In this period when almost no one can cross borders, you might find it strange that we talk about traveling. But, since today’s topic is tarragon and tarragon substitute spices, we kind of feel the need to do it. Have you heard about tarragon? If your answer is yes, you are probably, like us, a cooking enthusiast who enjoys experimenting with spices from all over the world. If your answer is no, don’t worry about it. It can still mean that you are enthusiastic about cooking, just maybe not so much to try things you don’t know anything about! Either way, this text is for you.
Anyway, we first encountered tarragon during one of our visits to Paris when we went for dinner at a friends’ house. We enjoyed wonderful cheese, excellent wine, salad, and something that they called ‘poulet roti au citron et estragon’. Translated to plain old English, it is roasted chicken with lemon and tarragon. Oh boy! We have to tell you, we ate roasted chicken in so many ways that we cannot count, but nothing was as good as this.
Upon the return to the States, we realized why we don’t have tarragon in our kitchen! It is one of the incredibly underused herbs in American cuisine. Why? That is something we didn’t manage to discover. We can only say that it is completely unjustified. However, as we couldn’t find tarragon, we decided to look for spices that can serve as a substitute for tarragon.
What is Tarragon and How It is Used in Culinary?
But before we start talking about substitution for tarragon, let see what it is in the first place. Tarragon or estragon in French (sounds more attractive, doesn’t it) is a green, leafy herb that you can recognize by glossy skinny leaves. The unique aroma a flavor that slightly resembles licorice, will always help you recognize it in meals. Tarragon is very present in French meals, salad dressings, and sauces, including the famous Bearnaise sauce. It pairs perfectly with chicken, fish, and eggs. Besides culinary, tarragon brings a myriad of health benefits:
- It is loaded with nutrients such as manganese, iron, and potassium
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Tarragon belongs to the group of Artemisia plants that improve sleep patterns
Fresh Tarragon Substitutes
Unlike tarragon, you can find basil in all forms, including fresh on every corner. If there would be a competition for the most popular herbal spices, we are pretty sure that basil would get a gold medal. Basil belongs to a mint family, and it is a staple of Italian cooking. That, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t find it in other cuisines, such as Thai, Indian, and of course French. That said is a good tarragon substitute, particularly if you use it in its fresh form. Basil doesn’t have a strong aroma, so for a tablespoon of tarragon, you should use two tablespoons of basil.
Would you think of fennel as a tarragon replacement? If yes, congrats! If not, the question is, why? See, the fennel is a magical plant, and the cool thing is that you can use all parts of it for different purposes. In case you are wondering what can I substitute for tarragon, the answer is fennel fronds. What? Yes, it is a funny word! Fronds are those green leafy things that resemble a feather and grow out of a fennel bulb. They have that anise or licorice flavor, which makes them a marvelous tarragon alternative. The taste of fennel is strong, so the measures here can be the same.
French parsley aka chervil, which might be more familiar to you is a herb often used in egg dishes. You can differentiate it from parsley because it is slightly paler and has thinner-looking leaves. It has flavor licorice and anise, which is why people use it as a tarragon spice substitute. However, as it is milder, for one tablespoon of tarragon you have to use a tablespoon and a half of chervil.
Dried Tarragon Substitute
Dill is a plant with feathery green leaves. Many people associate it with pickles and potato salad, but it has plenty of other uses. Even though it is bitter and doesn’t have that anise or licorice taste we have been talking about, dry dill is still used as a popular tarragon substitute. Generally, for one spoon on tarragon, you can use one spoon of dill substitute. Keep in mind that it is a bit bitterish, so it is better to use it with meat.
- Add brightness to seafood, vegetables and dips with our dried dill weed
- Packaged in the USA
- Premium quality, pure dill weed offers superior flavor
- Fresh flavor guarantee means great taste every time
- America's favorite flavors are sure to please
Well, we believe that oregano is one herb that doesn’t need explaining. Thanks to Italian dishes and pizza especially, it became popular all over the world. Dried oregano can also be used as a tarragon substitute. The taste isn’t the same, but oregano can mimic the way tarragon behaves in meals.
Marjoram is pretty common in Middle Eastern cuisines. Describing the taste of this plant is not what you’d call straightforward. The connoisseurs would say that it is fresh and a bit citrus with a touch of floral flavor. It is milder than oregano. We can say that it is closest to thyme but a bit biter. Although it doesn’t have the licorice taste like tarragon, its dried version is often used as an alternative. Instead of a tablespoon of tarragon, you can use a tablespoon of marjoram substitute.
When talking about tarragon substitute, it is impossible not to mention anise seeds. These two plants have the same compound that gives them this licorice taste. Anise has a strong taste which can be described as something between fennel and tarragon. Whether you are looking to replace fresh or dried tarragon, you shouldn’t use more than 1/16 – 1/8 of a teaspoon of seeds for a tablespoon of tarragon.
How to Freeze Fresh Tarragon
If you get lucky to find fresh tarragon, you will probably want to buy more. In that case, it is necessary to know how to store it in the freezer.
- Get a freezer bag with a zipper.
- Wash the tarragon thoroughly.
- Don’t separate the leaves from the stem.
- Let it dry.
- Once dry, pour it into the bag and leave it for about five hours. Make sure that the bag stays open.
- Squeeze the air out of the bag, close it, and put it in the freezer.
- After four days, take it out and pour the content of the bag into the bowl.
- The leaves will separate from the stem.
- Put the leaves in the jar and return them to the freezer.
Ideally, we would say it would be marvelous if you can find tarragon. However, as we are aware that it is still not so well known in the U. S. we listed these tarragon substitute spices. All of them are undeniably splendid herbs, but more importantly, it is much easier to find them in supermarkets. If you are using them to replace tarragon, make sure to get an adequate measurement. Have you ever tried this herb? What kind of meal did you try?