We’ve all been sold the myth that the very best way to cook pork is with rosemary. You know, the way your grandma used to make it. If you’ve become tired of that incredibly delicious, savory, melting-on-your-tongue taste of roasted rosemary…well, fear not.
There are endless ways of making your pork roast without using any of it!
In this article, you’ll find a number of mouthwatering ways of cooking pork without rosemary, and with a result that I’m sure you will find just as addictive.
Read on to learn the best rosemary substitutes for pork and how to cook with them.
What Are The Best Rosemary Substitutes for Pork?
Whether you’re out of rosemary or just want to try something new, there are several great options to try.
My favorites are fennel seed, thyme, apples, sage, chilli, anise and cinnamon.
When I use each of these alternatives depends on what I have to hand or the occasion for which I’m cooking.
Fennel Seed Pork
When I first started making pork, I was already working in a restaurant.
You see, in my home, pork was never really cooked. It might be bought ready, but putting a whole piece of pork belly in the oven…it really wasn’t my mum’s cup of tea.
The way I learned to do it was therefore already as a speciality dish, and without any doubt, it’s my favorite go-to.
Fennel gives the pork an elegant, slightly licorice taste, but in terms of quantity you can use as much fennel as rosemary as they’re both just as filled with potent flavour.
You can use fennel seeds for pork regardless of how you’re making it.
Pork meatballs? Grind up some fennel!
A teaspoon and a half goes well for 400 grams of mince, mix it with an egg, a bit of double cream, some finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper (some chilli too, if you like it spicy), and add to your minced pork.
Roll into meatballs and shove them in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 360°F.
For the last few minutes, cover the meatballs with tomato sauce and maybe even some grated mozzarella and you have a feast that everyone in the family will love.
I’d suggest serving as part of a tapas selection, with some roast potato wedges or mixed up with some linguini pasta.
Planning on Making Pork Chops or a Pork belly?
If you want to make pork chops or pork belly, you can use fennel seeds here too.
The secret to delicious pork is, after all, garlic, not rosemary. So what you’re looking for is a herb that gives a lot of flavor, hence why fennel works so well.
For an extra tasty roast, slice up some fennel, place it in a tray, sprinkle with olive oil and place the rolled pork belly on top.
To roll the pork belly, season it with the meat side up: fennel seeds, sea salt and garlic will do the trick.
Roll it up, tie with a few pieces of thread and score the skin with a sharp knife.
Place in the oven for at least 40 minutes at 360°F and serve with roast potatoes and vegetables.
A top tip is to pre-boil your potatoes for ten minutes before putting them in the oven.
You can also serve the fennel that you’re cooking the pork belly in, just add some parsley when you take it out of the oven.
When you’re making pork chops, sprinkle some fennel seeds on top with your salt and pepper.
It’s hard to put too many fennel seeds on, so don’t be afraid to go in with your measurements.
If you’re doing a barbeque, put the fennel in the marinade with some BBQ sauce, garlic and some diced carrots. Be careful here not to go overboard with the carrots.
My favorite accompaniment to pork chops is spinach, which you can make quickly in a frying pan on medium heat and serve with some nuts.
Perhaps the most obvious substitute to rosemary is its cousin, thyme.
With a bit less strong of a taste and a more delicate flavor, thyme makes your pork – a heavy meat in itself – taste lighter.
It’s perfect for when you’re making sausages, but roast pork served with steamed rice flavored with parsley and thyme works just as well.
I would primarily recommend thyme as a substitute if you don’t have rosemary at hand and are really after a similar taste.
The other alternatives I’ve listed are better if you’re after more experimental ways of substituting our fine rosemary herb.
It comes out lighter, so you’ll need to use a ratio of twice as much thyme as you would rosemary, and leave the twigs on top if you’re putting this in the oven.
Sausages are often pre-bought and perhaps not something you make every day.
Investing a bit of time in making your own, however, is really worth it.
For the seasoning, use 2 teaspoons of thyme for each 400 grams of minced pork, and combine with freshly ground black pepper and salt.
You can also use pre-bought sausages and grill them in the oven with thyme sprinkled on top.
This is a mouthwatering substitute and would really benefit from a recipe of its own.
In fact, apple has been the traditional way of seasoning pork since Medieval times, when a whole pig would be served with an apple in its mouth, surrounded by roasted vegetables and potatoes.
Use a whole apple for each 500 grams of pork, but make sure it doesn’t burn when you place it in the oven.
To avoid this, you can either put the sliced apple inside your rolled pork belly (see the way to do it above), or pre-cook your apple on low heat so it becomes an apple mouse and add it in the very end.
It will add a delicate, soft flavour, making your pork sweeter.
For a barbeque, marinate the pork in apple, apple vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper, but make sure to take the pieces of apple of before.
For this, you’d want to pre-cook your apples beforehand.
Most delicious is using apple as a flavour when it comes to sausages, pork belly and barbequed pork using the piece of your choice.
Sage has a completely different flavor to rosemary, although it shares its pine-like qualities. It’s also a very strong herb, so only use one dry sage leaf for each teaspoon of rosemary you’d want to use.
This is perfect when making a roast that has a more classical taste to it, and goes well if you finish of your pork chops in red wine.
For slow-cooked pork in red wine, you’d want to fry well-salted pieces of pork on both sides until golden, and then fill the frying pan with red wine until it covers the pork chops.
Turn the heat from medium-high to medium-low, throw in some sage and garlic and let simmer for 40 minutes.
In Asian cuisine, rosemary is rarely present.
Instead, chilli and spices take its place. You can find amazing recipes for Malaysian or Chinese pork, but these all necessitate a whole range of other ingredients.
However, you can transfer this way of thinking about pork to European and American cuisine, too.
Using Chilli in your Pork Belly Roast
Season your pork with chilli, salt, pepper, perhaps some fennel seeds and garlic before rolling up.
Under the fennel seed section above, you’ll find the details on how to do this.
Most importantly, however, is how much chilli you actually use.
I prefer chilli flakes, but their flavor is rather strong and chilli powder can be better if you’re serving kids.
For each twig of rosemary you’d want quarter of a teaspoon of chilli in general, but this is something you’d need to try out to your taste.
Chilli Marinated Pork – An Experience in Itself!
My most highly recommended way of cooking pork is, in fact, by marinating it beforehand and then frying, roasting or grilling it (whether on a grill or in the oven).
Make a marinade out of garlic, fresh chilli (can be replaced by dried chilli powder or chilli flakes), salt, black and red peppercorns, a sage leaf, some fennel seeds and add a splash of vinegar, a splash of olive oil and a dash of white wine.
Place this in a sealable plastic bag, and put your favorite cut of pork inside. Seal the bag and spread the marinade evenly. Leave for 2-5 hours or even overnight before cooking the pork.
Anise and Cinnamon Pork
This is a bit more experimental, but it really is a Christmas delight.
Best used for roasted pork, and most delicious when used whole.
For 500 grams of pork, use one whole anise and a cinnamon stick to marinade it before hand.
Leave for an hour or two with the spices and a dash of water before you start cooking your pork.