Recipe Rescue: Common Herb Substitutes

You’re getting ready to make a recipe and discover you are either out of an herb or the recipe calls for an herb you simply do not like. As a food blogger, I field questions regarding substitutions quite often. The questions range from savory herb substitutions to common ingredient substitutions, too. 

I’m an advocate of making a recipe your own and tailoring it to your own tastes – authenticity aside. I mean if you’re making an Italian recipe but don’t care for basil, by all means, substitute it. Maybe you wonder “What’s in an ‘Italian Blend’ seasoning and how can I make that myself using my herb garden?” Well, I’ve got that covered, too

Recipe Rescue: Common Herb Substitutes with conversions from fresh herbs to dried herbs.

 Fresh Herbs vs. Dried Herbs

The most common substitution for herbs is simply using dried herbs instead of fresh herbs. There are a few key factors to consider when substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs in any recipe:

  1. Make sure your bottled dried herbs are still aromatic when you open the jar. If you can no longer smell the essential oils, it’s time for a new batch of herbs.
  2. When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you’ll need less — typically three times the amount of fresh herbs as dried ones. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, you need only 1 teaspoon of dried, since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon.
  3. When using dried herbs, it’s best to incorporate them during cooking I allow them to reconstitute while fresh herbs are best added just at the end of a dish so their bright flavors and colors remain intact.

Herb Substitutions

For situations where you find yourself completely out of a specified herb for a recipe, or perhaps you just don’t care for the flavor of a specific herb, try some of these substitutions. This chart will help you choose substitutions or alternatives that should work with your recipe. Whenever substituting, you must realize that the flavor will not be as originally intended in the recipe. We’ve selected flavors that should harmonize or hint at the original.  As such, it is wise to begin your substitution with half the specified recipe amount and then adjust to your own personal tastes.

Remember: for any herb use a 1:3 ratio; substituting 1 teaspoon of any dried herb for any 1 tablespoon of any fresh herb.

Basil: oregano or thyme

Bay leaf: for each leaf use 1/4 teaspoon thyme.

Chives: green onions, onions, or leeks

Cilantro: parsley plus oregano, marjoram, or dill.

Corriander Seeds: Replace the coriander seeds with an equal amount of caraway or fennel seeds or a combination of the two.

Dill Seed: Caraway seeds have a taste faintly similar to dill. While the resemblance to dill is faint, the actual taste of the seed is strong. Use in dishes to replace the strong taste of dill. Fennel, coriander and celery seed are all strongly flavored. Use on a 1-to-1 basis to replace dill seed. 

Dill Weed: Dill has a unique flavor so anything you substitute for it will make the dish taste noticeably different. With that in mind, you could use parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon or any soft leafed herb.

Fennel Bulb: fresh chopped celery plus star anise, anise seed, or tarragon.

Fennel Seeds: star anise or anise seed

Garlic: Ramps, leeks, spring garlic (green garlic), chives, or garlic chives.

Ginger: Use 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger for each tablespoon of fresh ginger. Fresh Lemon zest will mirror gingers flavor but there is no exact mirror to the flavor of ginger root.

Italian seasoning [paid link]: basil, oregano, and/or rosemary.

Kaffir Lime Leaves: lemon verbena or lemon thyme, and fresh lime zest together.

Lemongrass: For 1 stalk lemongrass use: 2 arugula leaves and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest together

Marjoram: basil, thyme, or savory

Mint: basil, marjoram, or rosemary

Oregano: thyme or basil

Onions: scallions, leeks, or ramps.

Parsley: cilantro

Poppy Seeds: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or flax seeds

Poultry Seasoning: Sage plus a blend of any of these: thyme, marjoram, savory, black pepper or rosemary

Red Pepper Flakes: increase the ground black pepper in the recipe or add a dash of bottled hot pepper sauce.

Rosemary: thyme, tarragon, or savory

Sage: poultry seasoning, savory, marjoram, or rosemary

Savory: thyme, marjoram, or sage

Sesame Seeds: Sesame oil – 2 teaspoons of sesame oil will replace 1 1/2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds. 

Shallots: white or red onions

Star Anise: a dash of Anise seeds or tarragon.

Tarragon: dash fennel seed, or dash anise seed

Thyme: basil, marjoram, oregano, or savory

Recipe Rescue: Common Herb Substitutes with conversions from fresh herbs to dried herbs.
Recipe Rescue: Common Herb Substitutes with conversions from fresh herbs to dried herbs.

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