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Substitutes For Sage – What Can I Use Instead?

What do you do when you don’t have the herb the recipe calls for? Look for substitutes or leave it out? The latter is certainly not the way to go as you can always find a good substitute for almost any herb. And sage is not an exception.

What can you use instead of sage? This fragrant herb with an earthy aroma and hints of citrus adds a unique layer of taste to any dish. But this doesn’t mean you can’t substitute it with another herb if needed.

In this article, you will learn all about sage substitutes. We will also tell you the right way of substituting fresh sage with dried sage if you like leveraging the flavor and aroma of dried herbs.

Sage – Flavor and Uses

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Sage is one of those herbs you can’t imagine cooking without. The flavorful leaves of sage will transform your dish giving it lots of character and aroma.

As a bonus, sage has many health benefits you would never think of. Not only is it rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants but it also lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels and supports the overall health of the brain.

Flavor Profile

Being one of the most fragrant herbs, sage is praised for its unique flavor profile.

Coming from the mint family, it is not surprising that this herb has a slight peppery hint. It also has citrusy hints, which make the grayish-green leaves of this herb a touch of freshness in every dish.

The flavor profile of sage can be described as earthy, and musky. This aromatic herb is capable of enhancing other flavors in the dish making it warmer with both bitter and sweet undertones.

Culinary Uses

Sage is typically not used raw. Its leaves are fuzzy and most people consider it off-putting to eat them raw. But due to its rich flavor, sage has a range of culinary uses. It is a popular herb used in Italian, German, and British cuisines.

Here is how sage is used in cooking:

  • As a stuffing for pork and poultry
  • Fried and rubbed over dishes
  • In sauces and marinades
  • In bread baking
  • In compound butters
  • As a soup or stock flavoring
  • In pasta dishes, etc.

5 Best Substitutes for Sage

You can never find two herbs with the same flavor profile. But if the recipe calls for sage and you don’t have it at home, it is always better to use another herb instead than leave the dish bland.

You can always find an option that is the closest to the ingredient you want to substitute. In the case of sage, there are five great alternatives.

1. Summer savory

summer savory

Summer savory has the same peppery notes as sage and can substitute it in certain cooking tasks.

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Summer savory, unlike winter savory, doesn’t have a distinct bitterness. It tastes clean and piney and is the best option for dishes where you don’t want to overshadow the taste of other ingredients.

Savory can be used as a seasoning for:

  • Meat and poultry
  • Stews
  • Sauces
  • Sausages
  • Bean dishes

2. Thyme


It is not surprising to find thyme on the list of sage substitutes as this is one of the most versatile herbs humanity has ever known.

The flavor profile of thyme has mint elements. It is also described as dry and gentle, which makes it possible to pair it with almost any ingredient. It also has lemony and peppery hints reminiscent of sage.

Thyme is one of those herbs that requires a longer cooking time to release all its flavor. Thus, when using it make sure you give the herb enough time to blend with the rest of the ingredients.

You can use thyme in:

  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Poultry stuffing
  • Pasta dishes
  • Vegetable roasts
  • Meat and fish marinades

3. Marjoram


What would be a good substitute for sage? Of course, something from the mint family. Marjoram, one of the stars of the same family as sage, is considered to be one of the best substitutes for sage as their flavor profiles are similar.

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Marjoram is fresh, with citrusy and floral hints. It is sharp and faintly bitter and adds a lot of warmth to dishes.

It is best to add marjoram to dishes when they are almost done. This herb doesn’t benefit from long cooking time. It can also be used as a garnish.

You can use marjoram in:

  • Marinades
  • Vegetables and meat dishes
  • Stuffings
  • Tomato-based sauces
  • Stews and casseroles


fresh basil

Sage is widely used in Italian cuisine. Pasta with sage and butter is one of the most popular uses of this fragrant herb.

If you are making pasta and don’t have fresh sage leaves at hand, the best thing to do is to use basil. Basil is also the herb to go for in Asian-inspired dishes.

As for the flavor profile of basil, it can be different. Depending on which basil variety you are using, this herb may be lemony or sweet, with clove or mint undertones.

Here is when basil comes into play:

  • Pasta dishes
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • As a garnish

5. Rosemary


Here is a sage substitute that is the easiest to find and you most likely have it at home at all times. But this is not the only reason why rosemary is considered to be a good substitute for sage. It is the flavor profile of rosemary that makes it a great alternative for sage.

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The flavor of rosemary is sometimes described as sage-like. It is minty and peppery like sage, with a slight bitterness and woody hints.

One thing to remember when using rosemary instead of sage is that you should use less of it. For 1 part of minced sage use only 1/3 part of finely chopped rosemary.

Rosemary is a versatile herb. It can substitute sage in such dishes as:

  • Stews and casseroles
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Meat, poultry, and fish dishes

Can You Substitute Fresh Sage with Dried Sage?

You can substitute fresh sage with dried sage. However, there are certain differences you should take into account.

First off, the flavor. Fresh sage has light citrusy notes, while dried sage doesn’t. Moreover, the drying process can make sage slightly bitter.

Secondly, the cooking process. When cooking with fresh sage, you need to add it toward the end of the cooking process. Dried herbs, on the other hand, require a longer cooking time. They are good for dishes that are cooked on heat longer.

Lastly, the ratio. As dried sage has a more concentrated and intense flavor, you don’t need to use as much of it as you do in case of fresh sage.

The substitution ratio also differs depending on what kind of dried sage you are using. Dried sage can be rubbed and ground. The latter is essentially sage powder whereas rubbed sage represents larger chunks of dried sage leaves. Ground sage has a more concentrated flavor.

Here is how to substitute fresh sage with dried sage.

  • 7 sage leaves – 2 teaspoons of rubbed sage
  • 7 sage leaves – 1 teaspoon of powdered sage

Dried sage is preferred over fresh sage by many cooks. It is very flavorful and can be used in a variety of ways, from a rub for meats and vegetables to sauces. The best thing about dried sage is that it has a much longer shelf life compared to fresh sage and it doesn’t require specific storage conditions. Just keep it in a dry and cool place and it will last you for over 6 months.

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