What is a Substitute for Tarragon?

fresh Tarragon

Tarragon, a flavorful herb, is often used in seasoning dishes and sauces, providing a distinct, licorice-like taste. However, there may be instances when it’s not readily available, or perhaps you prefer a different taste profile. In such cases, finding an appropriate substitute is essential to maintain the desired flavor in your culinary creations.

Several herbs and spices can be used as alternatives to tarragon, each imparting its unique taste and aroma to the dish. Some popular replacements include dill, fennel, chervil, and even basil. The choice of substitute is dependent on the recipe and your personal taste preferences.

To ensure the best results, selecting the right substitute is crucial, keeping in mind factors such as consistency, strength of flavor, and cooking method. While you may not replicate the exact taste of tarragon, these alternatives can still create delectable dishes that satisfy your taste buds. Happy cooking!


Understanding Tarragon

dried tarragon

Tarragon in French Cuisine

Tarragon, or estragon, plays a vital role in French cuisine. This herb is often used to flavor sauces, such as Béarnaise and rémoulade. Its licorice-like flavor adds depth and freshness to dishes, complementing delicate ingredients like seafood and chicken.

In France, tarragon is commonly combined with other herbs to create the popular spice blend, fines herbes. This combination enhances the taste of various recipes, including omelets, salads, and compound butters.


Types of Tarragon

There are three main types of tarragon: French, Russian, and Mexican. Each variety has distinct characteristics and culinary applications.

  • French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa): This variety is the most prized and widely used in cooking. With its strong, licorice-like flavor and slight sweetness, French tarragon is a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike.
  • Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides): Russian tarragon is less popular due to its weaker flavor profile. It has a coarser texture and lacks the sweet, aromatic notes of its French counterpart. Despite these differences, it can still be used as a milder substitute in some dishes.
  • Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida): While not technically a true tarragon, Mexican tarragon is part of the mint family and closely resembles the flavor of French tarragon. In addition, it can withstand warmer temperatures, making it more suitable for growing in certain climates.

By understanding tarragon’s role in French cuisine and the various types available, the options for alternatives become more apparent when seeking a substitute for this flavorful herb.


Common Tarragon Substitutes



Chervil, a mild-flavored herb, is a popular tarragon substitute. It shares a similar anise-like flavor profile. Use fresh chervil leaves instead of tarragon in equal measure, but add them late in the cooking process to retain their delicate taste.



Another option is fennel, which offers an aromatic, licorice-like flavor reminiscent of tarragon. You can use chopped fennel bulbs, seeds, or fronds as a substitute. Keep in mind that fennel has a stronger taste, so use it sparingly, starting with half the amount of tarragon called for in a recipe.



Dill, with its vibrant, slightly tangy flavor, can replace tarragon in various dishes. For best results, use fresh dill leaves. Like tarragon, dill complements fish, poultry, and vegetables. Start with equal measures of dill and adjust based on taste preference.



Marjoram presents a minty, slightly sweet note similar to tarragon. Its warm, citrusy undertones make it an appealing alternative. Substitute fresh or dried marjoram for tarragon, using equal amounts. However, note that marjoram’s flavor can be more potent in its dried form.



Basil’s sweet, fragrant taste can also stand in for tarragon. While its flavor profile is not an exact match, it pairs well with many of the same ingredients. Use the same amount of fresh basil as tarragon, opting for milder varieties like sweet basil over pungent types like Thai basil.



Lastly, consider parsley as a tarragon substitute. It lacks the anise flavor but provides a fresh, green taste. Flat-leaf parsley is preferable to curly parsley, as it boasts a more robust flavor. Use an equal measure of fresh parsley in recipes that call for tarragon.


Other Tarragon Alternatives



When looking for a tarragon substitute, consider anise. It’s a sweet and aromatic plant with a licorice-like flavor. Anise seeds can be used in place of tarragon in dishes that require a sweet touch.



A versatile herb, oregano can also work as a tarragon substitute. While it offers a slightly different flavor profile, the warm, earthy notes can still complement many recipes. Use it sparingly to avoid overwhelming your dish.



Another potential tarragon alternative is rosemary, which is suitable for various dishes. Its fragrant, woody flavor pairs well with meats and stews. Keep in mind too much rosemary can easily dominate other flavors.



Thyme offers a more subtle, earthy flavor as a tarragon substitute. It works well with poultry, fish, and vegetables. To achieve the best results, use fresh thyme leaves instead of dried ones.



Lastly, consider Angelica for a tarragon alternative. It’s a lesser-known herb with a faint licorice flavor. The leaves or aniseed of angelica can be used in recipes calling for tarragon, adding a unique touch to your dish.


How to Use Tarragon Substitutes

In Cooking

When cooking with tarragon substitutes, consider using herbs like chervil, dill, or fennel. These alternatives have similar flavors and work well in most recipes. Use equal amounts of substitutes for best results.


In Stews and Soups

For stews and soups, consider using marjoram or thyme as tarragon substitutes. Add the substitute during the same stage you would typically add tarragon. Adjust the amount to your taste preference.


In Salads and Vinaigrettes

To replace tarragon in salads and vinaigrettes, try using dill or basil. These herbs complement vinegar-based dressings and add a unique flavor. Mix the substitute with vinegar before adding it to your salad.


