Rosemary Substitute – 5 Complementing Herbs Worth Using

What if you don’t have rosemary for your dish? Is it possible to substitute dried rosemary for fresh?  The answer is here. This article explores the best rosemary substitute that you can use in a pinch.

Rosemary: An Overview

Rosemary, a member of the mint family, is a fragrant evergreen herb from the Mediterranean. It’s commonly used as a culinary condiment, for its health benefits, and to make bodily perfume.

You’ll find it popularly used in Mediterranean cuisines, especially, in French and Italian recipes.

Rosemary is a strongly aromatic and pungent herb. Its needlelike leaves have a lemon-pine flavor overall. Also, it tastes minty, peppery, and balsamic with a slight butter, a woody aftertaste.

What does rosemary smell like?

Rosemary’s aroma is robust and plant-like, with a hint of pine and a touch of eucalyptus or camphor, yet it’s richer. Sometimes, you might catch a faint whiff of mint or a spicy twist.

In its fresh state, rosemary’s fragrance is lively and zesty. Once dried, its scent softens, taking on a deeper, more subdued earthiness. The essential oil of rosemary is its aroma at its most intense, radiating a potent, almost medicinal quality.

Despite its layers of complexity, rosemary’s scent is distinct and unmistakable. It’s a cozy and welcoming smell that can soothe or invigorate your senses. Commonly found in the world of fragrance and aromatherapy, rosemary also infuses its signature scent into various items like candles, soaps, and hair care products.

What does rosemary taste like?

The taste of rosemary is robust, with a pine-like essence and a hint of mint and spice. Its potent taste means a little goes a long way in recipes. Typically, it’s added to roast dishes, veggies, and broths, and it’s even steeped into teas and drinks.

When cooked, rosemary’s taste softens and grows richer, contributing a rustic touch that enhances other flavors. It’s commonly matched with garlic and lemon, as well as herbs from its Mediterranean roots.

How to use rosemary in cooking?

Rosemary is versatile in the kitchen, lending its flavor to a variety of dishes. It’s perfect for tossing with root vegetables before roasting, seasoning meats for the grill, and enhancing the taste of soups and stews. You can create flavorful marinades, aromatic pestos, and savory rubs with rosemary as a key ingredient.

For specific ways to incorporate rosemary:

  • Toss it with veggies like potatoes or carrots before roasting for a herby touch.
  • Massage a mix of rosemary, garlic, and oil onto chicken or pork before grilling.
  • Stir minced rosemary into your next pot of soup or stew to add depth.
  • Whisk it into marinades with olive oil and lemon to infuse meats with its essence.
  • Blend rosemary into pesto for an extra burst of flavor.
  • Combine it with salt and pepper to craft a simple yet robust meat rub.

Remember, rosemary packs a punch so a small amount will suffice. Also, take out any whole sprigs before you serve your dish, as their texture can be off-putting.

Using Dried Rosemary In Place Of Fresh Rosemary

Fresh rosemary is ideal for the truest flavor. However, even the dried rosemary retains a good bit of volatile oil on its needles which gives its unique aroma and pungent flavor. When you don’t have fresh rosemary then dried rosemary is the best substitution; and vice versa.

When fresh rosemary isn’t available, using dry rosemary can render dishes the pungent flavor you’re looking for, indeed a perfect substitution.

Remember, 1 teaspoon of dry rosemary is equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh rosemary.

To your disadvantage, dried rosemary is brittle and hard to bite thus doesn’t work well as a garnish as fresh rosemary would. In cooked dishes, this alternative is a wonderful option.

Best Rosemary Substitutes

Rosemary has a unique flavor that is quite difficult to replace with another herb. Still, there are a few good alternatives to try when you badly require a rosemary substitute. Here are the best stand-in ingredients for you:

1. Thyme

Thyme is a decent substitution for rosemary. Both of them belong to the mint family of plants known for their delightful aroma and pungency. Thyme produces a similar vibe in your recipe though milder in flavor.

Use fresh thyme leaves as a garnish in salad or crostini in place of rosemary leaves. Similarly, fresh or dried thyme works well in place of rosemary (fresh or dried) in cooked dishes. Thyme is also a wonderful ingredient for soup seasoning and sautéed vegetables.

2. Sage

Sage has a strong aroma like rosemary and a pronounced herbal flavor that is an earthy, slightly peppery taste with hints of mint. Notably, both sage and rosemary have some resemblance to a pine-like flavor.

