Trying to make yourself a nice chicken stew only to discover halfway through that you don’t have the crucial herb for it aka fresh rosemary? This unique little herb is well known for being a staple in roasts and braised dishes, but let’s face it, how many of us have fresh rosemary stocked up in the pantry at all times?
Sure, you can plant a sprig in a tiny planter and just leave it on your kitchen windowsill, but who has time for that? What most of us look for is a good substitute for rosemary. Something that will taste similar and give you the same flavor profile (or something that comes close at least), and is more easily available.
Well, you’re in luck. I’ve rounded up 10 rosemary alternative herbs and spices you can use in your cooking instead. While you might not get the exact same flavor, these replacements come close and get the job done in a pinch.
So with that being said, let’s take a dive into the fragrant world of herbs and spices.
What is Rosemary?
Before we start on the substitutes, we have to learn a bit about rosemary. Understanding the flavor profile of this herb will help you understand how the alternatives match the different notes of rosemary. This will also allow you to choose the right substitute for the dish you want to make.
Rosemary grows in bushes and has fragrant needle-like leaves and pink, white, or purple flowers. Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary has been used in cooking since 500BC and has been associated with Greek mythology, and is important to the goddess Aphrodite.
Rosemary has a unique flavor, which makes it very interesting when added to food. It has earthy, minty notes and a woody, rather bitter aftertaste. It tastes a bit like sage and also has peppery and balsamic main notes, as well as secondary floral notes.
What makes it special is that rosemary’s flavor doesn’t decrease when it is cooked down, unlike sesame and many other aromatics. Rosemary is also great for health purposes so it is added to teas and herbal infusions.
It is also a classic addition to whole roast chicken. It also works well with other poultry like turkey, duck, quail, and even squab. Rosemary pairs well with lamb, steak, pork, and even some kinds of oily fish.
You can even use it to jazz up stews, casseroles, and soups. This herb is also a splendid addition with roast potatoes, caramelized mushrooms, onions, and stir-fried veggies. Besides this, rosemary is a great choice when making flavorful spice rubs and compound butters.
10 Best Substitutes for Rosemary
Now that you are well acquainted with the herb, let’s talk about alternatives. Different substitutes work best with certain dishes, so always add a bit of your substitute and give your cooking a taste before continuing. If you’re at a loss when realizing your missing this ingredient, you can try a rosemary replacement from this list:
01. Dried Rosemary
Sounds rather obvious, doesn’t it? If you don’t have fresh rosemary, use the dried version instead. If you don’t have dried rosemary, I’d suggest adding it to your spice rack ASAP. Unlike fresh rosemary that lasts for a week in the fridge, the dried herb will last for ages. You can easily buy a bottle and use it for a year.
The advantage of using dried rosemary is that you will get the exact same flavor profile as the fresh herb. This means that you can substitute it in any recipe that calls for fresh rosemary. However, you do need to remember that dried herbs and spices are much more potent than their fresh counterparts.
The workaround? Use a quarter of the amount of fresh rosemary specified in the recipe. So if you need a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, use a teaspoon of the dried one. If a recipe requires a teaspoon of fresh rosemary, use a quarter of a teaspoon of dried rosemary.
Best For: Poultry, lamb, pork, and roast vegetable dishes
Not Recommended For: Salads, light and delicate dressings
Sage is another herb that is often used in many recipes. It is a good substitute for rosemary because it too has a woody, pine-like flavor. Sage has a very strong flavor, so make sure you start with a small amount, before adding more.
This herb works best in dishes that call for fresh rosemary as a garnish. You can thinly slice sage and use it top dishes like casseroles and stews. In cooked dishes like sauces, replace 1/2 the amount of fresh or dried sage for the rosemary. From there, you add more if required.
Sage complements chicken and poultry dishes the same way rosemary does, making it a good replacement in all dishes that have white meat. If you don’t have fresh sage, you can also use dried sage. It works really well to include when stuffing roast chicken and even in pasta salads and dressings.
Best For: Casseroles, stews, poultry, pastas, and salads
Not Recommended For: Fish and eggs
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Most people haven’t heard of this herb before yes, there’s something called savory. This herb comes from the mint family and has a summer and winter variant. Summer savory is often used to replace rosemary in many recipes.
The savory herb has a mild, sweetish flavor profile with warm and peppery notes. On the other hand, winter savory has a more earthy flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste. If you don’t like the taste of rosemary, you can use summer savory to replace it in many dishes, especially those of Romanian or Hungarian origin.
On the other hand, winter savory pairs well with dishes like roast chicken or turkey, as well as pork and lamb. In general, fresh savory is great for meat and egg-based dishes. You can also use dried savory in things like roast potatoes, parsnips, and carrots.
Because it has a pretty mild flavor, you might need to add a slightly larger amount of savory than the recipe calls for rosemary.
Best For: Poultry, pork, lamb, and root vegetables
Not Recommended For: Soups, stews, and salad dressings
Thyme is another excellent substitute for rosemary, and this is great because dried thyme can be found in pretty much any grocery store. It has a similar flavor to rosemary but is a lot milder and the earthy notes aren’t so pronounced.
Fresh thyme works really as an alternative in recipes like salads and crostini. It is also a great garnish for most dishes. I’d suggest substituting an equal amount of thyme (fresh or dried) for any recipes that need rosemary.
This herb works really well in all kinds of meaty dishes, sauces, and pastas. You can also use it in marinades and dry rubs for grilling. Because it is rather mild, you won’t get the full dimension of flavor that you would get from rosemary, but hey, it comes super close.
Best For: Poultry, pork, lamb, soup, and vegetables
Not Recommended For: Egg and fruity dishes
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This works as a rosemary replacement in both fresh and dried form. Like rosemary, it has thin, long leaves packed with flavor. French tarragon is most commonly used in most cooking because of its delicate notes and aromatic leaves. Because it has a rather ‘light’ quality, it is best used in salads, sauces like Bearnaise, and dressings.
You can use it to replace rosemary in pretty much anything: meats, fish, and eggs. You will find that it is great in broths and stocks as well. As far as taste goes, you will get notes of anise and licorice, which isn’t too different from rosemary.
However, this is one case where you should always stick to the fresh herb. Tarragon is pretty mild, and the dried version is almost tasteless. This would make using dry tarragon useless as a rosemary substitute.
Best For: Sauces, salad dressings, stock, fish, and meat
Not Recommended For: Herbal infusions and fish
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A staple in many cuisines, there’s a good chance you have some basil in your pantry, fresh or dry. It is a vibrant herb with bright green leaves and a clean and pleasant aroma. If you don’t have thyme or sage, basil is the next closest substitute for rosemary.
This is because like rosemary, it has a sweet, almost floral, peppery taste. As a result, it is used in many kinds of cooking. Italian cooking is near impossible without basil-infused tomato sauces and pesto. Similarly, basil is a major component in Thai and Indonesian recipes.
You can swap out rosemary for an equal amount of basil. Fresh is recommended, as dried basil doesn’t have the complexity and minty anise notes. However, if that’s all you have on hand, you can use it anyways, just increase the amount slightly until you can taste the unique notes.
Best For: Poultry, pastas, fish, and sauces
Not Recommended For: Eggs, salads, and dressings
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Like savory, this is a lesser-known herb from the mint family. It looks a lot like basil but tastes closer to rosemary. It has woody and earthy notes, as well as a balsamic pine profile. This makes it a great choice to use instead of rosemary.
Furthermore, it has hints of citrus, and in general, has a warmth and bitterness to it. In fact, it tastes a lot like a cross between rosemary and oregano. As a result, you can use it in pizza and pasta sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. The citrus notes also make it a great herb for fish. And marjoram is well-known to complement the earthy flavor of mushrooms very well.
You can substitute both fresh and dried marjoram for rosemary. If you are using the fresh herb, just replace the rosemary with an equal amount of marjoram. But if you are using a dried version, use half the amount instead.
Best For: Pasta sauces, mushrooms, salads, and marinade
Not Recommended For: Fish and sausage-based dishes
08. Bay-Leaf/Peppermint Blend
Sometimes you need two aromatics to get the job done. If you don’t have rosemary, you can easily use a mix of peppermint and bay leaves. This will mimic the flavor of rosemary and get all the major notes present in the herb.
This works particularly well with beef and lamb dishes, roasted, grilled, or braised. You can also use it in stews and meaty soups. To round out the flavor, you can also add a little thyme to the mix if needed.
If you want to use this particular substitute, make sure that the total amount of the aromatics equals the amount specified in your recipe for rosemary. It can be difficult to measure this out with whole bay leaves and peppermint, so you can grind equal parts of bay leaves and dried peppermint. Then, add an equal amount as mentioned in your recipe.
Best For: Meat, fish, and sauces
Not Recommended For: Salads, dressings, and soups
09. Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds, also known as Persian cumin, is sometimes used in baking. This might make it surprising to know that you can use it instead of rosemary in many savory dishes. Caraway seeds have a mild licorice flavor and notes of anise.
These notes of anise make it a good replacement for rosemary in most cases as it has a peppery aftertaste as well. Recipes that call for rosemary in marinades, brines, pickling solutions, and even curries. You can also use them in bread with rosemary like focaccia.
They also work well with meats and soups. You can also use them with roast potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Caraway also pairs extremely well with cabbage so you can use it in any recipe with cruciferous vegetables.
To substitute rosemary with caraway, use an equal amount of the seeds instead. This means that for every teaspoon of rosemary you will need to swap it with a teaspoon of caraway instead.
Best For: Vegetables, meat, marinades, curries, and bread
Not Recommended For: Pasta and fish dishes
10. Italian Seasoning Blend
When all else fails, you can always trust a mix of Italian herbs to get the job done. The main reason for this is that it already contains a small amount of dried rosemary. It also contains other dried herbs like oregano, marjoram, thyme, and basil.
Because it contains a mix of both rosemary, and rosemary substitutes, you can easily use an Italian seasoning blend as a substitute for fresh rosemary. However, you should use half the amount of this seasoning compared to what is mentioned in the recipe.
This means that if a dish calls for a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, replace it with half a tablespoon of Italian seasoning mix.
This substitute can be used in almost any recipe that calls for fresh rosemary─ sauces, pasta, vegetables, and poultry.
Best For: Meats, sauces, marinades, roast vegetables, and stews
Not Recommended For: Light soups, fish, and dressings
Differences Between Thyme and Rosemary
Since thyme is often known as the closest substitute to rosemary, you might be wondering how the two are different. Besides a somewhat similar flavor profile, these two herbs do have some key differences.
Flavor profile-wise, they are close but not exactly the same. Rosemary has a very pronounced woody taste with floral and pine notes. On the other hand, thyme is much milder, with earthy and citrusy notes, and soft hints of pine.
Thyme also contains a much higher percentage of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. While rosemary also has certain health benefits, they are much fewer when compared to thyme. Also, thyme is used extensively in Mediterranean and Levantine cooking and you typically use lots of the herb.
However, since rosemary is so strong and potent, people tend to use it sparingly, as just a little gives you lots of flavors. Moreover, when dried, thyme looks a lot like dried oregano or parsley. Meanwhile, rosemary retains its characteristic appearance of thin, long, needle-like leaves.
Still Got Questions?
Below you can find answers to questions people frequently have about substitutes for rosemary.
01. What Flavor Is Rosemary?
Rosemary has a very notable sage-like flavor, with a lemony aroma and woody, minty, and pine notes.
02. Can I Substitute Lavender for Rosemary?
Lavender is a decent substitute for rosemary, especially in fruity dishes, drinks, and Mexican cuisine. However, lavender doesn’t have that minty, pine-flavored punch that rosemary is known for.
03. Is Rosemary A Good Substitute for Thyme?
Rosemary works pretty well as a replacement for thyme, but since thyme is much milder, you need to halve the amount specified in the recipe.
04. What Is the Use of Rosemary in Cooking?
Rosemary is a herb and is used as a seasoning as it adds flavor and dimension to meats, soups, stews, and sauces.
05. What Flavors Pair Well with Rosemary?
Rosemary compliments the flavors and notes found in lemon, black pepper, anise, cumin, thyme, oregano, parsley, nutmeg, sage, basil, and mint.
06. Which Is Better for Steak: Thyme or Rosemary?
Thyme is better for steak as the delicate flavor profile won’t overpower the taste of the meat. Rosemary can be too strong, and clash with the steak and it’s simple salt-and-pepper seasoning.
07. Can I Use Oregano Instead of Rosemary?
Oregano also works as a rosemary substitute in a pinch; however, it won’t capture the full depth of flavor found in rosemary and you won’t get the pine and woody notes.
08. What Other Herbs Look Like Rosemary?
Fennel, thyme, tarragon, and savory bear some resemblance to rosemary.
Cooking is more of an art than an exact science, so there are no hard and fast rules. You can always substitute one thing for another as long as you stick to a specific ‘flavor palette’. Rosemary is no different, and as this article will tell you, can be substituted with a number of different herbs.
Once you have these alternatives nailed down, you won’t ever have to wonder what to use instead of rosemary. My recommendation? Plant a bunch of herbs (including rosemary) in tiny jars and leave them on your windowsill. If you don’t want to bother, just buy a bunch of dry herbs and add them to your spice rack. Either way, have fun with your culinary exploits!