Five alternatives to fresh tarragon, in any dish.
Tarragon has a distinctive flavor that has become the classic mainstay in numerous French dishes. Considered a fines herbes, its intense flavor is reminiscent of vanilla and anise, and brings to life stocks and soups, especially fish broths. But it’s hard to come by and can be an acquired taste. There are several great tarragon substitutes that make a great option for most classic recipes.
Tarragon is a perennial herb with green, elongated leaves. Both the soft stem of the plant and it’s leaves are used for flavoring many different delicacies. Normally, dried tarragon has an attenuated flavor that is favored by chefs. It makes for an excellent dressing and marinade. About an ounce of fresh tarragon makes for a ⅓ cup of dressing.
Wait, what’s a fines herbes?
In French haute cuisine, there are a collection of herbs that are considered crown jewels – parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon.
Fortunately, chervil works very well as a lighter substitute, but we’ll get to that one in a bit.
Tarragon Substitute – Option #1: Dried Tarragon
The first option out of the gate is to substitute dried tarragon for fresh. It’s so much easier to find and the dried version smoothes out the heightened anise flavor so prevalent in the fresh variety. Plus you don’t have to worry about trying to keep the herb bright and green when serving your recipe.
Keep in mind though that fresh and dried tarragon does not lend the same flavor to the recipe. This mostly because of how either herb is used in recipe preparation – fresh added toward the end of cooking or at the serving table. And dried added in during the cooking process. Also, dried tarragon deepens the anise flavor, but reduces the intensity. Think of it more like a simmer, while the fresh version is more like a spark of flavor.
Tarragon Substitutes – Option #2: Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon is readily available in the Southern regions of the US.
You’ll mostly find fresh Mexican tarragon leaves versus any time of dried variety. But keep in mind this variety is more pungent than the regular tarragon. So this is definitely for the tarragon lover who wants to heavily accent the flavor. It’s an ideal herb to store in vinegar and perfect for salad dressings.
Cool Health Benefit:
Used to treat gout and rheumatism. It’s also a diuretic and can be hypotensive.
Tarragon Substitutes – Option #3: Ground Fennel Seed
Easy to find, fennel seeds give off a similar anise flavor and work well in liquid recipes and as a rub for grilled proteins.
Cool Health Benefit:
Very popular in Aruyvedic preparations, fennel seeds are good for relieving gas and addressing digestive issues. They’re also chockful of anti-oxidants, so critical in fighting off free radicals and is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Tarragon Substitutes – Option #4: Chervil
A member of the parsley family, it’s a milder option with barely a hint of anise. The leaves are tender, paler and more fragile. This is definitely an herb that you don’t want to cook, but rather finely chop and sprinkle on dishes that call for tarragon, right before serving. Ideal in a spring salad or showered atop a frittata.
Finding chervil may be a little difficult depending on the season, so if you want to try your hand at growing it, follow this handy guide.
Tarragon Substitutes – Option #5: Marjoram
More a Mediterranean herb, its delicate nature lends itself well to tarragon substitution. Similar in texture to oregano it has a mildly bitter flavor and it best used fresh. It doesn’t like harsh heat, so best to use it towards the end of your cooking time.
Cool Health Benefit:
Now, this is a powerhouse of an herb when it comes to the list of ailments it can alleviate.
- Relieves insomnia
- Reduces inflammatory reactions
- Eases the symptoms of asthma, headaches and muscles pains.
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Has antiviral and antifungal properties
- Regulates the digestive tract, bringing relief for bouts of constipation and cramps.
You can use frozen tarragon anytime instead of the fresh tarragon. Store the fresh tarragon sprigs in the freezer in air-tight bags for up to three to five months. Using these air-tight bags is quite important so that it ensures that tarragon flavor is locked in. There is no need to defrost frozen sprigs so you could use them in your dish directly.
Wanderspice Tarragon Recipes:
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