Cooking a dish that calls for a few teaspoons of fresh or dried tarragon, but don’t have any in your kitchen? Do you love the depth of tarragon, but you’ve run out of it? It can be easy in these circumstances to give up on a recipe, especially if you’re unsure of the best substitutes to use for tarragon.
Don’t fret; I’ve got you. Even though you can never quite replicate the exact licorice-like flavor and aroma of tarragon, it doesn’t mean you can’t substitute it with another herb.
I’ve got a few suggestions for replacements that you may readily find in your kitchen or supermarket. I’ll show you tips for substituting dried and fresh tarragon, including recommendations if you just don’t like the tarragon flavor and would prefer something less ‘tarragon-like.’
You won’t need to worry about measurements either. For each tarragon replacement I’ve added the substitution ratio required depending on the amount of tarragon you need.
There’s plenty of options to choose from, so read on to find the best tarragon substitute for you!
What is Tarragon?
While tarragon may not be a herb commonly found in your everyday kitchen, it is a popular herb used in French cuisine. It’s widely found all year round in its dried form. You’ll usually find fresh tarragon available in the spring.
It’s also important to note that you may find three types of tarragon: French tarragon, Russian tarragon, and Mexican tarragon. Each varies with the strength of flavor and added bitterness, which is observed in Russian tarragon. However, you will find that French tarragon is the one that is most commonly used in recipes.
You should pair tarragon with acidic flavors such as lemon and vinegar. It goes best with fish, poultry, creamy meals, and sauces like the classic Béarnaise sauce. You may also find tarragon in sweet dishes and desserts; it is truly a versatile herb.
Best Substitutes for Dried Tarragon
Your best substitute for dried tarragon is anise, also known as aniseed. Anise is a common spice you’ll be able to find in your kitchen or any supermarket.
Anise, tarragon, and fennel all share a close reminiscent of flavor due to similar compounds found in the herbs. So, if you are looking to substitute the unique and rich licorice-like flavor of tarragon, you would want to use anise as a substitute.
Anise has a more powerful sweet and licorice aroma and flavor that you would commonly find in Mediterranean and sweet dishes. If your recipe is on the sweeter side, anise is a perfect choice.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon, substitute 1/8 teaspoon of anise.
Another common herb in the kitchen you can substitute tarragon with is fennel seeds. Often used interchangeably with anise seeds, you may confuse both as they look and taste similar; however, they are different herbs.
Fennel seeds are an all-rounder in the kitchen, and it gives off a sweet-licorice-like flavor and smell in dishes. Its versatileness of uses is what makes it great. It can be used in different dishes such as soups, stews, curries, and even baking bread. However, it has a milder and sweeter flavor compared to tarragon and anise. Nonetheless, you cannot go wrong with fennel seeds.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon, substitute around 1/8 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Due to its different flavor, add gradually and accordingly.
Oregano is another staple in most kitchens. You will usually find it in Italian, Mexican, and Greek recipes. While often confused with marjoram as they are in the same herb family, oregano has a savory flavor and pungent smell.
Oregano is nowhere near replicating the distinct tarragon flavor. It has a sharp and bitter taste. However, it is still a useful herb for copying the herbal essences of tarragon. We suggest using it in tomato-based recipes, combined with olives oil and marinating meats. These types of recipes will bring out the flavor of oregano.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon, substitute 1 teaspoon of oregano. Add sparingly and according to taste, as the different and robust flavor of oregano may change your recipe’s flavor profile.
Marjoram, often called sweet marjoram or knotted marjoram, is a herb part of the mint family—an aromatic herb with a sweet, citrus, and floral flavor profile. It’s often interchanged with oregano in some recipes for flavor and garnishing, with a milder and less spicy flavor than oregano.
Marjoram does not have the strong licorice-like flavor of tarragon. However, it would be a great substitution to add marjoram’s sweet and citrus flavor to most dishes. I’d recommend substituting it in poultry dishes as marjoram works well and brings the flavors together.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon, substitute 1 teaspoon of marjoram.
Best Substitutes for Fresh Tarragon
Of course, the most common substitution for fresh herbs is to use the dried variation instead. While dried and fresh tarragon are both the same herbs, it’s important to note that tarragon will not taste the same as the fresh ones once dried.
Dried tarragon has a more potent and distinct flavor compared to fresh tarragon. If you have dried tarragon in your kitchen, it still makes for a suitable substitution. As dried herbs have a strong flavor and aroma, you would need way less when substituting for fresh herbs.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, substitute 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon.
Fresh Basil Leaves
Fresh basil leaves is a common herb that you can find all year round. You’ll be able to find them in your local supermarkets, and they are relatively easy to grow at home!
Some may call basil the Great Basil or King of Herbs, and rightly so. It is incredibly versatile and holds on to so much flavor. Depending on the basil type, basil is usually fragrant and sweet and has a slightly peppery taste.
Basil makes a great fresh tarragon substitute for the great flavor it brings. However, you will not find the same licorice-like taste in tarragon for this substitute.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, substitute 2 tablespoons of fresh basil.
You may find fresh chervil to be the closest substitution for fresh tarragon. Chervil is a herb commonly used in French cuisines. It holds the licorice-like and star anise flavor and aroma we love but with a milder approach. This makes chervil one of the perfect fresh tarragon substitutes.
Chervil works well as a garnish and seasoning. You may add it into salads, seafood, or create a blend of herbs. Be careful not to mistake chervil for parsley as they both look identical, but this is just because they are in the same genus of herbs.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, substitute 1 tablespoon of fresh chervil. For that extra tarragon-like flavor, you could add a little more according to taste.
While fennel seeds are an excellent tarragon substitute, you can also use fennel fronds if you have some on hand.
Fennel fronds are the feathery green leaves that stick out of a fennel stalk and bulb. It may even look like dill. We typically use the fennel stalks in recipes, and fennel fronds are gone to waste.
Fennel fronds have the same licorice anise flavor with a sweeter and earthy flavor. It’s an excellent tarragon substitute that should not go to waste. Just chop them like how you would chop dill and parsley and season your dish according.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, substitute 1 teaspoon of fresh fennel.
Lastly, if you are lucky and have some dill in hand, it would make a decent fresh tarragon substitution. Dill is a versatile herb that is often used for garnishing and flavoring. It has a unique flavor and aroma that you can easily distinguish in a dish.
Dill has a slightly earthy, bitter, and sweet flavor, with a licorice-like tint after taste. It would work great in recipes with seafood and soups. Dill comes in both new feathery and dried form. You could use both types to substitute both fresh and dried tarragon in a recipe.
Substitution Ratio: For 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon for fresh dill. For 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon, substitute 1 teaspoon of dried dill or 1 tablespoon of fresh dill.
Best Substitutes if you Don’t Like Tarragon
Don’t let the words ‘licorice-like flavor’ throw you off from using tarragon. Many people find that it does not taste the same as real licorice, and some may even love tarragon for it. However, if you are still not sold on the licorice and anise-like flavor, other herbs would be great tarragon substitutes for you.
So if the tarragon flavor is not your cup of tea, fresh chervil and fennel seeds would be suitable substitutes. Both herbs hold the flavor aspects of what makes tarragon great, but with a milder approach for your taste buds. You will enjoy the mild flavor without it empowering the dish.
Finally, if you simply don’t like tarragon, you’ll do no harm in omitting tarragon from your recipe. Your dish will just be missing out on the superior and depth of the tarragon flavor.