Tieghan Gerard On Her Favorite Spring Ingredients And How To Use Them — Exclusive

Tieghan Gerard lives in a converted horse barn in Colorado where she spends her days dreaming up new recipes for her beloved and much-awarded blog, Half-Baked Harvest. Perhaps you bought her New York Times best-selling cookbook which goes by the same name. Maybe you first met Gerard last year, when the popularity of her recipes — as showcased on her Instagram – caught the attention of Drew Barrymore and her daytime talk show. That was around the time Harper's Bazaar scratched an itch we'd all had for a while, documenting via video everything that Gerard, herself, eats in a day. 

Turns out, it's a lot of the same wholesome ingredients and homey recipes that she's been known for since 2012 when Gerard started her virtual culinary adventures. For those yet to be initiated into Half-Baked Harvest's magic world, you'll enter for chicken quesadillas, Italian stromboli, chipotle salmon tacos, or blueberry muffin cookies — and you'll never leave. In fact, Gerard's culinary creations are so compelling that they recently earned her a spot on Create and Cultivate's C&C 100 2023 list. There, she joins other female groundbreakers that the media company celebrates as "refus[ing] to accept the status quo" in vocations that range from beauty to finance.

"I love springtime, it's such a great time to start using fresh ingredients again," Gerard told us in an exclusive interview. What follows are her spring ingredient favorites, followed by tips and hacks on how to use them. 


Fresh herbs should never be an afterthought in meal prep. Nor should they be relegated to the dreary, secondary role of garnish. "I think that using fresh herbs can really add so much color and so much flavor to your dishes and I really love to incorporate them in the spring," Tieghan Gerard told Tasting Table. Consider one of her favorites: basil.

Basil is to pesto as chocolate is to cake — but don't let that stop you from branching out with the ingredient. Gerard told us that she uses basil in everything from blended sauces, on top of pizzas and pasta, and in salads and salad dressings. Pro tip? Next time you're making a ranch, Gerard suggests swapping out parsley for basil. If, on the other hand, you lean towards acidic dressings for your leafy greens, basil can liven up your vinaigrettes, too. "You can do a basil-vinaigrette with basil, olive oil, lemon, a little bit of honey, a little bit of mustard, salt, and pepper. Keep it really simple," Gerard recommended.

The culinary blog savant also loves the herb in Asian-inspired recipes and uses Thai basil for those. "It has just like a slightly different flavor, different look to it, different texture. I think that an Italian basil is much more intense in a basil smell and flavor," she explained. "Thai is probably a little bit more mellow, and I feel like it has notes of lemon in it potentially."


Tieghan Gerard is not one of those people who think cilantro tastes like soap. The New York Times best-selling cookbook author is solidly pro-cilantro and relies on it heavily in her springtime recipes. "I love cilantro," Gerard told us. 

As with basil, Gerard likes incorporating the herb into salad dressings. "Obviously it's great in things like tacos," she told Tasting Table. "But ... you can do a cilantro-lime vinaigrette, use it in a like a southwest chicken salad with grilled chicken and bell peppers and fresh corn and greens and all of those things and toss it all together." What are some of her more creative uses of cilantro, we wondered? Gerard suggests utilizing the herb as a pizza topping if it matches the flavor profile of the pie. She also commonly uses cilantro as a noodle topping, especially when accompanied by a Thai-curry sauce. "I love to do like a Thai-noodle with cilantro," she told us. "Toss [your curry sauce] with some rice noodles or egg noodles and then top it or toss it together with some fresh cilantro, it's really great." 


March heralds the end of peak citrus-growing season. Lemon and lime, however, are leading ladies Tieghan Gerard's spring cabinet as the star ingredients for a seasonal celebration essential: spring cocktails. "You can use a lot of citrus in fun cocktails. You can make drinks with mandarin oranges and stuff like that or you can do lime-based drinks or lemon-based drinks and pair it with your favorite fruit," Gerard brainstormed. "Oh my goodness, you could do like a mango-lime margarita, that would be so good, you know?"

