Looking for clever tarragon substitutes? Admittedly, when I was younger I wasn’t really aware that a herb such as tarragon existed. Today, I use it regularly in savoury dishes that involve white meat or fish, stews and broths. Of course, there are many more ways you can enjoy this versatile herb. What is your favourite recipe that involves tarragon?
what is tarragon
If you need to ask yourself this question – then you are missing out on some delicious tarragon recipes! Simply said, tarragon is a herb and a spice (when ground). You can use it for cooking, medical and decorative purposes. You might also know tarragon as ‘estragon’. So, tarragon substitutes are identical to estragon substitutes – keep that in mind!
It is cultivated mainly in Eurasia and North America, and it belongs to the sunflower family. There are three different varieties of tarragon: Russian tarragon, French tarragon, and Spanish/ Mexican tarragon.
what does tarragon look like
Think of a softer and greener rosemary branch! Comparatively, tarragon also has a long stem with long narrow leaves. However, they are flatter than the ones we know from rosemary. Also, the colour is much lighter, almost looking like the colour of seaweed. The leaves are smooth and glossy, making them a perfect addition to a salad, fresh or roasted vegetables!
Although tarragon is a well known herb, surprisingly not a lot of people recognize its flavour. It is a very fragrant herb, holding specific aromas which makes it perfect for making sauces and stews. The aroma itself is very reminiscent to the aroma of anise. That’s why tarragon substitutes must be as equally aromatic. When it comes to the flavour profile of tarragon, the flavour is slightly bittersweet with a peppery licorice element.
Naturally, with the three different varieties of tarragon, they vary in strength and flavour when it comes to eating fresh tarragon.
French tarragon is a very popular variety, and has a very strong flavour. Unlike Russian tarragon, it is not grown from seed, because the flowers are sterile. This type of tarragon is perfect for cooking stews, soups and sauces. For example, the French use tarragon as a flavour enhancer in their Béarnaise sauce.
Russian tarragon is milder than French tarragon and is as equally popular when to comes to cooking. Don’t get me wrong, it is also strongly aromatic like the French tarragon, however it produces more leaves in early spring. These are mild and make a perfect combination with salad. The young stems of the Russian tarragon can also be cooked as an asparagus substitute. The only problem with Russian tarragon is that it doesn’t last very long.
Lastly, Spanish/Mexican tarragon, winter tarragon or Texas tarragon is much like French tarragon. Equally, it is strong in flavour and it lasts very long. Otherwise, fresh tarragon is perfectly suitable for salads (only Russian variety), egg, fish and chicken dishes.
dried tarragon substitutes
Bulk dried tarragon is of course less bitter and sharp than the leaves of fresh tarragon. It is sweeter and has the same anise aroma.
It is an excellent choice for enhancing sauces yet not overpowering them. Here are the best dried tarragon substitutes: