Tarragon has that distinctive, subtle taste and faint anise-like aroma that we usually associate with chicken, salmon, rabbit, and vegetables such as artichokes and asparagus. These foods are what we usually prepare during the spring season when tarragon is bountiful.
Tarragon may not be available all year-round, so it’s high time you know what certain herbs and spices can substitutes for tarragon.
If you love tarragon and you use in almost all dishes you prepare like us, then you’re in luck because in this post, we’ll be enumerating the best tarragon substitutes that is available all season.
WHAT IS TARRAGON?
Before scouting for tarragon substitutes to season your next dinner recipe, you’ll want to know what tarragon is and why it’s regarded as a highly valuable herb in cookery.
Tarragon is a perennial herb. Habit-wise, it’s grass-like. There are two varieties of tarragon - French and Russian. The French variety is the one favored by chefs. Also, tarragon is frequently used in almost all French cuisines.
Tarragon is characterized by its flavorful and aromatic skinny leaves. Flavor-wise, the herb tastes like anise or licorice.
The herb, emitting sweet licorice or anise-like flavor and fragrance, is often complimented with white wine vinegar. Tarragon tastes splendid with fishes, eggs, veal, and chicken with mustard. However, most people love the taste of tarragon while some prefer not to have it in dishes.
Fresh tarragon is quite difficult to find, but once you get a hold of it, you'll absolutely love the bittersweet and peppery taste it gives. Like all other herbs, heat diminishes tarragon’s flavor, so it’s best to add more toward the end or garnish it on top of the dish.
TARRAGON AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR TARRAGON
Yes, you’ve read that right. If you’re thinking quickly, then your first instinct might be to dry your fresh tarragon and use it for later.
Tarragon is one of the few herbs where the dried is almost as good as the fresh.
When using dried tarragon for dishes, the ratio is one teaspoon of dried for every one tablespoon of fresh. Dried tarragon has a stronger taste than fresh tarragon so putting more than a teaspoon of the dried herb may result to a bitter-tasting food.
However, dried tarragon isn’t too aromatic as the fresh since the drying process allows essential oils from the herb to evaporate.
The golden rule is to stick to our proportion which is 1 tsp dried for every 1 tbsp fresh tarragon.
Learn how to dry tarragon and other herbs in the video below.
Now, particular dishes require either fresh or dried tarragon herbs. Listed below are alternatives to both fresh and dried tarragon for your reference.
FRESH TARRAGON SUBSTITUTES
Chervil, fennel seed, and basil leaves are the best options you’ve got if you want to attain the taste and aroma of fresh tarragon.
Chervil seems to be closest to fresh tarragon regarding the scent and aroma. However, its taste is not quite as strong. Chervil has a milder flavor than tarragon, redolent of anise or licorice.
With that in mind, you may want to add more than a tablespoon of chervil instead of fresh tarragon.
Chervil is most often associated with the classical béarnaise sauce which also uses tarragon. In fact, chervil can also mimic the taste of parsley and chives.
If chervil is the milder counterpart, fennel seed is twice as strong as fresh tarragon when it comes to flavor. Fennel seeds taste quite similar to anise and tarragon but stronger.
It’s best to use just a pinch of fennel seed to equate a tablespoon of tarragon.
Fennel seed is parallel to tarragon with regards to versatility. It is used to garnish various dishes, and it also gives pork chops an intense, delectable taste.
Lastly, we have basil. Perhaps you’re familiar with this herb as it’s all over the supermarket and probably, in your garden.
Basil’s flavor is somewhat similar to tarragon, but it’s way milder than chervil. It also doesn’t impart that particular licorice flavor.
When using basil leaves as an alternative, opt for the fresh herb since its taste and aroma is stronger. You may use two tablespoons of basil for every tablespoon of tarragon.
Suggested Serving proportion
(for every 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon)
1 ½ tbsp
DRIED TARRAGON SUBSTITUTES
Common dried tarragon substitutes are aniseed, dried dill, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram.
Aniseed is a flavorful combination between fennel and tarragon. It’s the closest to the licorice taste. Aniseed is quite strong, so you may want to put just a pinch of this herb as substitute for every teaspoon of tarragon.
Have you ever tasted those sweet cookies that have a distinctive tarragon taste? Well, it’s better to use aniseed because they taste sweeter than tarragon.
On the other hand, you can also substitute equal amounts of dried dill, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram for dried tarragon.
Your choice of alternative herb depends on the taste you want to achieve and your preference.
For instance, basil and oregano goes well with Mediterranean dishes. Dill is also frequently used to season fishes while rosemary is ideal for chicken. For baby vegetables, it’s best to season them with marjoram if dried tarragon is nowhere in sight.
Suggested Serving proportion
(for every 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon)
THE FRENCH TARRAGON CHICKEN RECIPE
Since you now have an idea of the assortment of herbs that can replace tarragon, perhaps you’ll want to try the French tarragon chicken recipe to test your newly-discovered herb substitutes.
What you’ll need
- 4 skinny scallions
- ½ tsp dried tarragon (or dried tarragon substitutes)
- 2 tsp fresh tarragon (or fresh tarragon substitutes)
- 2 chicken breast fillets
- ⅓ cup white wine
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp garlic/olive oil
- 1 white pepper (ground)
- ½ cup cream
Step 1. Heat garlic or olive oil in a lidded pan over medium heat for two minutes.
Step 2. Add the scallions and dried tarragon. Stir well.
Step 3. Add the chicken fillets together with the scallions. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Make sure the scallion won’t burn or roast.
- If the scallions begin to roast or burn, scrape them from the cookware and put them on top of the chicken breasts.
Step 4. Pour white wine and wait for it to bubble up. Add salt. Put the lid back on, turn the heat low, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Check if the chicken is thoroughly cooked by slicing the thickest part a little -- the juices should run clear, and the meat should look white; not opaque. Simmer again for a few minutes if the meat isn’t cooked through.
Step 5. Remove cooked chicken breasts from the pan and transfer them to plates. Pour cream into the pan where the chicken was cooked. Stir and bring to a boil. Add fresh tarragon and pepper then stir well.
Step 6. Pour the sauce all over the chicken breasts. Garnish with fresh tarragon. Enjoy!
There you have it. All the herbs and spices that may work as tarragon substitutes can mostly be found in your kitchen or growing in your gardens.
We’d like to remind you that the suggested serving proportions are just approximates – you may add more or put a little depending on your preference. You may also experiment and combine herbs. Use your creativity when cooking dishes to show off your unique cooking styles.
Have you tried any of the substitutes listed above? What can you say about them? Do they really deliver a tarragon taste? We’d love to hear your thought below!
Oh and one more thing, share this post on social media so we can help others out there looking for substitutes too. Cheers mate!