Tarragon is a culinary herb that originated in Western Asia and Siberia. It’s a perennial plant with growing patterns like grass. Tarragon has also been used to improve appetite, soothe digestive problems, tooth pain, and reduce water retention. The skinny leaves of the French variety of Tarragon are aromatically intense and flavorful.
It’s a popularly used herb in France where many dishes depend on it. It has a slightly bittersweet taste with a light almost licorice taste that works well with dishes such as omelets, fish, and chicken. It’s a key element used in béarnaise sauce. But if you are out of tarragon or if you’re one of those folks who just doesn’t care for the licorice taste of tarragon, one of these best tarragon substitutes should do the trick.
Our other substitutes ideas:
Best Ideas for Tarragon Substitutes:
- Fresh Chervil
- Basil Leaves
- Fennel Seed
For those in Europe, specifically France and England, fresh chervil is a popular tarragon substitute. Chervil’s flavor is best when it’s used fresh and it’s perfect for soups, salads, and sauces as well as white fish, chicken, and eggs.
If your original recipe calls for tarragon but you’re one of the people who just doesn’t care for the licorice taste, try an equal measure of marjoram as an alternative for the tarragon in your dish. Marjoram will give your recipe a citrus sweet taste which is perfect for salad dressings, stews, and seasonal soups.
When it comes to the best tarragon substitutes, rosemary is one to consider. It has a strong odor, unlike any other herb. You won’t get the licorice taste of tarragon but it does have a piney flavor with a distinct lemon undertone.
Even if you don’t have tarragon on hand, your pantry most likely has some basil. If you love Italian food, you may even have basil as a staple herb in your garden. You can use basil leaves as a tarragon substitute when a recipe calls for fresh tarragon. Basil’s flavor is stronger when fresh but it’s one of the best tarragon substitutes if you’re making pasta or sauces.
Believe it or not, one of the best tarragon substitutes might be found growing near your home. Angelica is a plant that grows up to four feet tall and is typically found in pastures or fields. Don’t use any backyard plant without positive identification due to look-alike plants that can be poisonous.
But the roots of the Angelica plant have a wide variety of uses and Angelica is used in China and Japan for quicker healing. Angelica seeds and roots are used to lend flavor to chartreuse and gin because it’s flavored are quite distinct when used in alcohol. As a tarragon substitute, it brings that licorice taste as a sweetener for recipes.
As a substitute for dried tarragon in a recipe, oregano works well. It’s a member of the mint family and a perennial plant popular throughout the world. It’s easy to find and likely already has a place on your pantry shelf. Although not a licorice taste like tarragon, oregano does have a slightly bitter taste to it. It can also add a touch of heat to just about any recipe.
As a member of the celery family, dill is a good replacement for tarragon, especially for fish recipes. Look for slender long stems with divided leaves. Dill won’t have that same licorice flavor as tarragon so it that’s crucial for your recipe then make sure you add enough dill to your recipe so it’s not underwhelming.
If you’re in the middle of a recipe and want to use one of the best substitutes for tarragon that keeps the licorice taste intact, try using fennel seed. Fennel is a flowering member of the carrot plant family. Just one pinch of fennel seed per teaspoon of tarragon is all you’ll need to get the similar flavor of dried tarragon for your dish. To replace fresh tarragon, use one pinch per tablespoon of fresh tarragon. The feathery fronds of fennel are tender and work well as a garnish for soups or salads.
A pinch of aniseed can replace each tablespoon of fresh tarragon. If you’re replacing dried tarragon, however, a pinch of anise seed equals just one teaspoon of dried tarragon. Use less than what you need because too much aniseed can result in a bitter taste. Aniseed has a flavor reminiscent of black jelly beans but slightly sweeter. It’s a good tarragon substitute in desserts, to flavor tea, or in liquor.
Popular in western culture, no list of tarragon substitutes would be complete without thyme. Used by the ancient Egyptians for embalming, by the Romans for room purification, and in the Middle Ages to lend warriors courage and to ascertain a safe transition to the afterlife, it’s the most versatile of all substitutes.
Thyme is more pungent when fresh but can be used dried as well. With properties from both the mint and oregano families, the flavor is not exactly that of tarragon, but it works well as a tarragon substitute for bread, meats, and vegetables.
If you enjoy the unique taste of tarragon, you’ll, of course, want to make sure your pantry is well stocked with it. But if you find yourself in the midst of making dinner with no tarragon to be found, you’re sure to have at least one of these best tarragon substitutes available to fill in.