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

What is Mint?

Mint or Mentha is an 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 beverages. Works well as a complementary ingredient to savory flavors in a variety of dishes as well.

Just cut the fresh mint leaves into ribbons and add them to recipes. A stalk with a 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 an 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is a bunch of mint?

A bunch of mint typically costs around $1 to $3, but the price can change based on where you are, how big the bunch is, and the mint variety.

What does Miami mint taste like?

Miami mint flavor is like a cool mix of tangy citrus and mint, kind of like spearmint with a tropical twist. It's a sweet, fresh taste many vapers enjoy.

What is a ginger mint candy?

Ginger mint candy is a sweet that has both a spicy ginger kick and a cool minty flavor. It's great for freshening breath and soothing tummy troubles.

Can Mexican mint grow in water?

Yes, you can grow Mexican mint in water. Just cut a stem from a healthy plant, put it in water in a jar, and change the water every couple of days. When roots grow a few inches, plant them in the soil.

Are Andes mints vegan?

Andes mints aren't vegan because they have milk products like lactose and milk protein. They also have palm oil and sugar, which might use bone char in processing.

Do mints break a fast?

Eating mints might end a fast if they have sugar or sweeteners that raise insulin levels. Sugar-free mints probably won't, but for strict fasting, it's safer just to skip mints entirely.

What do mint seeds look like?

Mint seeds are small, oval, and a bit rough, looking like tiny black or brown dots about the size of a sand grain. They're packed in the mint plant's little berry-like fruits, with a few seeds in each.

What is sweet mint?

Sweet mint is a type of mint with a refreshing, sweet taste often used in foods, breath fresheners, gum, and toothpaste.

Are mints bad for your teeth?

If you eat too many sugary mints, they can harm your teeth because sugar feeds the bacteria that lead to cavities. Also, biting hard mints might damage your teeth.

Can mint flowers be eaten?

Yes, you can eat mint flowers. They taste like mint leaves but are milder and sweeter. People mainly use them to decorate dishes or add to salads, desserts, and teas for a gentle flavor.

Can you have mints while pregnant?

Having mints while pregnant is usually okay. They can help with nausea and heartburn. But don't eat too many because lots of peppermint might give you heartburn or an upset stomach.

Are Junior Mints vegan?

Junior Mints aren't vegan because they use confectioner's glaze, which comes from lac bugs, and anything from insects isn't vegan.

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.

Related articles:

What basil is closest to Thai basil?

What is a good substitute for mace?

Is Marjoram a good substitute for summer savory?