Thyme is a quintessential herbal ingredient if you are venturing into Italian cooking or Mediterranean recipes. This herb is from the mint family.
Thyme tastes like mint and has earthy and woody notes in addition. It also has a mildly savory and slightly bitter flavor, depending on the variety of thyme and its preparation.
Being a versatile herb, you can use thyme in various recipes, like sauces, soups, and stews. A pinch of thyme provides a sweet and earthy flavor to pork, lamb, chicken, and fish recipes.
When you don’t have thyme on hand, and your recipe calls for fresh or dried thyme, you can still manage your recipe with other herbs with similar flavor and texture.
Fresh Thyme vs. Dried Thyme
Fresh and dried thyme differ in a few ways. In terms of flavor, fresh thyme tends to have a slightly milder and fresher taste than dried herbs, which can be more concentrated and intense.
Both thyme forms can be used interchangeably in most recipes, depending on personal preference and availability. However, it’s essential to remember that dried thyme is generally more potent than fresh. So, you’ll need less of it if you substitute one for the other.
Typically, one sprig of thyme is equivalent to about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. However, flavor intensity can vary depending on the quality and freshness of the dried thyme.
6 Best Thyme Substitutes
When you can’t find thyme or want to use something else in its place, there are a few good alternatives worth using. Suitable dried and fresh herbs in your spice cabinet can replace fresh or dried thyme.
Note that these replacement spices work depending on the type of recipe.
1. Marjoram and Parsley
Using marjoram and parsley in combination is an excellent thyme substitute in cooking.
Marjoram belongs to the same mint family as thyme, with many similarities. Marjoram has a sweet flavor and a strong scent akin to thyme and oregano.
Parsley is a popular garnish that gives a delicious raw green flavor to salads, marinades, sauces, stews, and cooked dishes like quiches and soups.
When substituting dried marjoram and parsley for thyme, add 1 teaspoon of marjoram and 1/2 teaspoon of parsley for every teaspoon of thyme.
In place of fresh thyme, add ½ tablespoon of chopped parsley to 1 tablespoon of marjoram in place of 1 tablespoon of thyme.
Use them at the end of cooking, as their flavors will fizzle in deep frying or cooking.
2. Italian Seasoning
Italian seasoning is a blend of ground herbs used to flavor many Italian cuisines.
Perhaps, your ultimate choice in place of thyme is none other than Italian seasoning. Thyme is the most prominent ingredient in it. In addition, it contains basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, and coriander, which all share a close affinity with thyme.
If you can’t find fresh thyme in your area, Italian seasoning would work almost as well as thyme works.
Tarragon adds a distinctive flavor to sauces, stews, and soups. It has a bittersweet flavor and an aroma similar to anise. In some respects, the tarragon flavor is nearly identical to thyme.
Since tarragon leaves are so tender, they can be mixed with other greens for salads. It can also be sprinkled over a finished dish, like parsley or thyme.
You can use this as a safe replacement for thyme, especially in chicken and fish recipes that call for it. It works well in a 1:1 substitute ratio.
4. Summer Savory
Summer Savory is among the best-known savory genera.
It’s often compared to thyme or marjoram. This savory has a spicy aroma and pungent, peppery flavor. But it’s less penetrating than its cousin, winter savory.
Being a minty herb, summer savory is an acceptable substitute for thyme, a better option than winter savory—the similarities between thyme and summer savory match both in flavor and appearance.
You can use summer savory in many Italian cuisines in place of thyme. It works excellent in hearty roasts, fish, and stews.
Substitute one teaspoon of summer savory for one teaspoon of thyme.
5. Herbes de Provence
Herbes de Provence originated in the Provence region of southeast France. It contains a blend of several spices like thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, and lavender flowers. If you notice, it has thyme and other spices that share complementary flavors. For this reason, herbs de Provence can very well substitute thyme.
Herbes de Provence adds a subtle sweet note to vegetable soups, sauces, stews, and meat recipes.
You can substitute one teaspoon of herbes de Provence for one teaspoon of thyme.
Fresh oregano is usually combined with olive oil to create flavorful oregano oil, Italian vinaigrette, and marinades for lamb, beef, and chicken dishes. It’s an acceptable ingredient in tomato-centric recipes like pasta sauce, pizza, and stews.
Oregano has a strong aroma and flavor. This herb is almost a must-have ingredient in Italian cooking.
Fresh or dried, oregano hits many of the same earthy, savory, minty, and slightly bitter notes as thyme. However, the strong flavor of oregano can overwhelm the taste of your recipe if it is used in excess.
You can substitute three-fourths of a teaspoon of oregano for one teaspoon of thyme.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute basil for thyme?
Basil and thyme are both herbs with distinct flavors. Thus, substituting one for the other will alter the taste of your dish. However, if you don’t have thyme on hand and want fresh or dried basil, you can do so. The result may be different, but it should still be tasty.
Can I substitute rosemary for thyme?
Rosemary is another herb that can be substituted for thyme in some recipes. However, it has a distinct flavor that may affect the taste of your dish. Rosemary has a more intense, pine-like flavor than thyme’s savory and earthy taste. Use less of it if you’re substituting rosemary for thyme in recipes. Generally, you can use about half the amount of rosemary as you would thyme.
Can I substitute sage for thyme?
Sage is another herb that you can use as a swap for dried thyme or fresh in some recipes. But this herb has a distinctly different flavor profile. Sage has a strong, earthy, and slightly bitter taste. You can use about half the amount of sage, as thyme is needed in your recipes.
How much-dried thyme should I substitute for fresh?
As a general rule of thumb, use about one-third the amount of dried thyme as you would fresh. This is because dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh ones, so you need less of them to achieve the same level of flavor. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, you would use approximately 1 teaspoon of dried thyme instead.
Can I use poultry seasoning in place of thyme?
Poultry seasoning typically contains a blend of herbs and spices, which may include thyme as one of its ingredients. Also, poultry seasoning can vary from brand to brand and may not always contain thyme. If you cannot find or do not have thyme in your pantry, try using poultry seasoning instead of thyme. It’s always a good idea to taste as you go and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Thyme is one of the many fresh herbs used in Italian cooking. Dried thyme possesses a very similar flavor profile to its fresh counterpart.
Instead of fresh thyme, you can use dried thyme leaves in any application.
Our best three picks for substitutes for dried or fresh thyme are Italian seasoning, a combination of marjoram and parsley, and tarragon. In recipes that call for thyme, you can also use other thyme alternatives such as basil, sage, rosemary, or Herbes de Provence.
Instead of looking for a thyme replacement every time, a permanent solution is to grow your own thyme.