Rosemary is a fragrant, evergreen herb that originates from the Mediterranean region. It’s a member of the mint family ‘Lamiaceae’, along with other herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme, and lavender.
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Rosemary is a herb that's native to the rocky, dry areas of the Mediterranean. The herb has been used in cooking since the days of the ancient Romans and Greeks. And Greek scholars would often wear it on their heads due to the popular but erroneous superstition that rosemary could improve their memory if worn.
In fact, there are a lot of myths surrounding rosemary. For example, people used to have deceased loved ones hold a spring of rosemary at funerals as it symbolized remembrance. It also symbolizes happiness, love, and loyalty for brides who wore the herb at their weddings.
Rosemary is frequently used as a flavoring in culinary dishes such as stuffing and roast lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey. In traditional Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll often find that fresh or dried leaves are used.
The herb has a slightly bitter taste and a characteristic aroma that complements many dishes, and it can also be used in herbal teas.
When roasted with meats or vegetables, rosemary gives a mustard-like aroma mixed with an additional comforting fragrance of charred wood which compliments barbecued foods.
However, if you’ve run out of rosemary, you might find yourself wondering whether or not you can substitute the herb with another, and if so, which one makes the best substitute?
Thankfully, there are several substitutes for rosemary, and we’ll take you through each of these in this article.
Substituting Dried Rosemary for Fresh Rosemary
If a recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but you only have dried on hand, don’t fret.
Dried rosemary is fine to use as a substitute, however, you should bear in mind that dried rosemary is quite brittle and is difficult to chew unless it’s cooked. Due to this, it doesn’t work well as a garnish as fresh rosemary does.
If you’re using it in a recipe that will be cooked, it’ll work just fine. Here’s a conversion ratio:
For every 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, substitute 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary - but only in cooked dishes! This works well for pretty much any dried herbs that you're substituting for fresh ones.
Best Substitutes for Rosemary
Thyme (fresh or dried, including garnishes)
Thyme is a lot milder in flavor than rosemary is, but it’s still a good substitute.
Fresh thyme will work particularly well If you’re making a crostini or salad where the recipe calls for fresh rosemary leaves as a garnish. In cooked dishes, you can simply swap your fresh or dried rosemary for equal parts of fresh or dried thyme.
Of course, it will taste slightly different, but it will still achieve a similar vibe. Fresh thyme has a distinctive herbal flavor with sharp notes of grass, wood, and florals which can be compared to lavender and rosemary - so it won’t taste a world apart.
On the other hand, if you opt for lemon thyme, this variation has a pronounced citrus fragrance - hence its name.
Sage (fresh or dried, including garnishes)
Sage and rosemary both have a pine-like flavor, which makes sage a good substitute if your recipe calls for rosemary and you don’t have any.
Sage is characterized by its pronounced herbal flavor that has an earthy, slightly peppery edge and notes of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon.
If you substitute your rosemary for sage, you should bear in mind that the latter is a very strong herb, so you’ll want to use it sparingly.
For example, if a recipe uses rosemary as a garnish, slice your sage very thinly so that it doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish.
If using sage in cooking, substitute ½ the amount of rosemary with fresh or dried sage, or adjust according to your taste. It’s always best to add too little, and add more later, rather than to add too much!
Tarragon is a leafy green herb characterized by its robust aroma and subtle licorice flavor which adds a fresh, spring taste to a range of recipes.
It’s commonly used in French cuisine, including salad dressings, sauces, and fish and chicken dishes.
Not only does Tarragon offer a hint of anise, but it also brings bitter and sweet notes together to form a complex taste with layers of vanilla, mint, pepper, and eucalyptus.
It can be a good substitute for rosemary, but it’s a herb that people tend to love or hate - due to the slight licorice taste - so use sparingly at first.
Marjoram (dried or fresh)
Indigenous to France and the United States, Marjoram is a low-growing plant and is a member of the mint family. It has grayish-green leaves which are similar to those of oregano, so the two are often confused, though they taste very different.
Marjoram is characterized by its delicate, sweet, and pleasant flavor which has a slightly bitter undertone. It’s often used as a flavoring in meat dishes and has similar flavors to rosemary, so it makes a good substitute.
That said, it’s pretty rare, so if you haven’t got any dried or fresh rosemary, you may not have any dried or fresh marjoram either!
Savory (dried or fresh)
Savory is also a member of the mint family and is a small, green plant that comes in two varieties: winter savory and summer savory. Savory features in cuisine throughout Europe and is often an ingredient of essential oils.
While summer savory is characterized by its hot, peppery flavor, winter savory has an earthier and more subdued taste.
