8 Best Tarragon Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Finding a tarragon substitute for your cooking is easier than you might expect, as plenty of other herbs can deliver a similar flavor to your dish.

What is Tarragon?

Tarragon is a perennial herb that grows throughout Europe and North America, and it has been used in culinary and medicinal applications for centuries. It is particularly popular in French cooking and is commonly used to season chicken, pork and fish dishes. Some people seek out tarragon substitutes because of the distinct flavor of this spice, which is similar to anise or licorice. This is due to the estragole found in this herb. Fortunately, if you don’t like the taste, there are plenty of other earthy herbs that can replace tarragon.

Substitutes for Fresh Tarragon

The best substitutes for fresh tarragon include fennel seeds or fronds, basil leaves, and chervil, among others.

  • Basil Leaves: The aromatic and earthy quality of these leaves can be an effective replacement for fresh tarragon.
  • Fennel Seeds: Possessing the same active ingredients, fennel seeds can very closely mimic tarragon, but it is far more potent, so only use a few pinches of crushed seeds to have an effect in your dish.
  • Chervil: This leafy herb is popular in soups and salads, but use this herb sparingly, at about a 1:2 ratio with tarragon.
  • Fennel Fronds: Similar to the seeds of this herb, fennel fronds deliver that black licorice flavor that some people crave from tarragon. This makes fennel fronds a great tarragon substitute.

Substitutes for Dried Tarragon

Substituting for dried tarragon can be done with marjoram, dill, oregano, or rosemary, to name a few.

  • Marjoram: This common spice can be substituted in equal amounts of tarragon, particularly in savory dishes or sauces.
  • Rosemary: Another popular herb for flavoring chicken and fish recipes, rosemary can cover up for any lack of tarragon.
  • Dill: The powerful flavor of dill may change the overall recipe effect, but it is an excellent replacement if you don’t have or don’t want to use tarragon.
  • Oregano: The flavor of this herb makes it an ideal match for fennel, although the resulting meal won’t have the same sweet bite.

Substitutes for Flavor

When it comes to flavor, tarragon does possess a distinct taste that can be difficult to duplicate, and some people want to avoid it. To eliminate that unwanted flavor, but still provide an interesting flavor profile to your dish, simply use equal amounts of dill, basil or marjoram in your meal.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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