These Easy Herb Substitutions Free You Up to Play with Flavor

Herbs each have their own distinctive flavor, but there's no culinary rule that says you can't substitute one for another. Try these swaps for a tasty refresh.

Although summer is the season for fresh herbs (either from your own garden or the farmers market), you're likely to find a variety available in supermarkets year round. But what if the fresh herb supply is slim, or you've forgotten to buy something? Unless you're growing your own herb garden, it's hard to keep in stock all the fresh herbs you'll need for any particular recipe. And given how expensive fresh herbs can be, when you only need a little bit it can be hard to justify buying more when you have others unused. Here's a guide for substituting one herb for another without compromising on the flavor of your dish.

springs of rosemary, basil, thyme, and oregano on board
Jason Donnelly

Fresh Herb Substitutes

When you're out of a fresh herb and have no dried herbs to substitute (more on that below), follow these substitutes for parsley, fennel, thyme, and more. They're the closest matches. Is your ingredient missing from this list? Hop over to our emergency ingredient substitutes page, where you'll find a substitute for spices and more.

  • Basil: oregano or thyme
  • Bay leaf: For 1 bay leaf, substitute ¼ tsp. crushed bay leaf or ¼ tsp. thyme
  • Chervil: tarragon or parsley
  • Chives: green onion, onion, or leek
  • Cilantro: parsley
  • Dill (weed or seed): Use an equal amount of tarragon
  • Fennel: anise seed
  • Italian seasoning: basil, oregano, or rosemary
  • Marjoram: basil, thyme, or savory
  • Mint: basil, marjoram, or rosemary
  • Oregano: thyme or basil
  • Parsley: chervil or cilantro
  • Rosemary: thyme, tarragon, or savory
  • Sage: poultry seasoning, savory, marjoram, or rosemary
  • Savory: thyme, marjoram, or sage
  • Tarragon: chervil, dash fennel seed, or dash anise seed
  • Thyme: basil, marjoram, oregano, or savory

How to Substitute Dried Herbs for Fresh Herbs

In general, you can substitute 1 tsp. dried herb for 1 Tbsp. fresh herb. Check out our full guide to substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs.

Cooking with Herbs

No matter which you choose, fresh herbs are a great way to bring bold flavors to your dishes. Because heat diminishes the flavor when cooking with fresh herbs, our Test Kitchen recommends adding chopped or snipped herbs just before serving your dish. Choose herbs that have fresh-looking leaves without brown spots, and since they're not long-lasting, only buy or pick them as needed.

Want to know more about herb storage and cooking? Discover more of our best tips on how to store herbs so they'll stay fresh for longer or how to dry your fresh herbs to make the most of your summer haul.

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