The 11 Best Tarragon Substitutes That We Can Use

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Are you looking for an herb that will level up your dishes? If so, then you should definitely try adding tarragon to your recipes!

Tarragon has a unique aroma. It gives a sweet and anise-like smell to your dishes. This herb was originally from Mongolia, but it reached European lands through the invasion. By the 14th century, Tarragon was already widely spread in France, and it was cultivated. It was used to flavor vinegar, but today, it has more uses such as a garnish, seasoning, and sometimes even as a digestive tonic.

Even though tarragon didn’t originate in France, it is a popular ingredient in French dishes. It gives a distinct flavor to the food. Some of the recipes that might require you to use Tarragon are Carpaccio de Magret de Canard a la Framboise, et Estragon, and Sauce Béarnaise.

The Benefits of Fresh Tarragon

Tarragon is not called the “Little Dragon” for nothing. In the ancient times, this little herb was believed to be a cure for dragon or venomous reptile bites. While we don’t have dragons today, this herb is still magical because of its health benefits. Here is a sneak peek of what tarragon can give to your body.

  • A good antioxidant – Our body is vulnerable to damages that are brought by free radicals. Tarragon has a high antioxidant count that would protect you from free radicals and oxidation.
  • Those who just had malaria can use tarragon as a first aid treatment. It was already proven that tarragon could help eliminate the parasite that makes the illness stronger.
  • Tarragon is also known for being able to improve the insulin sensitivity of our body. This effect would help people with high sugar levels or diabetes to recover faster or improve their body’s condition.

The Best Tarragon Substitutes

Are you ready to experiment a little bit with your recipes but you are missing the magic touch or tarragon? There’s no need to worry because there are some substitutes that will still make your dishes delicious. Here are some of the amazing tarragon substitutes:

1. Oregano

If you are looking for some Mediterranean flavor to add in your recipe, then you can use oregano. This is one of the best substitutes for recipes that call for dried tarragon. For the best result, use an amount of oregano that is equal to the recommended amount of tarragon for the recipe.

Just like Tarragon, oregano is also a medicinal herb aside from being a popular culinary ingredient. It’s used to treat infections and give flavor to meats and sauces. However, you should be careful when eating this herb. There are people who might be allergic to Lamiaceae plants. Oregano is a part of this particular plant family.

2. Dill

Dill may be a part of the celery family, but it’s still one of the best substitutes that you can get for tarragon. This herb goes well with salad recipes and even eggs. It’s really easy to find, but if you have a green thumb, then you might want to plant it in your own garden since it’s a great seasoning for various recipes.

While dill and tarragon have almost a similar flavor to each other, dill can have a strong bitter effect to your dish if you don’t control the amount that you use wisely. If your recipe has fish for the main ingredient, dill will make the best herb for this one. But make sure to add the herb in small amounts so you would be able to adjust the taste of your food.

If you bought a lot of dills and you want to store the left over, it’s really easy to store. You’ll be able to maintain the flavor by storing it in a jar or a glass. Fill it up with water so that it’s arranged like flowers. Cover the top with plastic and place it in the fridge. This can be a bit inconvenient for you especially when you try to open your fridge and see this inside. However, it’s a really effective technique to make your dill last longer so you can use it for other recipes in the future. 

3. Marjoram

Marjoram's meaning in Greek is "joy of the mountain." Aside from being an ingredient for dishes, it's also used for aromatherapy and for making wreaths. This herb is versatile. In fact, the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite was said to wear a wreath of marjoram. This is not surprising since marjoram is known for its sweet nature. You can use this in stews, dressings, and sauces. It also has a licorice flavor that is the main reason why it’s a great tarragon substitute. Once you get to try this substitute, you will discover a flavor that you might even like more than tarragon!

Just like other herbs, marjoram is really easy to grow. However, the plant can die if exposed to too much cold. If you live in a country that has a winter season, you can grow the herb indoors and wait for the cold season to be over before taking your plant outside.

4. Basil 

Basil may not be an unfamiliar ingredient for you, but what most people might not know are the various types of basils that they can use for recipes. You can experiment with lemon basil, holy basil, Thai basil, and sweet basil. There are a lot of types to choose from, which just makes cooking even more fun for you.

The great thing about basil is that it’s a flexible substitute. Whether your recipe needs dry or fresh tarragon, you can use basil as your substitute. Basil has a sweet flavor that you might like to add to your recipes. However, you should know that its flavor can be stronger than tarragon.

Do you have a lot of leftover basil? No problem! You can store and extend its shelf life by drying the leaves and put them in a jar. Make sure to close the lid tightly to keep the flavor in your basil leaves.