Despite taste differences, both these herbs tend to complement most of the same types of foods.

The strong flavors of sage are dominating thus use it cautiously in your recipes. Sage works well as a garnish for your dish like rosemary would; use thinly minced fresh sage leaves sparingly over your dish.  As a substitute use only ½ the amount of fresh or dried sage for rosemary in cooked dishes.

You can comfortably use sage instead of rosemary in meat and egg dishes.

3. Marjoram

Marjoram has a flavor similar to rosemary which makes them suitable for interchangeable uses in cooking. Marjoram suits well in most Mediterranean dishes that call for rosemary.

If you are preparing a mushroom dish then use marjoram for seasoning. Also, it’s a good leafy ingredient for salad dressings and tomato delights.

While substituting, use one tablespoon of marjoram for a tablespoon of rosemary.

4. Tarragon

Tarragon is a species of perennial herb in the sunflower family popular for its intense flavor and aroma. The rich fragrance tarragon matches rosemary’s aroma but some may not like its anise-like flavor. Obviously, tarragon isn’t a perfect replacement for rosemary, still, in an emergency, it can be used in some recipes. Tarragon goes well with salmon, chicken, rabbit, eggs, and baby vegetables.

5. Savory

Savory is a culinary staple throughout Europe well appreciated for its pleasant aroma and flavor. Savory, both summer and winter varieties, has a note of mint, thyme, and marjoram. The winter savory has a pronounced piney taste similar to rosemary and is commonly paired with sausage, red meats, game, and pates.  Summer savory has a hot and peppery flavor that provides a pungent kick like rosemary.

Savory works well as a rosemary alternative for stuffing, meat, fish, beans, mushrooms, soups, stews, marinades, vegetables, eggs, salads, and herbal tea.

6. Other Substitutes

According to the special flavor profile of your recipe, you can decide upon a suitable substitution for rosemary that will specifically complement other ingredients in the dish.

If your dish contains several strong seasonings then use caraway seed instead of rosemary. Caraway seeds add a distinctive mild anise flavor with a subtle licorice hint to the dish without overpowering other ingredients.

A combination of peppermint, bay leaf, and thyme is a good alternative to be used in lamb and chicken dishes. Note, the combined ingredients’ total should equal the rosemary used in the dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is parsley a good substitute for rosemary?

Parsley isn't recommended as a stand-in for rosemary since parsley's taste is gentle and grass-like, and rosemary is robust and pine-like.

Do rosemary and saffron go together?

Absolutely, rosemary and saffron make a good pair. They're flavorful Mediterranean herbs that enhance each other, with rosemary's sharp, pine-like taste and saffron's flowery, rich notes.

Do basil and rosemary go together?

Yes, basil and rosemary work well together. These Mediterranean herbs have unique, bold flavors that match nicely—basil is sweet and mint-like, and rosemary is like pine and camphor. They're great in dishes like roasted veggies, meats, seafood, and pastas.

Is rosemary bad when it turns black?

Yes, if rosemary turns black, it's often due to too much heat or dampness. It's better to throw it out because it might not taste good or be as nutritious anymore.

Where can I buy fresh rosemary?

You can find fresh rosemary at local grocery stores in the produce aisle, at farmers markets for local options, in specialty stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and even online from Amazon or Walmart.

Can you add rosemary to the spaghetti sauce?

Certainly, rosemary can be mixed into spaghetti sauce to give it a rich, pine-like taste and extra health benefits from its antioxidants. Just put a couple of sprigs or a bit of chopped or powdered rosemary into the sauce as it simmers.

How to tell if rosemary is bad?

To check if rosemary is bad, look for brown, wilted leaves or soft stems, which aren't good signs. Black spots mean it's old. It should smell strong and piney; a sour smell means it might be moldy. Fresh leaves are firm, not slimy or mushy.

Is rosemary or thyme better for steak?

Rosemary and thyme are great for steak. Rosemary's taste is robust and pine-like, and thyme's is gentler and earthy. Choose rosemary for a strong taste or thyme for a lighter touch.

Final Thoughts

You’ll not find a single herb that precisely matches the flavor profile of rosemary. While choosing a rosemary substitute, you should pay attention to the flavors that will best complement other ingredients of the dish. Lastly, don’t be in a hurry to add your substitutes, taste as you progress in cooking, and if required add more towards the end of cooking.

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