Poultry Seasoning Substitutes

Poultry seasoning is a staple blend in many kitchens, known for its robust flavor that complements chicken, turkey, and other poultry dishes. It typically combines a mix of savory herbs and aromatic spices that work together to enhance the natural taste of the meat. If you find yourself without this essential mix or if you’re looking to explore new tastes, there are several substitutes you can use that are likely already in your cupboard.

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Some reliable stand-ins include single herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram, each bringing a unique dimension to your dish. These herbs align closely with the classic taste profile of poultry seasoning. For a more complex blend, consider mixing several of these to mimic the full spectrum of flavors found in traditional poultry seasoning.

In addition to individual herbs, ready-made blends such as Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning can serve as excellent alternatives, offering a balance of flavors that can satisfy the palate in a similar fashion. These blends often contain several of the same ingredients as poultry seasoning, providing a convenient and quick option when you’re in a pinch.

Understanding Poultry Seasoning

What can I substitute for poultry seasoning?

Poultry seasoning plays a pivotal role in enhancing the flavor of your dishes. It is a blend of spices and herbs tailored to complement and elevate the taste of poultry.

Key Components of Poultry Seasoning

The core ingredients in poultry seasoning typically include:

  • Sage: Imparts a robust, pine-like aroma.
  • Thyme: Adds a subtle, dry, and slightly minty flavor.
  • Rosemary: Contributes a lemon-pine flavor profile.
  • Marjoram: Offers a sweet, citrus, and pine flavor.
  • Nutmeg: Infuses a warm, nutty flavor rarely but sometimes included for depth.

This herb mixture creates a complex and savory flavor that is essential in many recipes.

Culinary Uses of Poultry Seasoning

Poultry seasoning is primarily used for seasoning chicken and turkey but can also be used in a variety of dishes to add a savory flavor. From roasting and grilling to pan-frying, these herbs and spices are versatile in cooking techniques.

Geographic and Cultural Influences

The spice blend has roots in Mediterranean cooking, with herbs like rosemary and thyme being staples. While poultry seasoning is widely used in American and European kitchens, it also includes herbs such as marjoram, native to the Provence region of France.

Homemade Poultry Seasoning Crafting

To craft your own homemade poultry seasoning, combine dried herbs such as sage, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary in equal parts, and grate a touch of nutmeg to the mixture. Adjust the proportions to suit your taste.

Aromatic Profile and Taste Notes

Your homemade blend will have an aromatic profile that’s warm and earthy with notes of citrus and pine. These elements come together to enhance the savoriness of your poultry dishes.

Storage and Shelf Life

Store your seasoning in an airtight container away from heat and light to maintain its potency. Typically, homemade spice blends can last up to six months when stored properly.

Nutritional Considerations

Poultry seasoning itself is low in calories but can contribute to a dish’s overall flavor without the need for excess salt, making it a healthier option to enrich your poultry dishes.

Selecting Poultry Seasoning Substitutes

In the quest to replicate or enhance the savory flavor that poultry seasoning imparts to dishes, you’ll find a variety of herbs and blends that can serve as stand-ins. These substitutes are particularly useful when the original mix is unavailable or if you’re looking to tweak the taste to suit personal preferences.

What is a good substitute for poultry seasoning?

Single Herb Alternatives

  • Sage: A staple with a robust, aromatic profile.
  • Thyme: Offers a subtle, earthy essence.
  • Rosemary: Contributes a pine-like flavor and aroma.
  • Oregano: Adds a slightly bitter, warming note.

Combination Herbs and Blends

  • Italian Seasoning: A blend often including oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
  • Herbs de Provence: Features a mix of thyme, rosemary, and other aromatic herbs.
  • Fines Herbes: A softer blend with parsley and chives, among others.

DIY Poultry Seasoning Blends

Ingredients for a homemade spice blend might include:

  • Dried Sage
  • Dried Thyme
  • Dried Marjoram
  • Mix equal parts along with a pinch of black pepper and garlic powder.

Common Kitchen Staples as Substitutes

  • Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings that enhance natural flavors.
  • Garlic Powder: Adds a pungent kick.
  • Onion: Introduces sweetness and depth.

Commercial Seasoning Mixes

  • Look for chicken seasoning or lemon pepper blends at grocery stores.
  • Chicken Bouillon: Concentrated chicken flavor that can mimic poultry seasoning.

Adapting Recipes to Substitute Availability

  • If an herb like rosemary is unavailable, use dried thyme or sage in its place.
  • Adjust the quantity based on the potency of the substitute.

Sourcing Substitutes from Grocery Stores

  • Aisles with dried herbs and spices often carry individual ingredients for making your blend.
  • Pre-mixed alternatives like Zaatar and Italian seasoning are readily available.

Understanding Flavor Profiles

  • Recognize that substitutes can vary in flavor intensity.
  • Sage has a more dominant savory note, while thyme is milder.

Health Considerations in Substitutes

  • When selecting substitutes, consider their sodium and allergen content.
  • Opt for unadulterated herbs for the most healthful choice.

Seasoning Application Techniques

Effective seasoning techniques can enhance the taste and aroma of your poultry dishes, whether you’re working with chicken or turkey. The right application can transform a simple recipe into an unforgettable meal. Here’s how you can apply poultry seasoning most effectively:

Marinating and Brining

For deep flavor infusion, marinate your poultry in a mixture that includes your poultry seasoning, some form of acid such as vinegar or citrus juice, and oil. This can tenderize and flavor the meat. Brining in a salty, seasoned solution can also ensure moist and flavorful meat, especially for turkey.

