Can’t find tarragon in your local store? Or perhaps you find the intense flavour overpowering? Either way, I’ll help you find the best tarragon substitute for your recipe!
Tarragon has an intense herb flavour which is why it’s best to replace then exclude. Otherwise, you’re going to miss out on an extensive flavour profile in your dish.
Luckily many common ingredients can help replicate that void that would be missed by simply excluding it. But the best tarragon substitute all depends on the recipe you’re are making, so let’s dive in.
What is Tarragon?
Tarragon is a perennial herb from the sunflower family, and you can find a couple of variations, with French tarragon being the most popular for cooking by far! Generally, if a recipe calls for tarragon, they’re most likely asking for French tarragon.
French tarragon has a much stronger flavour than its Russian and Mexican tarragon counterparts.
It’s grown outdoors naturally in springtime, so you’re more likely to find it in Spring and early autumn.
It’s very popular in Europe, especially French cuisine. You’ll find it paired with many dishes, including chicken, fish, spring vegetable, and egg dishes. Plus, many rich sauces like béarnaise, butter, and cream sauces.
What to Think About When Substituting Tarragon
Tarragon is one of those herbs that pairs with many ingredients, fish, meat, eggs, vegetables—a lot more than most herbs do. So there will be herbs better fitted for specific recipes than others.
Tarragon’s main function is to add flavour and aroma to a dish. It’s usually added in small quantities due to its profound flavour profile. So if you’re using a lighter flavoured herb, you may want to increase the amount.
Fresh and dry tarragon both have better substitutes suited for them. Fresh tarragon is better replaced with fresh herbs, and dried tarragon is better replaced with other dried herbs.
Best Substitutes for Fresh Tarragon
1. Fennel Fronds
Fennel fonds are a superb substitute for tarragon. They’re the green leaves of the fennel bulb and can be used and cooked in the same way as tarragon. So there is no need to tweak the recipe!
These ingredients share a natural organic compound called estragole that adds similar flavours to both ingredients. So if you’re looking for a taste close to tarragon, fennel fronds are your best substitute.
Recipes: All-Purpose Including (Fish, Seafood, Meats, Poultry, Vegetables, Soups, Stocks, Sauces and Salad Dressings)
Chervil has a faint aniseed flavour that is also prominent in tarragon. If you find tarragon slightly overpowering, then chervil will be perfect for you.
It’s best to add chervil towards the end of cooking. If you find tarragon too strong, I recommend adding a 1:1 ratio then tasting and adjusting. If you are okay with the strength of tarragon, add a 1.5:1 ratio, then taste and adjust.
Recipes: Poultry, Meats, Fish, Seafood, Vegetables, Béarnaise Sauce, Herb Butters
3. Thai Basil
Thai basil, a common ingredient in Asian cooking, can make an excellent replacement due to its notes of anise and liquorice. The most significant difference is that Thai basil has a spice flavour, which should be considered when substituting.
Recipes: Poultry, Meats, Fish, Soups, Stews, Herb Butters
Since tarragon is so popular in fish and seafood dishes, dill makes perfect sense. You will find that the flavour differs, but you’ll still end up with a tasty recipe.
Dill is also grown in Spring, has notes of anise, and is used in limited quantities not to overpower dishes. Use dill towards the end of cooking as its flavour rapidly diminishes during the cooking process.
Recipes: Fish, Seafood, Vegetables, Cream-Based Sauces, Fish-Stock Based Sauces, Herb Butters
Rosemary is an excellent replacement for meaty and heavier dishes. It has strong aromatic notes and holds up excellently during cooking.
Add rosemary towards the start of cooking to help it bring out more flavour and break down any small stalks. I also suggest finely slicing the leaves to help reduce their cooking times.
Recipes: Meats, Poultry, Root Vegetables, Stews, Meat-Stock Based Sauces
Best Substitutes for Dried Tarragon
1. Dried Fennel
There are two types of dried fennel: dried fennel leaves and fennel seeds. Dried fennel leaves are harder to find but offer the best substitute for dry tarragon—the following are ground fennel seeds.
They’ll both provide that similar liquorice flavour you’ll find in tarragon due to them both sharing an organic compound.
Recipes: All Purpose
2. Dried Chervil
Dried chervil has a milder flavour which can be used interchangeably with dried tarragon. You’ll want to slightly increase the quantity used to make up for the milder taste.
Recipes: All Purpose
3. Dried Oregano
It’s extremely easy to find, making dried oregano a great backup choice. Dried oregano may not be as similar as fennel or chervil, but it’s much better than simply excluding the ingredient.
Recipes: All Purpose
4. Dried Dill
Dried dill makes an excellent choice for any recipes that use fish or seafood. Add dried dill towards the end of your cooking like fresh herbs to help maintain its flavour.
Recipes: Fish, Seafood, Potatoes, Cream Sauces
5. Dried Rosemary
Use dried rosemary to replace dried tarragon in dishes with meaty, rich flavours or root vegetables. You should add rosemary towards the start of cooking to help break down the herb and get the most of its flavour.
Recipes: Meats, Poultry, Root Vegetables, Potatoes
Even if you’re missing tarragon, it doesn’t mean you can’t still make that tasty recipe! There are plenty of delicious substitutes that will still give you incredible results. Have a careful think about what other ingredients are in your recipe, and that will help you pick the best replacement.