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The Best Bay Leaf Substitute For Cooking: We Stumbled Upon 14

Off to cook your favorite risotto or perhaps adobo, but suddenly ran out of bay leaves? You’re in the right place, as today, we will talk about bay leaves and their alternatives.

Bay leaves are often mistaken as some random dried leaves that wander right off to people’s food. As mistaken as they are, bay leaves do look like one. But, let me hold you there, you are deeply mistaken if you consider bay leaves ordinary leaves!

Their flavor might not be noticeable at first, and they will not dominate the taste of the dishes, remaining subtly in the background as a supporting cast. But if you remove it from the recipe, you will find something unexplainably missing!

With its piney, minty eucalyptus tone and slightly peppery taste, you would find the boldest taste in your dishes get balanced out!

14 Best Substitute For Bay Leaf 

Dried Thyme

Dried Thyme

Thyme looks entirely different from bay leaves, and they are not even in the same plant family. So you might be wondering how thyme can replace bay leaves? 

One reason, thyme is a versatile herb, a trait that makes it suitable to add to many of your dishes. 

Another reason includes the fact that both herbs have a minty flavor and peppery taste. Thyme tastes a bit woody and sweet as well; take note of this when using this herb as your replacement. 

Best used for: Beef and lamb dishes

Substitution Ratio: 1/4 Teaspoon per 1 Bay Leaf

Dried Oregano

Oregano is a robust-flavored herb that is popular for its strong peppery, earthy, woodsy and slightly bitter taste. Oregano, as an alternative, might add way more flavor as desired due to its heavy taste. You might want to put it in moderation in order to get full control of your resulting dish.

Oreganos are the perfect alternative if you are looking for the healthiest choice as it has multiple components that benefit the human immune system. It also has detoxifying properties and will relieve minor illnesses like coughing.

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, and beef and lamb dishes

Substitution Ratio: 1/4 Teaspoon per 1 Bay Leaf (you may lower this ratio if the taste overwhelms you)

Dried Basil

Dried Basil

For Italian dishes, basil is your best alternative! 

Fresh basil will usually taste entirely different from bay leaves when added to food. But when dried, the taste of basil will be a world closer to bay leaves! It will lose its anise flavor and gain a minty tone similar to your missing herb. It will also produce flavor similar to the two aforementioned substitutes: minty, peppery spicy, and woodsy. 

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Similar to oregano, basil is also laden with different minerals. It has omega-3, magnesium, and several vitamins.

Best used for: Italian and Mediterranean dishes, best for light summer food.

Substitution Ratio: 1 Dried Basil per 1 Bay Leaf

Boldo Leaf

Boldo leaves are close relatives of bay leaves, and that says a lot about the feasibility of using them as a replacement for the latter. 

It is a native plant found in South American countries like Chile, where it is used as a traditional medicine to treat digestive tract illnesses. 

Boldo leaves have an overall softer taste and suit lighter recipes perfectly. But despite having a milder all-around flavor, boldo leaves’ slight bitterness, rich aroma, spicy tones, and savory flavor might overpower the taste of your dish if used in a large amount.

Use this herb in the right amount to achieve the perfect taste. You can also use Boldo leaves along with Yerba Matte to balance out its flavor!

Best used for: Lighter-tasting foods and recipes such as vegetable and mushroom-based dishes.

Substitution Ratio: Half of a Boldo Leaf per 1 Bay Leaf

Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries look vastly different from bay leaves as these tiny pieces of blue pinecones do not resemble bay leaves at all! Despite the difference in appearance, Juniper berries can be a good substitute for bay leaves with their piney tone and slightly peppery taste.

And if you are feeling slightly adventurous, you can combine it with rosemary to bring your dishes into a whole new world! 

In terms of usage as a substitute, using a bit too much of this ingredient might destroy the flavor of your cooking as it might overpower it if you go way overboard. 

You may remove Juniper berries from your dish before serving or let it remain as this replacement is edible. 

But before we proceed further, be warned that this alternative is not suited for pregnant women as well as children. If you have them in your household, it is better to choose the previous alternatives then.

Best used for: Duck Dishes

Substitution Ratio: 2-3 pieces of Juniper Berries per 1 Bay Leaf, you may modify it depending on your preferences.

Rosemary   

Rosemary might not be your best substitute for bay leaves but it will still work well if every other alternative just happens to be missing. 

Rosemary grows in places with a temperate climate. It is an evergreen plant that looks like a fern, mostly found in the Mediterranean. 