Dry Rubs and Spice Pastes

Create a dry rub with your poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper, and massage it onto the meat to coat every part. For a more intense flavor, mix your seasoning blend with a small amount of oil to form a paste, which clings to the poultry for a more robust crust.

Herb-Infused Oils and Butters

Infuse oils or softened butters with dried herbs and spices, including your homemade poultry seasoning. Brush this mixture onto your poultry before roasting to create a flavorful skin and add a layer of richness.

Adjusting Seasoning Intensity

To adjust the intensity, simply modify the amount of seasoning. For subtler flavors, use less seasoning or choose milder herbs. To turn up the intensity, increase the seasoning quantity, or incorporate more pungent spices like black pepper.

Balancing Flavor Combinations

Combine the herbs and spices in your poultry seasoning considering their flavor profiles. Use equal parts of the primary herbs, and add spices like garlic powder, nutmeg, or pepper sparingly to prevent overpowering the blend.

Seasoning Alternatives for Dietary Restrictions

Seek out salt-free versions of seasonings if you’re watching sodium intake, or use herbs and spices that do not contain allergens according to dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free or MSG-free blends.

Techniques for Even Distribution of Seasoning

Use your hands or a shaker to evenly distribute the seasoning across the poultry. Ensuring even seasoning helps every bite to be uniformly flavored.

Cooking Methods Impact on Seasoning

Different cooking methods, like roasting or grilling, can change how flavors develop. A longer roast allows for deeper flavor penetration, whereas grilling gives a quick, smoky taste. Adjust your seasoning application accordingly.

Post-Cooking Seasoning Adjustments

After cooking, taste and season if necessary. A squeeze of lemon or a dash of fresh herbs can brighten flavors that were dulled during cooking.

Seasoning Tips for Different Poultry Cuts

Breasts may need less seasoning than darker, more flavorful cuts like thigh or leg. Adjust the seasoning to suit the cut to balance the overall dish.

Pairing Seasoning with Accompaniments

Consider the accompaniments your poultry will be served with and choose seasonings that will complement or contrast these side dishes, such as bold herbes de Provence to balance sweet glazes.

Creating Signature Seasoning Blends

Experiment with varying proportions of herbs and spices to create a signature blend. Store it in an airtight container, labeled with the ingredients and date mixed for future reference.

Utilizing Leftover Herbs and Spices

Leftover fresh herbs can be dried and added to your spice blend. This not only reduces waste but also adds a personal touch to your seasoning.

Seasoning Storage for Maximum Freshness

Store your homemade poultry seasoning in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Keeping spices in airtight containers will also maintain their potency longer.

Seasonal and Festive Seasoning Variations

For Thanksgiving and other holidays, include seasonal spices like sage, thyme, and marjoram for a festive touch. Experiment with spice blends that cater to the season’s produce and traditional dishes.


When you’re out of traditional poultry seasoning or simply looking for a variation, there are numerous alternatives you can rely on to achieve similar flavor profiles in your dishes.


  • Sage: Use ¾ teaspoon to replace 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning.
  • Oregano Mix: Combine with rosemary, basil, and marjoram for a rich blend.
  • Turkey Rub: Ideal for a stronger sage and thyme presence, with garlic and paprika notes.
  • Za’atar: A Middle Eastern blend that brings a nutty undertone and includes oregano and thyme.
  • Salt and Pepper: A simple duo that enhances meat flavors. Mix equal parts and use in place of poultry seasoning.

Adapt these substitutes according to the main components of poultry seasoning: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg. Feel free to experiment with additional herbs like parsley, celery seed, or paprika to create a custom blend that caters to your palate.

Helpful Tips:

  • Adjust proportions to taste, starting with smaller amounts to avoid overpowering your dish.
  • Always taste as you go to fine-tune the balance of flavors.

Your final thoughts should revolve around understanding the interchangeability of herbs and spices when crafting a substitute. Remember that individual tastes may vary, so what works for one may need adjusting for another. This flexibility is key in cooking, allowing you to personalize recipes to your preference while maintaining the integrity of the dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find specific alternatives and combinations of herbs that can serve as substitutes for poultry seasoning, along with clarification on related seasoning queries.

What combination of herbs can I use to make my own poultry seasoning at home?

To replicate poultry seasoning, combine ground thyme, sage, rosemary, marjoram, and a touch of ground black pepper. Add a pinch of nutmeg and celery seed for complexity.

How can I season chicken if I don’t have poultry seasoning?

If poultry seasoning is unavailable, you can use Herbes de Provence or a mix of thyme, rosemary, and sage on your chicken for a similar flavor profile.

What alternative herbs can replace sage in poultry seasoning?

Marjoram or thyme can be effective substitutes for sage in poultry seasoning. Use them in lesser amounts, as they have stronger flavors.

Is there a difference between chicken seasoning and poultry seasoning?

Chicken seasoning is formulated specifically for chicken, while poultry seasoning is a more versatile blend that complements all types of birds well.

Can Italian seasoning be used as a suitable alternative to poultry seasoning?

Italian seasoning can be a suitable alternative as it contains many of the same herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, and marjoram, which are common in poultry seasoning blends.

What can I use as a poultry seasoning substitute if my recipe calls for a bouillon cube?

If your recipe calls for a poultry bouillon cube, you can use a combination of soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and a small mix of thyme, sage, and garlic powder to mimic the cube’s savory qualities.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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