Barbara’s Suggestions On Tarragon Substitute In Case That You Need This Spice, And Can’t Obtain It

A few days back, when my husband’s cousin Michelle visited us, we had a great time.

Those macarons were great, as I described them, but something else occupied our conversation.

Since she owns a bakery, I asked if it happens for her to replace specific ingredient with something else.

She told me that sticking to the recipe matters for her when it comes to baking, but in her house, she loves to experiment. Thus, tarragon was mentioned. I wasn’t a great fan of this spice, but she pointed me out to some great alternatives.

Therefore, I’ve experimented a bit, and here are the results of my research and tryouts.

What is tarragon in the first place, and how should I use it?

Estragon is the second name used for tarragon if you didn’t know.

It is perennial herb, and its family is that of sunflowers. Among other varieties, only Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa is known for its aromatic properties. However, both French and Mexican type can be used for meals, while the latter has somewhat stronger anise presence.

Speaking of meals, the French cuisine uses this herb the most, so if you have visited Paris recently, and want to revive that beautiful memory, this is one of the best ways. It can be used either fresh or dried, with the latter being easier to find.

As for the taste, tarragon resembles anise pretty much, and this flavor might be fantastic for some or not-so-wanted (including me).

Luckily, I have made this list precisely for this purpose. Moreover, it can give you some cute ideas to experiment.


Which variety to replace?

There are several varieties of this spice, but as I learned, the most famous are Russian and French tarragon.

The first kind grows much better, but the latter is most often used in dishes. Its licorice aroma is what makes meals delicious or not, depending on your point of view.

Also, it matters if the tarragon is used fresh, or dried. They are not the same, and similarly, with bay leaf, the taste changes toward more subtle when it is used in a dried variety.

Of course, I will cover both of those situations, so you will know what to do in given situation. 

Fresh variety

In case that you wanted to make Béarnaise sauce, you will need a fresh batch of tarragon.

This sauce is excellent when paired with steak, as my hubby can testify, but one of my sons and I were slightly repelled by tarragon.

Because of that, I have tried these three spices, and they have proven to be celebrated in replacing it.

  • Basil leaves
  • Chervil
  • Fennel fronds

Of course, I didn’t make sauce three times. I’ve made the same amount, only to split it into three parts, and put different spice in each.

Now, the tricky part was to guess how much of each will give the same amount of taste.

Here is a general rule which can be taken into consideration for replacing tarragon:

When replacing fresh with fresh, use the same amount as the recipe asks. 

When replacing fresh with dried, add a small amount, and gradually increase it, with the occasional tryout.

But, I want to replace dried tarragon, what to do?

As I have noticed, there are more dried spices which can replace dried tarragon, which makes things easier.

What makes them harder is the question whether you want to replace that licorice note, or to lean more toward Mediterranean cuisine?

For the first case, I would strongly advise you to try using anise seed. Those have the similar taste as tarragon so that you will notice just a slight difference.

On the other hand, if you don’t want for this to happen, consider using:

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano

Again, since they can differ, my suggestion is to use a bit smaller quantity of each and slowly add more, in case that it is needed.

Bear in mind that fresh tarragon has much stronger taste, so if the recipe asks dried one, and you have only fresh at hand add just small amount.

You don’t want it to overshadow other tastes, don’t you?


I don’t like the taste of it, what should I do?

If you are in the same situation as I do, and you don’t prefer this spice, don’t fret.

There are still a lot of spices which can bring quite a similar sensation.

Since there are some herbs which can be used for a different goal, let me describe them a bit more in detail.

1. Dill 

  • Slight resemblance to tarragon can be achieved with this herb. You will recognize it by its narrow leaves and known aroma. Since it is slightly bitter, it is best used when applied to meat and fish, such as salmon.

2. Basil

  • Although there are a lot of varieties of this herb including sweet, lemon, holy, Thai, it is highly likely that you have used it before. It is a fantastic alternative for tarragon, and in case you wanted to make something which features cheese, chicken or make an excellent sauce, this is your ingredient.

3. Marjoram 

  • Another fantastic replacement for tarragon, marjoram is somewhat sweeter than latter. It is excellent for being used in soups, stews and especially sauces. Its lemon-like flavor replaces licorice hint of the tarragon to some extent.

4. Thyme  

  • I know what you are thinking right now. “Thyme has completely different taste than tarragon, how it can replace it?” although you are right, there are several cases, such as this amazing lemon and thyme lamb chops. You won’t be able to tell the difference, I guarantee it.

5. Anise 

  • This is perhaps the closest to tarragon I could get. Anise features the same hint of licorice-like taste. If you overdo it, it can give a much sweeter taste than intended. Therefore, keep it in low quantities, and increase bit by bit every next time you make the same meal.

6. Chervil 

  • Besides anise, chervil is by taste often mistaken for tarragon. However, it has a bit more subtle flavor, so you should be careful when adding it to your meals. Too much can backfire and ruin the dish. Speaking of meals, it is incredible for white fish, salads, sauces, and eggs.

7. Fennel 

Conclusion

So, here we are.

Among so many spices and additives, I have separated those which I believe to be the most up for this task.

Tarragon substitute is easy to find since I have listed so many of them that it is almost impossible not to find at least one. 🙂

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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