In a world full of options, tarragon is quite a specialized herb.
So unless you’re an avid cook with a love for French cuisine, chances are you’ll need these tarragon substitutes one day.
Tarragon is prominent in various French recipes, as well as a number of tasty sauces, like béarnaise.
It brings a wonderful aroma and anise-like flavor, not to mention incredible depth to a dish.
And the key to finding the right tarragon substitute is to use something that will mimic its blend of sweet bitterness and delightful fragrance.
So, let’s take a look at some of my favorite options. But first…
What is Tarragon?
Tarragon is an aromatic herb used a lot in French cuisine. It’s a member of the sunflower family with a light licorice flavor and bittersweet finish.
You’ll find it in quite a few chicken dishes, as well as some seafood recipes. And you can identify tarragon by its slender leaves and strong aroma.
It’s quite potent, so you don’t need a lot. And since it’s not an everyday herb, I think it’s best bought and used dry.
That said, if you have a special recipe that calls for tarragon, it’s definitely worth buying it fresh!
Top 10 Tarragon Substitutes
Chervil is often described as a mix between tarragon, parsley, and chives. So it’s a terrific swap for tarragon.
The flavor is subtle but fragrant, and it offers a similar anise-like flavor.
Like tarragon, it’s not as common in most pantries. So it’s something to look out for if you can’t find tarragon.
The flavors are so similar, you probably won’t notice the difference.
But since it features similar flavors as parsley and chives, you may need to adjust your recipe if those herbs are called for.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of fresh chervil.
Dill is a very close match to tarragon, only without the distinct licorice aroma. But depending on the recipe, this may not even matter.
It’s readily available, easy to grow at home, and works on a one-to-one swap.
You can add dill to sauces, soups, butter, and more – just like tarragon. And the fragrance is lovely, so your meal won’t be missing an aroma.
If you need that anise flavor, try adding a few fennel seeds to the mix, too!
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of fresh dill.
3. Fennel Seeds or Fronds
Speaking of fennel – these little seeds have a very pungent bouquet of anise.
But if you can find the fronds, they work best, in my opinion. They offer that herby base to go along with the licorice flavor.
Alternatively, a mix of seeds and fronds will make your dish more well-rounded.
Dishes with pork sausage are especially tasty with added fennel.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of fresh fennel or 1/8 teaspoon of fennel seeds.
Although it may be difficult to find, angelica is a fantastic substitute for tarragon.
It has a very earthy and sweet flavor profile. And depending on which part of the plant you get, you’ll have different notes in the final dish.
Angelica can be found as the root, stalk, or stem. When substituting for tarragon, be sure to use the stalk or stem.
They’re more herb-flavored, while the root is more of a spice.
Use this substitute in almost any recipe. It’s great for soups and stews or lighter dishes like salads or seafood.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of fresh angelica.
Basil is much easier to find, and you probably already have it in your pantry or fresh on the counter.
The flavor is close to tarragon, just without the anise. But in many cases, you won’t really notice.
Fresh basil works best as a substitute since you’ll get more kick.
Feel free to use dried, but the ratio will be different as dried basil is not as pungent as it is when it’s fresh.
Basil works best in soups, pasta, and poultry or fish recipes.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 2 tablespoons of fresh basil.
Since tarragon is often used in chicken dishes, it makes sense that thyme is a worthy swap.
It’s a super fragrant herb with a pleasant floral earthiness. And there’s also notes of lemon or pepper, which plays so well with poultry.
Admittedly, the flavor is not very similar to tarragon. But it works because it pairs well with the other herbs and spices commonly used in dishes with tarragon.
And if you think you’ll miss that anise taste, you can add fennel during cooking. Just remember to start slow and taste as you go.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme.
Marjoram can be substituted for tarragon in both dried and fresh applications.
It has very warm flavors, similar to cinnamon, ginger, mint, and lavender. And the earthy aroma makes it a wonderful substitute for tarragon.
Marjoram is another herb that’s missing the licorice flavor but won’t change the flavor of your dish too much.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of fresh marjoram.
Rosemary is often described as piney, minty, or earthy. And it has a very distinct fragrance.
Like thyme, it doesn’t really taste like tarragon. But it works as a substitute because it pairs well with many recipes and spices.
Plus, it’s something pretty much everyone has is their pantry.
So while it won’t make your French dinner authentic, it’ll save you a trip to the store.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary.
9. Parsley and Cinnamon
It may sound odd, but parsley and cinnamon make a spectacular substitute for tarragon – for béarnaise, specifically.
Together, they’re herby, bitter, and sweet, just like tarragon!
To use, you’ll need to make a “tea” of sorts.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley to a pot.
- Add 1/4 cup of water.
- Bring to a low simmer and let it steep for 5 minutes.
- Take the pot off the heat and leave to cool.
- Use the resulting “tea” in place of tarragon.
You may need to experiment and adjust the recipe accordingly. But I find this works well.
And again, this is only for béarnaise sauce.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 tablespoon of parsley and cinnamon tea.
Anise, also known as aniseed, is a beautiful substitute for tarragon.
Though it’s used as a herb, it’s actually a dried fruit. It comes from the pimenta officinalis lindl plant, and it’s in the parsley family.
Anise has a very pungent licorice flavor, and a very small amount yields the same aroma of tarragon.
Aniseed can be used in a variety of sweet or savory dishes. But if you want herbal notes, you may want to add parsley or rosemary, too.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon with 1 pinch of anise.
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