If you have had experience using tarragon in your cooking, you probably know that this is a bittersweet herb that you can use either fresh or dried and consists of long and light green leaves.
Because of its unique taste and the wonders it can bring to your dishes, it is commonly used to spice up even your regular home-cooked meals. But, if you wait until the last minute to purchase ingredients for your recipes, you will learn that this spice sells quickly and that it is perennial, which means that it is only available in season.
If this is the case, you might as well consider using tarragon substitutes in your dishes. The next time you are out of tarragon, you can make use of the following spices and herbs instead.
Thyme – The Most Versatile Tarragon Substitute
Just like basil, this herb is considered one of the most popular herb in the Western countries. Interestingly enough, thyme has been used in the past as an embalming agents by the Egyptians and as a purifier by the Romans.
This herb is a close relative of mint and oregano, which gives it its rather unique appearance and texture. While it may be more flavorful when used fresh, it can be used both fresh and dried.
Thyme may be slightly different from tarragon, but it can still substitute it well, especially when cooking bread. Also, it can be used with meats and vegetables because it retains its savory taste throughout the cooking process.
Basil – Perfect for Italian Recipes
If you are fond of making and eating Italian dishes, chances are you are already familiar with basil. However, you may not know that there are several different types of basil including lemon basil, Thai basil, holy basil, and sweet basil, among others.
It can be used both dry and fresh. It has a stronger flavor as well as scent when used fresh.
Basil can be a great tarragon substitute and will work wonders in Italian-American recipes. It fits perfectly with the flavors of cheese, sauce, and chicken. When you use it with baked dishes, the leaves will dry out and flavor the dishes they are cooked with.
Dill – A Tarragon Substitute in Meat and Fish Dishes
Dill, a herb that is part of the celery family, can definitely be used as a substitute for tarragon. This herb has longer and slender stalks with thin and divided leaves.
While it may not necessarily carry the same licorice flavor of tarragon, you should the right amount so the flavor will not over powering or under powering.
Another distinct characteristic of dill is its slightly bitter taste, making it a great herb to use on meats and fish. In fact, even when you use just a small amount in your fish dishes, you can already bring out the flavor of the fish without necessarily creating an overpowering bitter taste.
Marjoram – Use it Salad Dressings Instead of Tarragon
Marjoram is considered a somewhat favorite tarragon substitute especially if you are making salad dressings. It has a smooth and ovate shaped leaf with a sweet and citrusy taste that can rival the licorice taste of tarragon.
Since this herb is sensitive to cold, you will likely not find it fresh in colder regions and during the winter months.
With its sweet taste, it can be used to season sauces, dressings, stews, and soups. It is also very versatile allowing you to use it for almost anything from salad dressings to meat marinade.
Aniseed – Tarragon Substitute in Your Breading
Anise or aniseed is a delicious mixture of fennel and tarragon and has the similar licorice flavor. This plant can grow up to three feet tall and bears white flowers and fruit.
This herb is often used in flavoring candies, drinks, and entrees, making it an excellent tarragon substitute. You can even mix it in your cookie recipes.
However, if you are not sure of the ratio, you need to remember not to use large amounts of aniseed in your dishes, as it can make a sweet dish bitter. Just use it sparingly.
Chervil – Your Tarragon Substitute for European Dishes
This herb may be uncommon, but it still makes a perfect tarragon substitute. It has the same scent and aroma of tarragon but not as strong.
Because of its mild flavor, it is favored herb in England and France. It complements different kinds of European dishes, and it can enhance the flavor of eggs, sauces, white fish, chicken, vegetables, soups, and sauces.
This herb tastes best when used fresh and may even be a perfect substitute not just for tarragon but also for chives and parsley.
Angelica – Perfect for Candies and Jams
If you are thinking of making candies and jams, you can always substitute tarragon with this herb. This herb grows bipinnate leaves and umbels of greenish white or white flowers.
The edible part of this herb is found in its roots, and it has several uses in different cultures in Asia, including China and Japan. In fact, it is known to treat specific health conditions and speed up recovery and healing. Also, it is commonly used as a flavoring in different dishes and recipes.
The roots, as well as the seeds of this herb, can be used to flavor liquors like chartreuse and gin. Like tarragon, it has a licorice flavor that can be used to sweeten different dishes and culinary products like jam and candies.
The Bottom Line
Tarragon may have become a cooking staple in many kitchens. In fact, I regularly used it at home in making various dishes including desserts, bread, omelets, fish, chicken, and even for marinades and seasonings.
However, you cannot deny that there are those times when you run out of tarragon. If this is the case, you can always use a tarragon substitute that is readily available in your kitchen. The great thing is that there are various herbs and spices that you can use as a tarragon substitute and works perfectly in your dishes.