Here's an underrated citrus cocktail-making tip, free for the taking. Gerard suggests mixing the flavors of both lemon and lime in a cocktail for optimal results. "I think that's a combination that people actually don't do very often, but it's really great, it kind of gives you a little bit of both flavors." No need to have mad-bartending skills to take advantage of Gerard's tip, either. "You can keep it really simple," she assured us. "You can do something like a tequila, lemon, lime, soda ... top it with a little bit of ginger beer. That's a three-ingredient drink that takes, you know, two seconds to make."


Pineapple's peak-harvesting season spans between March and July, making it a perfect fruit to liven up your spring cuisine. Yes, Tieghan Gerard is a card-carrying member of the pineapple fan club. While fruit salads, pineapple upside-down cakes, and pina coladas may be first and foremost among your pineapple-centered daydreams, Gerard uses the fruit in savory preparations.

Enter the stir-fry. "A lot of times, I'll toss pineapple into stir-fry dishes," Gerard told Tasting Table. "I like to toss it into a chicken stir-fry at the end for like a nice sweet-savory factor. I think it's really great with those salty spicy flavors." If you've never added pineapple to a stir fry before, it's not a hard skill to pick up. "I usually add them at the end or even as a fresh topping," Gerard advised. "I just do small bite-sized chunks, you know. And just toss it all together with [the stir-fry], and then I'll serve it over rice."


You'll have to hold out for late spring to enjoy the freshest, ripest mangos, but — just ask Tieghan Gerard — the wait is worth it. In May, when you'll likely notice the freshest mangoes in your supermarket produce baskets, take advantage of the drupe to add vibrance and flavor to your diet. There's nothing wrong with staying simple. For a straightforward, no-fuss mango recipe, incorporate them into a tropical salad with your other fruit faves — Gerard likes to do that. Mango-infused cocktails, Gerard assures us, also do the fruit justice.

Are you looking for a more creative way to quench your thirst for mangos? Try a savory, mango-based salsa. The "Half-Baked Harvest" author pointed Tasting Table towards one sauce in particular that uses three of her favorite spring-time flavors. "I love to do a mango salsa with jalapeño [and] cilantro. You can [also] toss in a little bit of Thai basil [and] lots of lime," Gerard advised.

Spring strawberries

Pineapples and mangoes may be the fat cats of spring fruits, but Tieghan Gerard would trade both for a perfect spring strawberry. It's the number one spring ingredient she couldn't live without. "If you're getting them from like a really great California grower ... they're usually really tart and fresh and sweet and delicious in the springtime," she gushed.

As with pineapples and mangos, Gerard recommends using strawberries to balance out savory flavors in, for example, a chicken salad. "I think it adds a really nice juicy flavor ... it adds a sweetness that's usually really nice with a lot of salads," Gerard explained. "Chicken can really go with many different flavors so adding something like spring strawberries is a really delicious change of pace. I'll usually do that with a simple kind of grilled chicken salad or maybe a pecan-crusted chicken salad or something like that."

Unlike pineapple and mango, Gerard leans heavily on strawberries for her spring-dessert cravings, too. She suggests incorporating them into everything from sugar cookies to cupcakes to pop-tarts. How, you ask, can you make the perfect homemade strawberry pop-tart filling? "I usually do mine with like a little bit of maple or honey," Gerard explained. "You just boil down the fresh strawberries until they kind of become jammy and maybe mix [them] with a little bit of lemon and then you put [the filling] together with pie crust and you have yourself a strawberry pop tart."


Rest assured, Tieghan Gerard would be the last person to judge your affinity for avocado toast. "I can put avocado on pretty much everything or in everything," she told Tasting Table. During peak avocado season between April and June, Gerard recommends incorporating avocados into salads, sandwiches, taco toppings, and more. "I love to make avocado salsas with jalapeños and fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice," she told us. "You can [also] use it pureed into a dressing, and make like a creamy avocado ranch without actually using any sour cream, or dairy, if you are dairy-free."

What now? A dairy-free, vegan-friendly avocado-based ranch? You heard Gerard correctly. It's not hard to pull off, either. "You just want to kind of blend [the avocado] with your food processor, probably add a little bit of water, add all the herbs," Gerard told Tasting Table. "You ... can add parmesan to it, or not add parmesan to it, [add] a little bit of lemon, and just keep it simple ... if you want to keep it non-dairy you can do a non-dairy milk [to] thin it out, and then you have your avocado-based ranch dressing."


