressly to bring flavor and aroma (rather than nutritive value) to a dish, liquor, or beverage.


Beyond that basic explanation there is argument over its exact definition.

The current version of Larousse Gastronomique draws a distinction between “aromatics” and “spices.”  However, it lists several ingredients commonly known as spices in its aromatics definition.  Furthermore, it distinguishes the two by saying spices are “of exotic origin” (which seems a euro-centric distinction) and that they primarily impart flavor while aromatics primarily impart aroma.

They acknowledge that both tend to impart a significant amount of both flavor and aroma.  Some other culinary tomes consider all spices aromatics, and I suspect many chefs do too.

The New Food Lover’s Companion argues that liquids used to impart flavor (like wine or vinegar) can also be considered aromatics, while Larousse insists they must be part of a “fragrant plant”.

On American television I often hear the term used to refer to foundational vegetables and herbs used in a dish at the beginning the cooking process to build flavor and aroma, such as carrots, leeks, celery, garlic, onions, shallots, lemongrass, etc.

– Question Submitted by Helbert

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