Rosemary is a cooking staple for many people; the smell alone is enticing. It is a versatile herb and a great compliment for many dishes. But what do you do when you run out or simply want a different spice for dinner? In this post, I’ll share with you the best substitutes for rosemary.
Fortunately, when it comes to finding a good substitute for rosemary, you have plenty of options to choose from: you can swap fresh rosemary for dried rosemary or vice versa. You can also look to your spice cabinet for some other alternatives I’ll share below.
How to Substitute Dried Rosemary for Fresh Rosemary?
If you are substituting dry rosemary for fresh, you will want to use less than the recipe calls. Dried herbs are highly concentrated; a little goes a long way. If the recipe calls for 1 tbsp of fresh rosemary, you can use 1/3 of a tbsp or 1 tsp (3 tsp= 1 tbsp). You can apply this to most herbs as well. When substituting dried for fresh, always use 1/2-1/3 dried of what the recipe calls for fresh. You can always adjust to taste.
What is the Best Substitute for Rosemary?
The best alternative for rosemary depends on the dish and what you have available. Sage (dried or fresh) is a great overall substitute due to its similar pine-like flavor that rosemary also has. Fresh basil or thyme are great substitutes for garnishing.
9 fresh herbs or dried herbs that can be used as a substitute for rosemary
|Pairs well with
|Amount to Substitute
|Eggs, meat, poultry, garlic, onions
|Fresh sage is strong, start with using 1/2 the amount of rosemary the recipe calls for and adjust to taste.
If using dried sage as a replacement for fresh rosemary- use even less, about 1/4 the amount.
|casseroles, lamb, fish, beef, pork roast, salad, soups, garnishes,
|equal fresh to fresh
equal dried to dried
|Fish, poultry dishes, egg, cheese, vinaigrettes, sauces
|use 1/2 the amount
|Mushrooms, sausage dishes, stuffings, tomato-based dishes, vegetables, eggs, beans, lentils
|Mushrooms, sausages, poultry stuffing, tomato-based dishes, vegetables, eggs, beans, lentils
|use 1/2 the amount
|veggies, fish, meat, Italian, tomato-based,
|equal amounts of fresh, 1/2 the amount if dried
|Italian and tomato-based dishes, soups, salads, garnish
|you may need to double the amount
|chili and tomato-based dishes, soups, stews, braising meats
allow simmering in liquids
remove before serving (bay leaves are not meant to be eaten)
|Lamb dishes, ice cream, meat, stews, sauces
|1/2 the amount
Rosemary is known for its unique aromatic flavor. It is often found in traditional Mediterranean dishes and commonly used in seasoning dishes such as chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, fish, potatoes, mushrooms, and tomato-based sauces and soups.
Rosemary is a unique herb with a distinct flavor. No herb will give you the same flavor of rosemary. Your dish is going to taste different. However, you can create a great dish with a different herb that compliments it well and just maybe even more satisfying to your taste buds!
Sage is a great rosemary substitute. Sage and rosemary both have a pine-like flavoring to them, making sage the perfect substitute for rosemary. Know they taste very different, though, so know your food will taste different using sage than rosemary. Both sage and rosemary tend to compliment the same type of dish, which is why it is a great substitute. Sage is a strong herb; a little will go a long way. Try starting with just 1/2 the amount if you are substituting fresh for fresh and dried for dried.
Thyme is a good rosemary substitute as thyme belongs to the mint plant family and is a relative of oregano. Like rosemary is is a fragrant herb. It has long been used in culinary, medicinal, and ornamental ways for centuries. Thyme goes well with casseroles, soups, fish, meat dishes, vegetables, and eggs. A fresh thyme is a great option for garnishing foods when fresh rosemary is not available. Thyme mixes well with savory and tarragon if you are looking for a more complex flavor.
Tarragon is commonly used in French cuisine and a member of the sunflower family. It has a unique and intense flavor that is both bitter and sweet; not much is needed when adding tarragon to your dish. It is the main flavor found in French Béarnaise sauce. You’ll find Tarragon pairs well with chicken, fish, and egg dishes in particular. Start with using 1/2 the amount of rosemary and adjust to taste.
Marjoram is commonly used in many Mediterranean dishes, as is rosemary. Marjoram is a member of the mint family and an aromatic herb as well. It’s similar to oregano in taste but milder. It shares a similar taste to thyme but just a bit sweeter. In some cultures, sweet marjoram and oregano as knotted marjoram.
Savory is also part of the mint family, related to rosemary and thyme. There are two varieties of Savory- summer, and winter. Summer savory is more commonly used. Summer savory has a peppery flavor, with hints of marjoram, mint, and thyme. Winter savory will have a similar taste but more earthy flavors and a bitter taste.
Oregano, as mentioned above, is closely related to marjoram. Oregano is a popular herb in Italian cuisine and most notably in pizza. If you are cooking an Italian dish, oregano may be a good rosemary substitute. It goes well with vegetables, meat, lamb, and fish, as well as tomato-based sauces and soups.
If you have fresh basil available, this is an excellent option if you are out of fresh rosemary. Basil is best used fresh and added at the end of cooking or to garnish a dish; it is a delicate herb that can lose its flavor when cooked too quickly. Basil blends well with other herbs and goes well in Italian and Mediterranean-based dishes.
Bay leaf has a more subtle flavor than rosemary and is often looked at as a supporting flavor. Bay leaf performs well when blended with other herbs and spices to bring out other flavors and spices in the dish. Bay leaves work well in soups and stews and braising meats.
Mint can be a stretch in substituting for rosemary but will work in dishes like roasted potatoes, salads, desserts, soups, and stews. Mint will have a totally different taste than rosemary, having that fresh, sweet, yet cool aftertaste; when used in the right dish, it’s delicious!
Cooking is a great way to experiment and have fun. Use your senses and taste memory as you experiment. You may even choose to mix more than one herb to complement your dish. Allow your creativity to guide your way through the different flavors!
Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.