Mint: Substitutes, Benefits, Flavor, And Uses In Cooking

What is Mint?

Mint or Mentha is a herbal plant that belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which includes around 20 plant species. Peppermint and spearmint are the most popular varieties of mint.

Fresh or dried mint is used in many dishes, beverages, and infusions. From the time of ancient Egypt, people have been making use of different species of mint plants for medicine and infusion.

Mint is easy to grow and hard to kill. It is easily available in most parts of the world. However, if you don’t have immediate availability of this herb, then you can use a mint substitute in your recipe. Fortunately, there are a few good mint alternatives that give a similar flavor and aroma.

Flavor and Aroma

Primarily, mint has a mild sweetness and produces a lingering cooling effect on the tongue. Lamiaceae herbs have a mentolic aroma.  Fresh mint leaves have more flavor and scent but dried leaves also retain some of them.

Overall, peppermint is herbaceous, cooling, minty, and has a sweet candy menthol-like nuance.

Spearmint is both sweet and minty with ample carvone in it. Spearmint doesn’t provide a cooling sensation on par with peppermint as it contains only 0.05% methanol.

Uses and Benefits

Mint is excellent for flavoring smoothies, juices, and all types of beverages. Works well as a complementary ingredient to savory flavors in a variety of dishes as well.

Just cut the fresh mint leaves in ribbons and add them to recipes. A stalk with few tender leaves makes a wonderful topping on desserts and cold beverages. Similarly, dried mint leaves are a good addition to stew or sauce as it simmers. Mint tea is a herbal tea made by infusing mint leaves in hot water that provides several health benefits.

The mint extract works well to give a minty flavor to confections, baked goods, or hot chocolate.

Fresh leaves of mint are a flavoring ingredient worthy to use in spaghetti sauce, pesto, salad, or even add to chicken dishes.

In short, its minty flavor can make many common dishes more interesting and delicious.

Bes Mint Substitutes

Mint, especially peppermint, and spearmint, is easy to grow and commonly found in most parts of the world. However, you might require a quick emergency substitute for mint leaves on some occasions. By happy chance, you can easily find a similar herb as a substitution for both fresh and dry mint leaves. Here are a few replacements for it:

1. Basil

Basil belongs to the mint family of plants. Sweet basil (common basil) is sweet and slightly pungent like spearmint.

The finely chopped leaves of sweet basil have a close similarity to mint in appearance and flavor.  The compound ‘linalool’ present in basil produces a mild peppery and floral flavor which has some similarities to the menthol in mint.

In fact, many chefs use basil and mint interchangeably, especially in savory dishes. Sweet basil works well in sweet dishes in place of mint.

Just like mint, sweet basil leaves are used for flavoring smoothies and beverages.

Use sweet basil leaves in a one-to-one replacement for mint leaves.

2. Marjoram

Like basil, marjoram also belongs to the mint family of plants. The primary flavor compounds in marjoram like sabinene and linalool produce a woody, floral, and sweet taste. The delicate flavor of marjoram possesses the menthol properties associated with mint.

In an emergency, you can conveniently use marjoram as a substitute for mint, especially in savory dishes. This herb may also work well in pasta, soups, and vegetable dishes in place of mint.

3. Peppermint extract

Peppermint extract is an herbal extract of peppermint. It mostly consists of essential oils of peppermint leaves.

This extract is commercially used for flavoring candies, beverages, and baked goods. You can also use peppermint extract as a flavoring in some dishes.  It is easy to make peppermint oil extract by soaking mint leaves in vodka.

If you are buying peppermint extract, get only the ones labeled as pure and natural.

Mint extract has a more concentrated flavor stronger than the leaves.

Just 4 drops of peppermint extract or 1 drop of peppermint essential oil are enough to replace one tablespoon of chopped fresh mint leaves.

Substitute for Dried Mint

The best substitute for dried mint is fresh mint leaves. Use two tablespoons of chopped fresh mint to replace 1 tablespoon of dried mint.

Other than fresh mint, you can use dry basil or parsley to replace dried mint. They may not give the exact flavor of mint but they provide earthy flavor to your recipe.

Mint Vs. Peppermint

What is the difference between mint and peppermint?

The name mint commonly refers to all species of mint like peppermint, spearmint, lemon mint, basil mint, water mint, and others.

Mint is a perennial and wide-growing herb that grows wild. Spearmint and peppermint are the most commonly used varieties of mint in cooking and medication.  Of course, each variety of mint has its own unique flavor and aroma.

Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between water mint and spearmint. It contains a significant amount of menthol which makes its flavor stronger and more pronounced than other varieties of mint.

The Bottom Line

Mint is an aromatic herb produced by several species of the mint plant. This sweet and menthol-flavored herb is a wonderful ingredient in several dishes including smoothies, beverages, sauces, tea, and dishes both sweet and savory.

I would recommend basil or mint extract as the best mint substitute. You may also use marjoram, tarragon, or rosemary to replace mint in a pinch.

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