One will not be able to fully imitate the exact flavors of thyme. It is a unique herb that has a flavor and aroma that cannot be replicated. However, there are herbs that can come close to it. Looking for a thyme substitute? Look no further!
Used in many Middle Eastern and Western dishes, thyme has an earthy and peppery fragrance. It’s also known to be a type of herb that can enhance the flavor herbs without overpowering them.
Below, I’ll let you in on some tips and tricks on what to use if you run out of this herb. I’ll also be suggesting some combos I’ve concocted myself.
When looking for a thyme alternative, you need to look for herbs that have an earthy and peppery aroma, and sometimes even has hints of cloves and mint. Read on to learn more—you might learn a thing or two!
The Aromatic Savory
Savory combines well with thyme. They complement each other in dishes like stews and bouquet garnis for lamb/pork dishes. Did you know that this, on its own, serves as a thyme substitute, too?
One thing you should know about thyme is that it can withstand long and slow cooking, that’s why it’s often used in stews and sauces. Like thyme, savory has a peppery flavor, and a pungent aroma is also excellent for slow-cooked meat!
If you don’t have thyme at home, or simply want to experiment on alternatives, this is a very interesting ingredient to work with. It’s extremely aromatic, ergo the name!
There are different types of this herb <savory, summer savory, winter savory being the most common ones>. I’ve only worked with the summer savory type, and they are amazing in stews!
You can also chop them up and add a small amount to salads, to add that nice earthy kick.
If you can’t find savory in your supermarket, try a nursery—they’re usually available here! Don’t worry if you get more than you need. Savory keeps very well, and you can also freeze it!
The Robust and Peppery Oregano
Oregano is another great herb that you can use as a substitute in dishes that call for thyme.
This one’s common in Italian cooking <such as pasta sauces and pizza>, as well as Spanish and Latin American dishes like meat stews and soups. You can replace the thyme with oregano if your recipe falls under any of these categories!
When using oregano as a thyme substitute, you are not only getting the wonderful flavors—you are benefitting from great health benefits as well.
According to studies, this herb has antibacterial properties and contains fiber, iron, vitamins E and K, and even calcium. It also contains a lot of rich antioxidants and is being used by some for skin conditions like acne and dandruff.
Not only are you getting great flavors—you’re taking in good stuff as well!
The Sweet, Subtly Spicy Marjoram
Marjoram is actually sometimes confused with oregano because they look similar and they’re both from the mint family <it’s also sometimes called “wild oregano”>.
Like oregano, this herb is not also only known for its flavors, but other health benefits as well. Its oil form acts as an analgesic and can help cure spasms. It also has antiseptic properties!
When using marjoram as a thyme substitute <whether fresh or dried>, you simply need to use the same amount indicated in the recipe. Easy peasy!
Marjoram has a delicate flavor, so I suggest that you add it last to whatever it is you’re cooking. This one’s excellent for light dishes like omelettes and sauces, as well as spice blends.
I once did a barbecue spice blend rub that called for both thyme and marjoram. I didn’t have thyme at the time, and the recipe called for equal parts marjoram and thyme. Simply doubled the marjoram quantity, and the barbecue rub turned out delicious!
Marjoram is not limited to rubs, however. The leaves of sweet marjoram is also a great addition to light dishes like salads and cheese plates. Simply sprinkle them chopped or whole, and voila—a new layer of flavor!
The Robust and Aromatic Basil
Also known as the “king of herbs,” basil is another great thyme substitute that I’ve successfully worked with.
Like thyme, this herb is strong and a subtly pungent. What makes it different from thyme, however, is that it is usually added to dishes at the last minute, as the flavors lessen if they’re cooked.
A piece of advice: if you’re making a sauce with basil, put half while you’re cooking the sauce. I suggest adding the other half once you’re ready to serve! These two layers of the herb flavors will add depth to the flavor of your dish.
There are many types of basil, but the most basic ones are Italian/sweet basil and Thai basil. The former is milder (and, as the name suggests, sweet) and is best eaten uncooked, and the latter has a licorice taste and is better at higher heat levels.
Thyme and basil work very well in fish and poultry dishes, but if you don’t have thyme on hand, basil is an equally delicious substitute.
Like thyme, basil also works very well in sauces. It’s a basic staple in Western sauces—always complements tomatoes beautifully. If you’re making a type of stew or tomato-based sauce, this is a thyme substitute that you’ll need!
I once needed to make a herb butter sauce for a snapper recipe but realized that I was out of thyme. I made use of basil instead, and it was delicious!
It didn’t exactly imitate the original flavors of thyme <as I said, it’s impossible to get the exact same flavor>, but it provided the same aromatic and peppery notes that I love.
A Delicious Combination of Parsley and Marjoram
When making substitutes, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one herb. Concocting combinations is a great way to learn about how herbs work!
Parsley is an extremely versatile ingredient—out of all the items on this list, this is the herb that’s always in my kitchen. So when I was looking for a thyme substitute, I decided to work with this, with the help of the tried-and-tested marjoram.
Marjoram and parsley go so well together, so having them as a substitute for thyme added a new dimension to my beef stew. The tanginess and light spiciness of the parsley and the sweetness of the marjoram added wonderful layers of flavors!
For the beef stew recipe, I added equal parts parsley and marjoram. Then, I added some more parsley as a garnish before serving the dish. This is a sure crowd-pleaser!
Don’t limit yourself to this one combo. Let your imagination run wild and experiment! Maybe you’d want to do a marjoram and basil combo? How about a parsley and oregano? Get creative!
If you are interested in other ingredients,
Did the list help you? I hope you had fun reading, I sure had a blast writing it! I love Italian food, fish dishes, and stews, so thyme is a staple in my kitchen. When a recipe calls thyme, and I don’t have it, I use these substitutes!
Whether you don’t have access to thyme and in need of a substitute, or simply feeling creative, these alternatives will be able to help you out! I hope you take these ideas and use it on your kitchen experiments!
Thyme is a unique ingredient, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment on substitutes that are just as delicious. A good cook always finds ways of recreating wonderful flavors!
I hope you can share your thoughts in the comments below, and if you enjoyed reading, I hope you spread the word too. Good luck, and happy cooking!