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Herb Substitutes: From Basil to Thyme

herb substitutes

Do you know which herb substitutes to use in an emergency?

We’ve all been there when suddenly we realize that the herb we thought we had on the shelf isn’t there!

We are following a recipe, it’s calling for that particular herb!

What to do?

Don’t panic, there are solutions.

With food, there are always solutions.

So which herb substitutes can you use in the foods you are making while staying as close to the original flavor as possible? 

JUMP TO:

The main thing is not to worry, and with the help of this post, hopefully you can learn what are the best ways to find alternatives to your herb ingredients.

How can your herb garden come to the rescue in a time of need?

What are good herb substitutes?

Let’s take a look at some specific herbs.

Basil 

SWAP FOR: Oregano or Thyme

herb substitutes

Oregano and thyme are two of the most widely used herbs, and originate from the Medeteranean region.

Even though basil originated in India, it is widely used in countries around the Mediterranean.

Often we associate dishes with basil to also contain oregano and thyme.

Even though dried basil remains sweeter and more herbal than the other two, they can be exchanged quite adequately.

In fact they are often found together in Italian seasoning. 

Thyme

SWAP FOR: Basil, Oregano or Marjoram

herb substitutes

Thyme is not particularly aromatic, but has a very well rounded flavor that when used correctly with complementary herbs allows for a robust taste.

Thyme is a member of the mint family, and a close relation to oregano, and therefore can be substituted for oregano easily.

Marjoram is slightly pungent and a bit spicy, and combine with a little parsley can be a great substitute for thyme.

Sage 

SWAP FOR: Marjoram, Savory or Rosemary

herb substitutes

Savory is an herb that is described as being full in flavor and therefore a good substitute for sage.

Sage is described as sweet and somewhat bitter, with lemon and eucalyptus notes making it also a full flavored herb.

Marjoram is also a strong flavor as is rosemary, making them good substitutes as well. 

Oregano

SWAP FOR: Thyme or Basil

herb substitutes

Oregano tastes a bit woodsy, and has an earthy flavor, making it a bit bolder than the taste of basil, but the sweetness is strong enough that you can taste the herbalism in a dish that can help mimic the herbal flavor of oregano.

Thyme can complement other herbs to give a well rounded taste you can get from oregano.  

Parsley

SWAP FOR: Cilantro or Chervil

parsley

Chevil is from the carrot family which is related to parsley, and therefore a good substitute for parsley.

Chervil has a bit of a stronger flavor but works well. Cilantro works as well, although with a more distinctive flavor.

Dill Weed

SWAP FOR: Tarragon

dill weed

Both these herbs have a bittersweet characteristic, with a mild taste of anise seed to them which allows for a seamless substitution. 

Cilantro

SWAP FOR: Parsley

cilantro

Cilantro will have a bit of a stronger and more distinctive flavor than parsley, but the fresh taste of both can be easily interchangeable. 

Bay Leaf 

SWAP FOR: ¼ tsp Dried Thyme

bay leaf

Bay leaf is very pungent, bitter and sharp flavor when eaten whole.

Once dried, bay leaf can taste very much like dried thyme.

Instead of being overpowering, it gently flavors any dish when substituting dried thyme

Chives

SWAP FOR: Scallions or Leek

chives

Chives are related to leaks, garlic, and onions.

With a very gentle onion flavor along with a hint of garlic, chives are distinctive, but definitely oniony.

Scallions or leeks with the understated taste of onion are a perfect match. 

I hope that was helpful and that you found the herb substitutes you were looking for.

Do you have any suggestions?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Hello! I’m Chef Tariq.

I’m a food, travel & lifestyle blogger who is passionate about Middle Eastern fusion cooking. I travel to eat and I share my experiences along the way!

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Hello! I’m Chef Tariq.

I’m a food, travel & lifestyle blogger who is passionate about Middle Eastern fusion cooking. I travel to eat and I share my experiences along the way!