Substitute For Sage Spice: 5 Alternatives You Can Use Instead

Just as you started to follow the instructions of that new recipe, you noticed that you will need some sage spice which you don’t have and can’t get at the moment.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned that you have to be very resourceful in the kitchen, and this is a good example for that.

There are at least five spices that are a good substitute for sage spice, and you most likely have one of them at the reach of your hands.

As you gain more experience in the kitchen, you will be able to use your senses to replace one spice with another, but for now, I’m here to help.

The History of Sage

Sage’s Latin name is Salvia officinalis; it’s derived from the Latin word “salvere,” which means “to be saved.” It is natively found in the Mediterranean region.

It grows one to two feet high, and it produces the leaves which are rich in flavors. The leaves are collected, dried and then used as a spice.

There are some variations of the flavors, depending on the geo-location of the plant.

Today’s Russian sage originally came from Afghanistan and spread further to Tibet. While the first sages were found in the Mediterranean and Balkan regions.


The Flavor

The sage is very noticeable in the meal due to its fragrant aroma and warm flavor. Its strong aroma dominates over other scents of the meal, and it gives it a mildly bitter taste.

It can also taste like a combination of sweet and bitter tastes.

It’s considered to be one of the essential herbs for seasoning by many chefs. It’s commonly used in Italian cuisine as the main seasoning for fish. I might even say that it gives the food a peppery taste.

It blends very well with a lot of dishes and types of food, which all benefit from it and gains a richer taste.


The Types of Sage

When I say types, I mean the way it’s processed and used as a seasoning.

It’s usually used fresh, ground and rubbed. When used fresh, sage contributes the strongest flavor and the strongest scent out of all three options.

Rubbed sage is very light, and it’s called rubbed because it falls off the leaf in the form of powder

When you don’t have access to the fresh sage, the best alternative is ground sage. But ground sage does lose its flavor after being kept for more than a year. To preserve its flavor to the fullest, keep it in a glass jar set away in a dark place.

You can find it in the stores or farmers markets fresh or dried. Usually, it’s sold as whole leaves or rubbed. The fresh sage is commonly sold in a bunch with the stem, so it stays fresh longer.

When bought in a plastic container, it should stay fresh for one week. It starts losing flavor and scent over time significantly, as all herb spices do. In order to preserve the flavor for the longest time possible, it’s often dried or rubbed.


The Best Food Match for Sage

As I mentioned before, it’s a great match for fish.

Speaking of fish, check out my tuna pasta recipe & Subway Tuna Recipe!

It also blends very well with cheese, mushrooms, omelets, pork and you can even use it to spice up your tea!

Initially, sage wasn’t received so good, but after some generations, it is thought to counteract indigestion caused by foods like sausages and fatty poultry.

After some time, it became a traditional seasoning, and its flavor was welcomed.

Its flavor is most commonly used in stuffings for turkey, goose, chicken, and duck. It’s also one of the main seasonings in sausages, at least the ones that are made by Germans and Slavic nations.

It pairs very good with pork as well, for roast especially. To get the most of the sage’s flavors, crumble its leaves, and use it in small quantities. It’s a great seasoning for vegetables, seafood, breadsticks, swordfish, tuna, and chicken.

Once you try the pork tenderloin seasoned with sage, cracked pepper, and garlic, you will make it an obligatory seasoning in your kitchen, just as I did.

Just make sure you keep it in a cool, dry and a dark place.


The Substitutes that Resemble Sage

While it shouldn’t be hard to get ahold of sage, not having it on the reach of a hand while in the middle of the cooking, might be the problem.

Imagine yourself in the middle of cooking of the Thanksgiving dinner, and you realize that you don’t have any sage to season your turkey stuffing. Putting everything to a stop until you run to the store to get some is not an option unless you want your family and guests to be waiting.

And I certainly don’t, especially when it comes to something that I’m known for, and that is my cooking skills.

So, to save the day, here are the substitutes for sage that I used, which proved that the dish was just as good with them.

1. Thyme – Sage’s aromatic cousin

  • Thyme has a wooden flavor, and it can have citrus or mint notes. Use the same amount as you would use sage. Both sage and thyme belong to the mint family of herbs. Thyme is also used as a seasoning for many vegetables and meats.
  • It’s also used in Mediterranean cuisine, and it’s great for long cooking times, so it’s a great match for any recipe that requires sage in the meat that should be cooked slow.
  • Thyme is usually used fresh and dried, but when you use it as a sage replacement, it’s best to use it fresh. 

2. Marjoram – One more herb that loves meat

  • Marjoram goes very well with meats. It has a similar flavor to sage; it’s just a bit more citrusy. Use it as much as you would use sage according to the recipe. Contrary to thyme, you can use dried marjoram as a replacement for fresh sage, the equal amount.
  • What is important about marjoram when you want to use it as a sage replacement, is that it’s not that suited for long cooking like sage and thyme. It best to use marjoram for recipes that require sage as a garnish.
  • All dishes that should be seasoned with sage at the end of cooking will taste great if you use marjoram instead.

3. Savory - Canadian Sage

  • Savory is very commonly found in stuffing and poultry. It has similar peppery flavor as sage, so it can be used as a great replacement. Use it as much as you would use sage.
  • Even though it has a very similar flavor to sage, it doesn’t belong to the mint family of herbs. It’s mostly found in Canada and Canadian cuisine. Canadians love to use it for poultry.
  • Savory comes in two forms: summer savory and winter savory. The summer savory is more used than the winter one. The winter savory has a bit more bitter flavor than the summer one.
  • Savory has a mild flavor, very much similar to thyme and marjoram.

4. Poultry Seasoning - Possibly the best substitute

Poultry seasoning is a spice blend that is often used to season chicken and turkey.

It’s also great for stuffing. Usually, the blend is made of a combination of savory, marjoram, thyme, parsley, rosemary, onion powder and sage. 

As it already contains the sage and other herbs that have a similar flavor, it makes a great substitute for sage spice when your recipe requires it.

Use it as much as the recipe says you need to use sage, and your dish will be rich with the flavor you need, even if it’s not poultry.

5. Rosemary - Stronger version of Sage

Being the Mediterranean herb that has a strong wooden and citrus flavor, it makes a great substitute for sage spice.

It’s commonly used with meats, but you probably already used plenty of it, so you know what it tastes like, and you probably have it in your kitchen.

Rosemary’s strong flavor dominates over other flavors of herbs, so don’t use as much rosemary as much the recipe requires sage. Instead, use the third of that amount.

With just a hint of rosemary, your dish will be much richer in flavor, and it will resemble the sage very much.

Conclusion

All of the substitutes for sage spice I mentioned can save your meal from a pending disaster.

Which is the best?

Well, for me it was poultry seasoning because it already contains the sage in it. But you will have to try for yourself to find out.

But, for an emergency, you can use any of the mentioned spices, and you will be fine, don’t worry about it for a minute.

You probably already know how most of these taste like, so just think about their flavors and what would you like to pair your dish with, if you have more then of the mentioned close by.

Try them out, and let me know how the meal tasted like, I hope I helped, and you liked the outcome.

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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