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Substitutes for Rosemary – What Can I Use Instead?

Rosemary is a versatile culinary herb that is native to the Mediterranean. Like thyme, oregano, marjoram, and basil, rosemary is a part of the mint family, and it is also known as the “Dew of the Sea.” 


Historically, rosemary has been used since ancient times. In Rome and Greece, they throw rosemary sprigs into the graves as symbols of remembrance of the dead. In Greece, rosemary is believed that it can improve your memory. That’s why students have to wear the sprigs on their heads to help retain what they studied. 


During the sixteenth century, rosemary was also used as a medicinal herb to improve digestive health because of its anti-inflammatory properties in strengthening the immune system and antioxidants, which helps fight signs of aging.


The taste of rosemary has a distinct minty taste with a piney pungent flavor and a punch of citrus in the mix. This herb has a strong flavor that may overwhelm the dish if used excessively or used on the wrong recipe.


The common uses of rosemary are incorporated in pork, chicken, lamb, shellfish, and vegetable dishes, baked goods, salad dressing, marinades, and sauces. Rosemary combines well with other herbs like thyme, chives, and parsley.


You can either buy dried or fresh rosemary at the grocery store. If you wish to save from purchasing this herb, you can plant it in your garden if you have, or in a pot since it’s not difficult to grow this herb in a suitable climate.


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But if you’re not a great fan of rosemary because of its aroma and flavor, or you simply don’t have it with you, then allow us to share what we know. Here are alternatives for rosemary that you can try, and we hope you can get a hand on these herbs we recommend for you.

Best rosemary substitutes

1. Tarragon

tarragon plant 1

Tarragon belongs to the sunflower family, and it’s a native to selected parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States. It has a robust bittersweet flavor, and at the same time, a little bit citrusy.


With its tender leaves, it works well with green salads or as a garnish. The flavor is best used in tomato-based dishes, fish and poultry dishes, and French sauce (Bearnaise), cheese, and egg recipes. Baristas muddle tarragon or have it infused in summer coolers and cocktails. 


If ever you are going to use tarragon to replace rosemary, make sure to add sparingly because its taste is strong and might ruin your dish’s flavor. 

You can start using ½ teaspoon or tarragon for every 1 teaspoon of rosemary.


2. Thyme

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Thyme belongs to the same plant family as rosemary. Its leaves are shaped like tiny spears that sprout on long, thin sprigs. Its stems are commonly used as a seasoning for a variety of cuisines.

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Fresh thyme has a unique smell of mint and citrus, and it tastes earthy and herby. The best thing about thyme is that its stems are fibrous, which means that it can withstand prolonged hours of cooking. The longer you cook thyme, the more flavor you get to draw out from it.


Either dried or fresh thymes, it will be a milder alternative for rosemary if you are going to prepare vegetables, rice, potato, chicken, beef, pork, and lamb dishes, soups, braises, salads, and bread products. Or, you can also use thyme for garnishing your finished products. This herb is also known to work well with Mediterranean herbs such as marjoram and oregano.


Use a 1:1 ratio in using thyme to substitute rosemary. 


3. Bay Leaf

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Also known as bay laurel leaves, it is acquired from the bay laurel tree of the evergreen family. Bay laurel leaves taste pungent with a sharp and bitter taste.


The dried bay laurel leaves are usually used to season meat, tomato-based, and vegetable dishes, stews, marinades, and soups. These leaves have tough fibers, which make them not suitable for eating. Instead, it is only used for its flavor and is removed from the dish after cooking. Tearing the leaves before putting in the pot will help release the oils from the leaves. 


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If you are going to use bay leaves instead of rosemary, start with one or two pieces of leaves and leave it to simmer. It is recommended that you add it the moment you start cooking. The longer bay leaves are cooked, more of its flavor is released.


Adding more than necessary will make your dish bitter. 


4. Sage 

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Sage, a member of the mint family that is considered a good substitute for rosemary because of its piney flavor. It is frequently referred to as garden sage, kitchen sage, or

Salvia officinalis.


Aside from that, sage is aromatic with a minty, bittersweet, and earthy with notes of citrus flavor. 


However, sage is a potent herb. So, you have to be mindful of the amount you are going to add to your dish. For cooking, use half the amount of dried or fresh sage in replacement to rosemary. from there, you can make adjustments until you achieve the taste you want to come put in your dish. And if you’re going to use sage to garnish your finished product, slice the leaves thinly before decorating. 


5. Marjoram

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Marjoram belongs to the same mint family as thyme and rosemary. Some people thought that marjoram is synonymous with oregano because of its taste and fragrance. Well, they’re actually not. There’s a difference in their taste. Oregano is minty and savory, while marjoram is sweet and lemony. 


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The fresh marjoram leaves hold more flavor than the dried ones, and it can be used as a rosemary substitute to season meat, vegetable, mushroom, and tomato-based dishes. 


Marjoram leaves must be added when you’re about to finish cooking. Putting it in a long cooking process will lose its flavor.


6. Summer Savory

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This peppery and thyme-like flavored herb is another member of the mint family. Summer savory is dubbed as the ‘Herb of Love” in ancient Rome as it serves as an aphrodisiac. This herb was used as an antiseptic, and a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort in traditional medicine.


In the culinary world, summer savory is a key ingredient in the various Mediterranean and Roman dishes. Aside from its peppery flavor, it makes the dish savory, spicy, and minty with notes of thyme and marjoram. 


This herb can serve as a good alternative for rosemary for meat, fish, chicken, stews, chowder, soups, or bean dishes. To release this herb’s flavor, it is either crushed by hand or by pounding with the use of mortar and pestle before cooking. 


To substitute rosemary with summer savory, start with ½ teaspoon of fresh savory for every teaspoon of rosemary. Add more to taste as desired. 


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7. Basil

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The highly valued basil plant is part of the mint family. In Italy, basil symbolizes love, and it is sometimes used as an aphrodisiac in Italy. Not just in Italy, basil leaves are also widely used in Thai and Mediterranean dishes.


It has been an essential herb for Italian cuisines, especially in making traditional pesto. Basil has a peppery flavor with a sweet aroma, which makes it suitable for tomato-based dishes like spaghetti and lasagna, and shrimp salads, and sauces. 


Basil makes an ideal substitute for rosemary, especially if you are preparing an Italian dish. Since its flavor is not as strong as rosemary, you should increase the amount of basil leaves to your cooking. And, add the leaves later in the 60 seconds of the cooking process because it cannot hold its aroma longer.


8. Caraway seeds

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Caraway seed comes from the flowering herb of the parsley family. It is native to Central Europe, and the cultivation of this has reached the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Caraway is oblong in shape, with seeds that seem to be tapered. These seeds are grounded and used as a kitchen condiment.


This herb can be another alternative for rosemary if used on the right dish. Caraway seeds are fragrant and give a distinct anise flavor. Use it on salads, roasted meat products, poached fish, and Polish sausage meals. 


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Take away

In choosing a substitute for rosemary, you have to consider each ingredient’s flavor and determine which one best complements your dish. 


To be safe, add the ingredients sparingly and taste it from time to time before deciding to add another dash.

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