Skip to Content

5 Great Tarragon Substitutes Homecooks Should Know

Falling short on tarragon? No worries! In the vast tapestry of herbs, tarragon holds a unique position, imparting a bittersweet anise flavor that’s distinctly French.

But we’re not packing our bags for Flavortown yet because as daunting as it might be to substitute a unique herb, the kitchen is the realm of creativity, and we’re here to guide you through it.

Here, we’ll take a trip through the pantry and unveil five of the best substitutes for tarragon that will leave your dishes bursting with flavor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tarragon has a unique bittersweet anise flavor that is commonly used in French cuisine.
  • When substituting tarragon, consider the dish’s overall flavor profile and choose a substitute accordingly.
  • Basil, fennel, dill, marjoram, and oregano are five of the best substitutes for tarragon.
  • Each substitute offers its unique flavor profile, from the light and refreshing dill to the bold and earthy oregano.
  • Keep the ratio of substitution in mind when using these herbs to achieve the desired taste.

5 Must-Try Tarragon Substitutes

1. Basil

In the heart of the Italian kitchen, basil reigns supreme. If tarragon is as complex as a mathematical theorem, basil is the straightforward answer. Its sweet, slightly peppery flavor with hints of clove can bring a bit of zest to dishes, but without the overpowering anise notes of tarragon. With its versatility and widespread availability, basil is a no-brainer as a tarragon substitute in dishes like chicken or fish.

For every 1 teaspoon of tarragon, you can swap in 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil if fresh isn’t on hand. Basil is particularly robust when used with tomatoes, pasta, and in Mediterranean cuisine. Trust me; it’s a worthy understudy.

2. Fennel Fronds or Seeds

Fennel might as well be the sibling of tarragon in the botanical world. Its mild anise flavor has a hint of sweetness that beautifully mirrors tarragon’s profile, making it one of the closest matches in taste and aroma. Whether you use the delicate fronds or the pungent seeds, fennel can easily substitute tarragon in sauces like bearnaise or hollandaise. It’s also a natural pairing with seafood and poultry dishes.

To substitute, use an equal amount of chopped fennel fronds for recipes that call for fresh tarragon. Dried fennel seeds can also work, with 1/2 teaspoon for every teaspoon of tarragon, though remember to crush them slightly before use to release their oils fully.

3. Dill

For the moments when you need tarragon’s subtle notes and dill’s refreshing zest, you can count on dill to pull double duty. Its flavor, like a sunny morning in a meadow, is light, fresh, and with just a hint of fennel-like sweetness. Dill is most commonly used in pickling and seafood dishes, but it makes an excellent tarragon substitute for creamy sauces and dressings.

Use dill in a 1:1 ratio for fresh tarragon and in a slightly higher amount for dried tarragon. It does wonders in cream-based dishes, on fish, and particularly in pickling to offer a touch of complexity.

4. Marjoram

If tarragon is the slightly aloof sophisticate at the party, then marjoram is its warm, approachable friend. With a woodsy, citrusy flavor that doesn’t overpower, marjoram can seamlessly integrate itself into dishes that call for tarragon. Its versatility makes it a standout substitute in soups, stews, and casseroles.

Applying marjoram in a 1:1 ratio for fresh tarragon grants a slightly milder flavor to the dish, perfect for those who find tarragon’s anise taste a bit intense. It’s especially delightful in bean and vegetable dishes, or when used to enhance the flavor of lamb and poultry.

5. Oregano

Oregano may seem like a surprising choice due to its robust, sometimes pungent flavor, but it’s precisely its boldness that can make it a suitable stand-in for tarragon, especially in heartier dishes. From stews to sauces, oregano has the power to elevate a dish with its intense aroma and savory notes.

For one teaspoon of tarragon, you can use one teaspoon of fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. It pairs particularly well with tomato-based dishes and meat, adding a robust, earthy undertone that contrasts with the subtleness of tarragon but does so admirably.