The Best Tarragon Substitute: Try These 7 Alternatives!
Tarragon is an aromatic herb that has a very distinct flavor—but what happens if you run out or simply want to try new ingredients with similar flavors? This post will let you in on different ingredients that can act as a tarragon substitute!
Let me let you in on some great alternatives! Some are already probably available in your kitchen, while others are great new flavors to experiment with.
What is Tarragon?
Before I give you the list of ingredients that you can use as tarragon substitute, let me give you a brief background on it first. You need to be familiar with its flavors before you start looking for substitutes!
Tarragon is a perennial herb that originates from France. It’s usually used in meat dishes, stews, and sauces, and is also often used in relishes and pickles. Its flavor has elements of sweetness and bitterness and has a licorice flavor.
Many herbs are stronger when they’re dried, but it’s a different story for tarragon. The flavors are less strong when dried—this is because it has an essential oil that can disappear quickly.
Fresh tarragon has a much more intense flavor, so use it sparingly!
1. For Fresh Tarragon, Try Basil.
Basil is a great tarragon substitute because it has the same strong aroma. To substitute, simply use an equal amount.
This is on the top of my list because I love basil and cook with it all the time. It might not give the anise notes that tarragon has, but it does have that same bittersweet, peppery flavor that I love. This herb never fails to provide freshness in any dish.
There are many different kinds of basil, but I always cook with either the sweet and Thai variety. I’ve tried using sweet basil as a tarragon substitute in a poached salmon dish and it turned out wonderful! It’s excellent with roasted chicken, too!
2. Try a Pinch of Anise Seeds.
Tarragon has an anise/licorice flavor, so these seeds are excellent substitutes! Unlike basil, these are best for recipes that call for dried tarragon.
When using anise seeds, just use a small amount because these are way stronger than the leaves. If the recipe calls for one teaspoon of tarragon, start with a pinch of the seeds. A little goes a long way!
Another thing that I love about anise is the health benefits. These are great for the lungs—they’re used a cough drop ingredients and helps in conditions like bronchitis and asthma. It’s also good helps ease flatulence—anise seed tea is great for this!
For cooking, I suggest that you use just a pinch of these deeds for one teaspoon of tarragon.
3. Want Similar Anise Flavors? Try Chervil.
Like basil, chervil is a good fresh tarragon substitute <substitution is also in equal amounts>. This herb, usually used in French cooking, is a relative of parsley and is a key ingredient in French seasoning fines herbes.
This, too, has an anise flavor, so you’ll be able to mimic the taste of tarragon. These two has very similar flavor profiles that some cooks actually combine them in their dishes! Chervil is much more delicate, however.
When cooking with chervil, my advice is to add them at the end of the cooking process because it will lose its flavor if you put it in too early.
This herb is excellent for more delicate dishes like salads, soups and omelets. It’s also great with fish! Their mild and sweet flavors provide a great balance to stronger ingredients like bitter greens.
4. For Dishes with Sweet Notes, Use Marjoram.
A lot of people confuse marjoram and oregano. I used to think that these two are the same thing, but I later learned that while they have a lot of similarities <ie. they're both from the mint family>, they have a distinct difference.
I did my research and found out that marjoram has floral, sweet, and woodsy qualities, while oregano is more on the pungent and spicy side.
Both marjoram and oregano can act as a tarragon substitute but I like the former better because it’s less strong. The flavors don’t overpower the dish but provides a great, subtle taste that adds a wonderful layer.
5. For Poultry Dishes, Try Rosemary.
While it doesn’t have the similar licorice taste, rosemary has a woody, pungent, and highly aromatic quality that is similar to tarragon.
I have a rosemary plant at home <they’re low maintenance, you should try it out if you haven’t yet!>, so I would always use this in my cooking. I love rosemary on roast chicken, but sometimes I change it up a bit and use tarragon instead!
It’s wonderful with citrusy flavors—I once did a lemon tarragon roast chicken recipe, but instead of tarragon, I used my rosemary at home. It came out delicious, and I would definitely make it again!
Rosemary and tarragon aren't just similar in terms of flavors--they're also good for you! Both are sources of magnesium, calcium, iron, and antioxidants.
6. Don’t Have Tarragon for Fish? Use Dill!
You can use both dried and fresh dill when working on a tarragon substitute, but I strongly suggest that you use fresh instead. This is because when dried, dill has a tendency to lose a lot of its great flavor.
When using fresh dill as a tarragon substitute, simply use an equal amount. I once used this herb in a sauce for grilled salmon that originally made use of tarragon, and it turned out really well!
Both herbs are excellent with seafood—my dish was actually polished off by the family in minutes!
7. Don’t Throw Away Those Fennel Fronds!
Last but definitely not least are one of my most recent discoveries: fennel fronds. I haven’t actually used this as a tarragon substitute, although I have cooked with fennel before. I just recently learned that these fronds have an anise flavor similar to tarragon.
These may not be as popular as fennel bulbs, but they actually provide an equally-wonderful flavor. When substituting tarragon, simply use equal amounts of fennel fronds. The anise flavor is usually mild, so feel free to add a bit more if you’d like.
I don’t recommend adding the fronds too early as they have a tendency to lose flavor quickly. My advice is to add them at the end of the cooking process
If you are interested in other ingredients, refer here: Ingredients
Thanks for reading this article! I hope I was able to answer your questions about tarragon. Hit me up for feedback and other concerns!
Tarragon has unique flavor profiles that add a wonderful complexity to dishes. It may not have the exact same taste as these herbs, but that doesn’t mean that your dish will be less delicious!
Whether you’re not a fan of tarragon, or simply want to try something new with your dishes, these herbs will provide similar flavors. Keep cooking to see which one will work best for your palate!