How to Substitute Herbs While You Are Cooking

Essential Flavors You Can Fake at Home

Bunches of fresh herbs
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Herbs in Cooking

Herbs have a long and storied history in various food cultures around the world—indeed, what would Italian cuisine be without basil and rosemary, or Mexican food without the grassy tang of cilantro? Cuisines are profoundly impacted by the herbs common to a region. But there comes a time when the home cook simply must substitute for an herb in a recipe. 

Dried Herbs for Fresh

The most common substitution in the world of herbs is simply dried for fresh.

Note that dried herbs will always have a more concentrated presence than fresh, so plan on using less (the ideal ratio is 1:1.5 for dried herbs to fresh). If you open a jar of dried herbs and don't smell any aroma, it's time to get a new batch. When using dried herbs, it's best to incorporate them during cooking, as opposed to fresh herbs, which really shine when added just at the end of a dish.

Herb Substitutions

But for a situation where you find yourself completely out of a specified herb for a recipe, or perhaps you just don't care for that specific herb, try some of these substitutions. This chart will help you choose substitutions or alternatives that should work with your recipe. Whenever substituting, you must realize that the flavor will not be as originally intended in the recipe. We’ve selected flavors that should harmonize or hint at the original.  As such, it is wise to begin your substitution with half the specified recipe amount and then adjust to your own personal tastes.

You should always feel free to adjust and add to any recipe to suit yourself and your family. Who knows? You just might create a new family favorite!


Oregano or thyme

Tarragon or parsley


Green onions (scallions), onion or leek

Italian Seasoning

Blend any of these: basil, oregano, rosemary and ground red pepper


Basil, thyme or savory


Basil, marjoram or rosemary


Thyme or basil


Chervil or cilantro

Poultry Seasoning

Sage plus a blend of any of these: thyme, marjoram, savory, black pepper or rosemary

Red Pepper Flakes

Dash bottled hot pepper sauce or black pepper


Thyme, tarragon or savory


Poultry seasoning, savory, marjoram or rosemary


Thyme, marjoram or sage


Chervil, dash fennel seed or dash aniseed


Basil, marjoram, oregano or savory