The flavor profile of this herb is a bit different compared to bay leaves but it is quite versatile and its robust flavors make up for the difference. This robustness is the reason why this fern-like herb is widely used in the culinary world.

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Best used for: steaks, roasts, fish, lamb or mutton, goat, pork, and most gamey meats. You can also use this in stews, soups, and galoshes.

Substitution Ratio: Follow a 1:1 ratio, you can also go way above it, depending on your preferences.

Sage

Fresh Sage

Although bay leaves and sage have similarities in their shapes and sizes, they are completely different herbs. Sauces and soups are the finest dishes to use bay leaves; while poultry, pork, and other creamy delights are all the best dishes to utilize sage.

Similar to Bay leaf, sage has a peppery taste. It also belongs to the mint plant family making it a good substitute for bay leaves.

Sage also has a rich fragrance similar to rosemary.

Best used for: Poultry Dishes and Dishes with heavy, creamy, and meaty taste.

Redbay Leaves

The Redbay plant is an evergreen tree with large, expanded leaves that have pointy tips and appear to be thin shrub leaves. Despite having red in its name, it is actually green in color, and looks somewhat similar to bay leaves.

To most residents along the Atlantic coast of Southern America, Redbay leaf is a common substitute for bay laurel leaves and they use Redbay leaves to make a variety of delectable dishes

It is better to remove it from your dishes before serving as this alternative leaves a sharp, bitter taste when eaten directly.

Best used for: Savory Dishes

Substitution Ratio: Follow a 1:1 ratio, but add them slowly while making sure that it does not overpower the overall taste of the dish.

Lime Zest

 

If you cannot find the above alternatives at the immediate moment, you can use lime zest in place of bay leaves to finish your umami stews and soups!

Lime’s sharp, tangy, and acidic flavor, similar to that of a bay leaf, might help to balance out your dish’s heavy texture and savory flavor. And that is exactly what bay leaves do to most dishes!

Grate the lime and use it in marinade sauces, thick soups, stews, and curries, along with some lime juice.

Best used for: marinade sauces, thick soups, stews, and curries

Substitution Ratio: Add as desired, while making sure that it does not overpower the overall taste of the dish.

Cilantro

Cilantro usually looks similar to a bright green parsley leaf. 

Cilantro, while not quite as robust as bay leaf, may provide a vibrant, aromatic, citrusy, and earthy flavor that blends well with many dishes that require bay leaf.

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Try it and you might get shocked by the combination of citrusy and floral flavors, and how potent it can be!

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir Lime

Running out of options? We’re not done yet, as you can use kaffir lime leaf as a substitute for bay leaves!

Its rich and complex flavor is comparable to bay leaf and even curry leaf.  

Kaffir lime’s peppery, citrusy, and slightly sharp taste goes well with rice, soups, stir-fried dishes, and curries. 

You may also use the zesty flavor added to grilled meat to form a distinct sweet and sour flavor combo for your main course. To enjoy it with your meal, make sure to cut them into strips before sprinkling them into your dishes.

Best used for: Soups and curries

Substitution Ratio: 2 Tablespoons of Chopped Kaffir Lime Leaves per 1 Stalk of Bay Leaves

Mint

We have been discussing the minty taste of bay leaves in our alternatives earlier, yet why haven’t we brought mint yet?

Although mint does not entirely cover what bay leaf means to dishes that have it, mixing it with other ingredients would create the desired result.

Use a small amount of mint first, then check if it affects the overall taste of the dish before adding some more.

Mint is best for drinks, so you might want to stay at that.

Curry Leaf 

Curry Leaf 

Curry leaves have an appearance that is quite similar to bay leaves. It has an oval shape that is quite slender to look at and a green color that is vibrant to the eyes. 

In terms of taste, curry leaves taste a bit similar to bay with their savory, warm, and slightly acidic flavor.

If you are cooking an Asian dish that calls for bay leaves and you don’t have one, try curry leaves. It adds a strong flavor and enriches the overall harmony of your dishes, a function similar to that of bay leaves.

Best used for: Rice, soups, and curries

Mexican Oregano

Mexican oreganos and the usual oregano you add to your food are two different herbs. The latter has a subtle minty flavor that is best used for Italian and Mediterranean dishes while Mexican oreganos, as their name implies, are best for Latin-based dishes.

This alternative has a citrus undertone and works great if added along with chilis and salsas. Similar to regular oregano, this substitute produces a very strong flavor, so make sure to add a small ratio of it only.

Best used for: Mexican meat dishes

Substitution Ratio: 1/4 Teaspoon for Every 1 Bay Leaf