Today, we are talking about one of the most versatile herbs on this planet (tarragon) and its substitutes.
Tarragon, one of the featured herbs in the French spice blend fines herbes, is a herb that is commonly used in French cooking. It has a unique flavor and aroma which adds a special touch to your food.
If you ever run short of tarragon or just want to try something different, you’re in luck. This article includes a list of some of the most popular tarragon substitutes, so read on.
What Is Tarragon?
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is a slender, green herb that is commonly used in French cooking. It is native to Siberia and has been cultivated for culinary purposes for thousands of years.
Tarragon is a member of the classic French herb blend called “fines herbes”, which includes chives, parsley, and chervil. It also has a subtle, anise-like (licorice) flavor that makes it a perfect match for several dishes, including chicken and fish dishes.
1. Anise Seed
The taste of tarragon is similar to that of anise seed. So, if the recipe calls for fresh tarragon and you don’t have access to it, then you can use dried anise seeds in its place.
If the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of tarragon, use the same amount of dried and crushed anise seeds. Use less quantity if you want your food to have a subtle flavor.
2. Fennel Bulb
Fennel bulb has a strong licorice flavor and is sometimes called “sweet anise.” This would be an excellent substitute for tarragon if you’re making pickles.
It also has a stronger flavor than tarragon, so use half as much fennel as called for tarragon in your recipe to keep the seasoning from overpowering your dish.
3. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds have the same anise-like flavor as fennel bulbs, but they aren’t as sweet as the latter and have subtle notes of lemon and peppermint as well.
Use about half a teaspoon for every teaspoon of tarragon called for in the recipe, or substitute one part fennel for three parts tarragon.
If you can’t find tarragon, licorice is another great option. Licorice has a similar mild sweetness with notes of anise. When using licorice as a substitute for tarragon, use the same amount of licorice as you would use tarragon to get the same flavor.
Another good substitute for tarragon is chervil, a member of the French fines herbes blend. It also has anise-like qualities and can be substituted in recipes calling for tarragon. Use 3 times as much chervil as you would use tarragon to get the same flavor impact in your recipe.
Sage comes from the same family as tarragon, and it has a similar flavor profile. Because of this, sage can serve as an excellent substitute for tarragon if you don’t have any on hand when you’re preparing your meal.
Sage has a stronger flavor than tarragon, so use half the amount the recipe calls for. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of tarragon, replace it with 1/2 teaspoon of sage.
Chives are a good substitute for tarragon, especially in egg dishes such as omelets, quiches, and atole. Tarragon and chives both have a hint of anise in their flavor, so they work well together.
When substituting chives for tarragon, it is important to remember that the latter has an assertive taste and aroma, while the former is more subtle. You may need to use more chives than the recipe calls for if you want to get a comparable taste.
Parsley is also a lot cheaper than tarragon and more readily available, so it’s a good substitute in most recipes. However, it has a milder flavor, so you’ll have to use much more than the recipe calls for.
For instance, if your recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of fresh chopped tarragon, you should use 3 teaspoons of parsley to compensate for the difference in flavor between the two herbs.
9. Herbs de Provence
You can also use herbs de Provence to add a French flair to your dishes. This mixture typically has tarragon, oregano, rosemary, savory, thyme, and fennel seeds. Depending on the type you buy, it may also contain other basil and marjoram.
Since herbs de Provence is more potent than tarragon, start by substituting one-third of the amount called for in the recipe and adjust as needed.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of tarragon, you can use 1 teaspoon of herbs de Provence instead. Or if the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of tarragon, you can use one tablespoon of herbs de Provence instead.
Thyme is another good substitute for tarragon because it has a similar aroma and can easily blend in with other herbs. It is a bit more intense though, so use 1/2 teaspoon thyme per 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried tarragon called for in the recipe
Dill is a good substitute for tarragon in recipes calling for fresh herbs, but it is a much stronger herb than dill. So to substitute dill for tarragon, you may need to add more than the recipe calls for.
Dill is also sweeter than tarragon. So, if you need to add some bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the dish, you might need to add some extra spices, like fenugreek seeds.
If you’re in a pinch, you can use cilantro as a substitute for tarragon. It has an herbal flavor similar to tarragon, but it’s not as strong or bitter tasting. Use 1/2 teaspoon of fresh or dried cilantro per 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried tarragon called for in the recipe.
13. Lemon Verbena
This is a good choice for salads and fish dishes. Lemon verbena’s flavor is not as strong as tarragon, so you can use a bit more to get the same effect. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, use 2 tablespoons chopped lemon verbena leaves.
Like lemon verbena, lovage has a milder taste than tarragon. It is a striking herb with a strong taste that resembles celery and parsley.
You can substitute 1 teaspoon of ground lovage leaves for every 1 teaspoon of tarragon called for in a recipe. However, keep in mind that its flavor differs from tarragon, so it will slightly change the flavor profile of the dish.
15. Garlic and Herb Seasoning
You can also use garlic and herb seasoning in place of tarragon in some foods, but it will have an entirely different flavor profile. This can be a good choice for those who dislike the anise-like taste of tarragon.
Why Does Tarragon Need Substitutes?
Tarragon isn’t easy to find. It grows in the wild, but it’s hard to cultivate and can be tricky to grow. To make matters worse, it’s very delicate and has a short shelf life. If you’re out of tarragon and can’t find it in the grocery store, you’ll need substitutes.
Is tarragon a spice or herb?
Tarragon is a herb. Herbs are the leafy parts of plants, while spices are made from other parts of the plant, such as the seeds, roots, or bark. Since tarragon is the leaf of the tarragon plant, it is not considered to be a spice.
What can you use to replace tarragon in béarnaise sauce?
Anise seed. Anise seed has a mild licorice flavor with notes of camphor and sweetness. Its flavor profile makes it an excellent replacement for tarragon in béarnaise sauce.
Use about half a teaspoon of ground anise seed for every teaspoon of tarragon that the recipe calls for.
What does tarragon taste like?
Tarragon tastes like anise (licorice), with a hint of pepper. However, as you become more familiar with it, you’ll discover that it also has an earthy, grassy flavor.
Can you substitute sage for tarragon?
Yes, you can. Sage can stand in for tarragon in some recipes. Although it has a peppery herbal flavor, you can still use it when you don’t have tarragon and are making a dish that calls for it.
Sage is a more potent herb than tarragon, so useless amounts of sage when substituting it for tarragon in a recipe that calls for fresh herbs.
The best herbs to use as substitutes for tarragon include anise seed, fennel seeds, licorice, and chervil. And if you want more options, try chives, lemon verbena, parsley, dill, thyme, or lovage.
Whichever it is, you can use the above options as substitutes for tarragon if you ever run short of it and can’t find it around.
Thanks for reading.
For more information on herbs and their substitutes, visit Cheffist.