For Sauces

In sauces like béarnaise or bernaise, use chervil or parsley as a tarragon substitute. These herbs maintain the rich flavor of the sauce without altering its consistency. Substitute equal amounts to achieve the desired taste.


Understanding Flavor Profiles

Licorice Flavor

A key characteristic of tarragon is its licorice flavor. The licorice taste is reminiscent of anise or fennel, making these herbs suitable substitutes. When replacing tarragon, choose a herb with a similar licorice profile to maintain the recipe’s integrity.



Citrus notes can add a fresh lift to recipes. Lemon is a common citrus element that pairs well with licorice flavors. In some cases, adding a hint of lemon zest or a splash of citrus juice can mimic tarragon’s unique flavor combination.



Tarragon also possesses subtle pine undertones. Rosemary is a suitable substitute, as it shares a similar pine profile. However, use rosemary sparingly, as it can overpower a dish with its strong, resinous taste.



Floral notes are another component of tarragon’s flavor. Marjoram and basil both offer a floral aroma, making them potential substitutes for tarragon. Mixing these herbs with a dash of citrus or licorice-flavored herbs can produce a well-rounded alternative to tarragon.


Nutritional Information and Health Benefits

Tarragon is a versatile herb known for its distinct flavor and numerous health benefits. It contains various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to overall health.

With a low caloric content, tarragon is an excellent addition to weight-conscious diets. A serving of it provides only 295 calories. Additionally, tarragon has minimal fat content, making it ideal for people watching their fat intake.

The antioxidants present in tarragon, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, help to combat free radicals in the body. These compounds contribute to reducing the risk of chronic diseases by protecting cells from damage.

Furthermore, studies have suggested that tarragon can positively affect brain activity. This is possibly due to the presence of compounds like eugenol, which may improve cognitive function and memory retention.


Tarragon Substitutes in Specific Dishes


When preparing chicken dishes, a good tarragon substitute is dried basil. It provides a similar sweet and subtle flavor. You can also use marjoram or a combination of parsley and celery leaves to achieve a similar effect.



In meat dishes, rosemary or thyme work well as tarragon substitutes. Simply use the same amount of either herb or a blend of both to replace tarragon. This will maintain the dish’s savory taste without compromising its overall flavor.



For beef dishes, consider using sage or a mix of equal parts parsley, fennel, and mint leaves as a tarragon substitute. This blend adds unique flavors to the dish and highlights the taste of the beef itself.



When adding a tarragon substitute to egg dishes, dill or chervil are excellent choices. Either of these herbs will give a similar flavor profile to tarragon without overpowering the delicate taste of the eggs.


Growing Your Own Tarragon Alternatives

If you lack fresh or dried tarragon, consider growing alternative herbs. Many herbs can easily substitute tarragon in recipes. Some popular choices include basil leaves and fennel fronds.

Basil leaves offer a sweet, slightly peppery flavor. They are easy to grow in a sunny spot or as part of an indoor herb garden. Just like tarragon, basil leaves pair well with meats, vegetables, and pasta dishes.

Fennel fronds have a light, licorice-like flavor, resembling tarragon’s taste. They grow well in containers or in your garden. Fennel fronds can be used in soups, salads, and fish dishes, making them a versatile option.

By growing these alternatives, you’ll have access to fresh herbs all year round. Plus, you can experiment with new flavors and expand your culinary repertoire.


Related Kitchen Tips

Pantry Suggestions

When searching for a tarragon substitute, consider herbs like oregano, rosemary, or thyme. These herbs can add flavor similar to tarragon in various dishes. Fennel seed, a member of the parsley family, also works well as a substitute, especially in pickles and vinaigrettes.

For a sweeter alternative, try using a pinch of cinnamon or anise seed. Anise seed can mimic tarragon’s licorice flavor, while cinnamon provides a warm, sweet taste. Fennel seeds also work well in sweeter dishes, as they share a similar flavor profile with tarragon.


Dealing with Allergies

If dealing with allergies, it is essential to find a suitable substitute that does not cause adverse reactions. Ensure that the chosen vegetable or herb does not belong to the same family as the allergen. For instance, if allergic to the parsley family, avoid using fennel seed or fresh parsley.

In such cases, opt for alternatives like oregano, rosemary, or thyme, which belong to a different family. By selecting a suitable tarragon substitute, one can still enjoy flavorful dishes without triggering allergies or compromising the culinary experience.

Overall, knowing your options for tarragon substitutes can save time and effort in the kitchen. It prevents any disruption to your cooking process and helps you create delicious meals with confidence.



In summary, tarragon can be replaced by various herbs and spices in recipes. One popular option is using dried tarragon which offers a similar taste but with a milder flavor.

Another choice is to use herbs such as basil, dill, marjoram, or fennel fronds. These herbs provide comparable flavors and are widely available. Additionally, some people opt for a mixture of chervil and parsley to ensure a well-rounded flavor profile.

In some dishes, using aniseed or licorice root can be a suitable alternative. They provide a close approximation of tarragon’s taste, especially the licorice-like undertones.

Lastly, experimenting with substitutions can lead to discovering new flavor combinations that may enhance your recipes. Just be mindful of the specific herbs and spices needed to achieve the desired taste, and remember that personal preference plays a role in finding the perfect substitute.


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.