While artichokes are another one of Tieghan Gerard's favorite spring ingredients, you won't catch her buying them fresh from the farmer's market during their peak spring season (March through June). Permission granted to save yourself the trouble, take a shortcut, and buy the vegetable canned or jarred. "I actually usually only buy the hearts when it comes to artichokes," Gerard admitted to Tasting Table. "I'm using a lot of marinated artichokes that are in a jar, they come marinated in olive oil that are really delicious ... or you can get canned artichoke hearts too."

Need some inspiration for your next artichoke-centered adventure? Gerard suggests incorporating the vegetable into pasta and pizzas. They're standout candidates for hors d'oeuvres, too. "I also just made an oven-baked fried artichoke that's really good, that's like kind of an appetizer," Gerard expanded. If you'd rather play it safe, you can re-purpose a classic, artichoke-based fan-favorite: spinach artichoke dip. Instead of serving the dip with pita or tortilla chips, try making it the surprise ingredient in your next pizza night. "Put that dip on a pizza and kind of twist it in a new way," Gerard told Tasting Table. She recommends adding it to your pie before you pop it in the oven.


Tough, flavorless asparagus — the stuff of every five-year-old's kitchen nightmares — gives the vegetable a bad name. When selected correctly, Tieghan Gerard assured Tasting Table, asparagus is one of her favorite springtime flavors. "I would try to find skinnier asparagus. I think the fatter asparagus tends to have less flavor, [and] maybe not as great as a texture," she advised. "When you have a nice, skinny asparagus it always cooks up really beautifully and you can stir it into pastas or all different kinds of things."

There's no need to go too far down the rabbit hole to enjoy the spring vegetable, however. Gerard's favorite way to prep asparagus is as the solo star of a simple, oven-roasted side. "You can toss it into so many dishes or you can just serve it as a side dish, which is my favorite way to do it, and roast in the oven," Gerard told us. "I roast it in the oven usually with a little bit of butter and Parmesan, and top it with sesame seeds  ... you can do a little bit of garlic in there too, and just like salt and pepper and maybe a pinch of chili flakes, and you can serve that with literally anything."

Bell peppers

Bell peppers might not be in season during the spring, but they nonetheless add vibrance and flavor to spring dishes, according to Tieghan Gerard."I think bell peppers are a great thing to use in the spring — you can roast them, you can eat them raw, all the things," she told us. If Gerard had to pick, she'd go for red, and skip the green altogether. "I love to use red bell peppers, they're definitely my favorite, but I think that orange and yellow are great," the social media chef told us. Color, of course, is a matter of preference. Use the flavor you like the best.

As with many of her other spring ingredient suggestions — artichoke, basil, cilantro, and asparagus, for example — Gerard loves peppers on pasta. She recommends roasting them for this purpose. Have a gas burner? In that case, per Gerard, "you can do a roasted red pepper on an open flame" for added flare. Of course, if time is of the essence, don't shy away from the ready-prepped version of the vegetable, either. As with artichoke hearts, Gerard told us, "you can buy [peppers] jarred which is very convenient."

Romaine Lettuce

For Tieghan Gerard, spring means salads, and salads mean greens. Don't underestimate the power of fresh greens, especially not romaine lettuce. "You can really dress romaine up," Gerard advised. The secret, she told us, is in the dressing. "It actually does have pretty good flavor, and I think you can dress it up ... you can do that vinaigrette that I was talking about, do a really simple tomato salad with lots of fresh cucumber, and do maybe something Greek-inspired, it would be really good." If Caesar salad is more to your liking, Gerard would go the route of a "spring Caesar salad, and toss[ing] in some artichokes." The salad-shy need not miss out on the leafy green, either. "I love to also use [romaine] as a topping for tacos and things like that, so just kind of incorporating it with other foods that have a little bit more flavor is always nice," she specified.

If, on the other hand, you avoid lettuce because half of it always ends up wilting in the fridge, Gerard might have a solution. "I wouldn't wash it right away," she suggested. "I know a lot of people are big on that but I think if you keep it in the produce bag until you're ready to use it, and then wash it, and then use it in your salads or whatever you're using it [for], that's the best way to keep it fresh longer."