Resources > Term > A > Aromatics

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
+ -


In the culinary world, an Aromatic is any food item which enhances the flavor or aroma of a dish. Under this definition, Aromatics would include, for example, Herbs, Spices, Vegetables, Citrus Fruit, Wine, Vinegaranything that helps boost a dish’s flavor. 

However, the term Aromatics also has a more specific definition. When a cook says “aromatics,” they usually mean a mix of Vegetables, Herbs and Spices that are added to a Stock, Soup or Sauce to give it extra flavor. Some of which are often cooked in a bit of Fat or Oil.

It’s implied that Aromatics are savory ingredients. You might consider Citrus an exception to that rule, but it’s usually a fruit’s peel that is used as an Aromatic, which you could argue is savory rather than sweet.

Regardless of the cuisine, it’s most important to note that Aromatics form the base of the flavors of a dish. Therefore, what ingredients are used as Aromatics are a big factor in determining its personality.


In many cases, Aromatics add the characteristic flavors of a particular cuisine.  For example, in Asian cuisine, the Aromatics would probably include some of the following: Ginger, Lemongrass, Bird’s Eye Chili or other Hot Peppers, Spicy Basil, Citrus Peel and/or Mint. Mexican cuisine Aromatics might be Chili or other Hot Peppers, Cilantro, Lime, Garlic, Cinnamon and/or CuminCajun or Creole Aromatics, are likely to include their “holy trinity” of Onion, Celery, and Green Pepper (their traditional choices when making a Mirepoix), as well as Bay Leaves, Cayenne Pepper and/or Paprika.

In Italy, the Aromatics would likely begin with their version of a Mirepoix called a Soffritto, which usually consists of finely minced Onion, Parsley and sometimes Garlic, Celery and Carrots. In Northern Italy, the Soffritto is traditionally cooked in Butter, but Olive Oil is used in Southern Italy, and is also the more popular choice in contemporary, more health-conscious cooking. Additional Aromatics in Italian food might include Basil, Bay Leaves, Oregano, Rosemary and/or Fennel.

Culinary Uses

In Classic French cooking, one of the most influential of all cuisines and often our base of reference here at Smart Kitchen, the Aromatics for a Stock would consist of a Mirepoix of Onions, Celery and Carrots (or Parsnips to make a very pale-colored Stock) cooked in Whole Butter (either Sweated for White Stock or Sautéd and caramelized for Brown Stock), and a Bouquet Garni or Sachet d’Epices containing such items as Bay Leaves, Peppercorns, Parsley Stems, possibly Fresh Thyme, Garlic and/or Leeks.