5. Rosemary

Another herb that you can use as a substitute for dried tarragon is rosemary. This is also another popular herb that you can easily find in grocery stores. There are also two forms of rosemary. You can either use fresh rosemary or dried rosemary. The latter has a strong and pungent flavor, while the fresh rosemary has a subtler taste.

Rosemary can be used in baking vegetables, giving flavor to salads and soups, as well as for meat dishes. This is a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisines, so you can definitely use it to explore your recipes and substitute tarragon.

Those who want to get relief from colds and headache can also try using rosemary to make a cup of tea. It would relax and lessen the symptoms that you might be feeling.

6. Fennel Seed

When it comes to fennel seeds, India is the largest exporter of this amazing spice. So if you are looking for a tarragon substitute and you’re currently in India, fennel might be the best one that you can use for now.

When you see fennel seeds, you will notice immediately that they resemble anise seeds. Aside from that, they are also similar when it comes to their aroma. Usually, fennel is ground before being used in the recipe. However, there are recipes where whole and dried fennel seeds are better. Because of the sweet flavor that you can get from fennel seeds, you can use it for sweet dishes.

Meanwhile, this spice will also give you more reason to buy it because it has medicinal uses as well. One popular benefit that this spice gives is the improvement of breast milk secretion for mothers who are nursing their babies. Some people add fennel seeds to spice up their food, and to get this benefit too.

7. Anise Seed

Anise is not just a cute herb that you'll see in grocery stores; it's also a great tarragon substitute that you can use to achieve the flavor that you want. When you taste this spice, you will discover that it contains flavor that you’ll find in tarragon and fennel. Some people might not be aware of it, but the leaves of anise can also be used in cooking. However, the seeds are easier to find in stores because it is more popular than other tarragon substitutes.

Just like the others in this list, Anise has a lot of uses. It can be used in the kitchen and for medicinal purposes as well. In fact, some cultures use the herb to relieve women of their catamenial cramps, pain caused by bloating, and painful feelings that are experienced by youngsters. 

The best way to use anise as a tarragon substitute is for when you’re baking. Some cookie recipes may have tarragon in them. If you ran out of tarragon, grab your anise seeds and gradually them in your food.

8. Chervil

Compared to other tarragon substitutes, chervil is a little bit more difficult. It may look like a small herb, but the flavor that it has would blow you away. This small but terrible herb has the flavor of tarragon and parsley, plus a tiny hint of anise. You may have tasted this herb before in European or French cuisines. While it’s not a very common herb in America, getting chervil and using it in your dishes is a unique experience for your tongue.

However, if you want to get the kind of flavor that tarragon gives, then you can use chervil with parsley. The only secret that you need to remember when using substitutes like chervil is not to be afraid of exploring the flavors you can make with each ingredient. 

9. Thyme

Since thyme is also a Mediterranean herb, it's an excellent substitute for a lot of its fellow Mediterranean ingredients, and this includes tarragon. Similar to chervil, thyme also looks delicate. It's so tiny that the thyme plant only grows to a maximum height of twelve inches. It has a pungent aroma that you will immediately recognize, especially if you are extremely familiar with the dishes that it’s used in.

In the ancient days, the Romans even used this herb while bathing because they loved its smell. Massage oils can also be made using this herb. Thymol is an example of essential oil that is derived from the thyme herb. It’s great as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and as a remedy for throat problems. If you have a bad hangover, you can also try this kind of essential oil.

But most importantly, thyme can be used as a tarragon substitute for baked recipes like cornbread. It’s really easy to use as a substitute. If you have some more thyme in your pantry, you can use it to give flavor to your meat and your fish for grilling.

10. Angelica

Another eye-catching herb that you can use as your tarragon substitute is angelica. The plant usually grows in pastures and has white flowers that are really pretty. However, the ones that you can use for cooking are the roots as well as the seeds. It has a licorice flavor that is comparable to tarragon. However, it can be more difficult to find this ingredient. If you are determined in having this herb all year round, then you should plant one in your garden.

11. Tagetes

Running out of substitutes? Don’t lose hope; you might be able to find tagetes or Mexican tarragon in your neighborhood. This is popular for brewing teas and medicinal purposes. Tagetes is like Mexico’s mint flower which makes it a lot similar to German tarragon that you might encounter in your recipe.

What’s Next? 

Not yet sure which one of these delicious substitutes is the best for your dish? Just relax and take a deep breath. It’s okay to experiment and try a bit of the substitute that you are planning to use before adding it to the whole recipe. Sooner or later, you'll find the best, and you'll be able to create a dish that you'll be proud of, even though tarragon is missing from your pantry!

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Jeannie Smith

With a bachelor’s degree in food science, Jeannie is current with all the latest dietary and nutri...

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