Both winter and summer savory have notes of marjoram, thyme, and mint, so either could be a good substitute for rosemary. Just bear in mind that summer savory may be slightly spicier, so you may want to add a little bit at a time and adjust to your liking.
Caraway also goes by the name of meridian fennel and Persian cumin, and it’s a biennial plant belonging to the Apiaceae family - native to western Asia, Europe, and North Africa.
Caraway seeds are highly aromatic and have a distinctive yet mild anise flavor that adds a warming hint of licorice to dishes. Their taste is earthy, with a hint of citrus and pepper which brightens soups, vegetables, meat, and bread.
Italian seasoning is a blend of dried Italian-inspired herbs and usually consists of basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme, though mixes can differ depending on how much of each herb is used.
You’ll notice that many of the herbs we’ve mentioned above feature in Italian seasoning, and for this reason, Italian seasoning can be a good substitute for rosemary, however, because it combines a mixture of herbs it offers a slightly more complex flavor than rosemary alone.
Due to the different flavor profiles of the herbs, it’ll alter the overall flavor of your dish somewhat, and for this reason, it may be best to use sparingly at first.
Italian seasoning will probably work well as a substitute in cooking but seen as it’s in dried form, it probably won’t make a great substitute for fresh rosemary in roasted meat dishes or fresh salads.
Specific Dishes To Use Rosemary Substitutes In
If you’re cooking a sausage dish, or any other dish that contains several strong seasonings, a good substitute for rosemary is caraway seed.
Caraway seed will add additional flavor to the dish without overpowering the other herbs and spices too much.
Egg and meat
Sage is an ideal substitute for rosemary in egg and meat dishes.
While sage offers a different taste to rosemary, these two herbs are often used in similar dishes, so either works well and will bring out the other flavors.
Marjoram works particularly well with mushrooms and compliments their earthy flavors.
Even if your recipe calls for rosemary and marjoram, you can simply add more marjoram in place of the rosemary if you don’t have any to hand.
Lamb is often roasted with rosemary, and the two are a match made in heaven. However, if you don’t have any rosemary in your garden or pantry, fear not - you can actually combine several other herbs to achieve a similar taste.
To substitute rosemary, a combination of bay leaf, peppermint, and thyme is ideal. Ensure that the total amount of these combined herbs equals that of the rosemary required in your recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the herb rosemary good for?
Rosemary is great for flavoring meat and veggies, but it also has a range of health benefits associated with it, too.
Rosemary is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are said to increase the immune system and improve blood circulation.
Rosemary is also associated with cognitive health and can help improve the quality of your memory and its performance, as well as boost alertness, intelligence, and focus.
What can I use instead of rosemary?
There are a host of options when it comes to replacing rosemary in recipes.
Obviously, it’s included in a recipe for a reason, so it’s always best to use it if you have some (whether fresh or dried), otherwise, the next best option is thyme, followed by savory or tarragon.
That said, all of the herbs featured on our list can substitute rosemary, though some may need adjusting if they’re particularly strong - such as sage.
Can I use Italian seasoning instead of rosemary?
Rosemary is a very popular type of herb, which comes from the rosemary plant.
It contains a lot of beneficial substances, which are really useful for improving digestion and for improving blood circulation overall.
And as for cooking, rosemary is most often and best suited to soups, casseroles, stews, and salads. It also pairs really well with chicken, lamb, steak, and especially oily fish!
As for Italian seasoning, it is essentially a blend of different ground herbs, which all work well together in a complementary way, to season certain dishes and foods in a way that gives them a traditional Italian flavor, hence the name.
The actual blend of herbs can vary, as there are different variations of Italian seasoning. However, as a general rule, Italian seasoning will most commonly include oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, coriander, and garlic powder.
So, let’s get back to the initial question. Can you use Italian seasoning instead of rosemary?
Well, Italian seasoning contains rosemary, so that’s a good starting sign that it will, at the very least, be complementary and work with the same types of foods and meals.
You can, indeed, use Italian seasoning as a substitute for rosemary. In fact, if you use it in the same ratio, it will add a slight difference in flavor that can make your dish more interesting, as it will come with the addition of all the other complementary herbs, and you know that they work together because they’re blended together as one.
Are thyme and rosemary the same?
Thyme and rosemary are not the same, although they can be used as substitutes for each other if a recipe calls for rosemary and you only have thyme or vice versa.
The main difference which sets thyme and rosemary apart is that rosemary has a stronger and more pungent taste than thyme.
Thyme is milder, though they both share woody, floral notes which give them a similar flavor profile.
Both are popular within herbal medicine and are frequently used in culinary dishes, often in combination with one another.
Can you substitute basil for rosemary?
As a general rule, all of the herbs that are included within the mix of herbs that make up Italian seasoning can work well as substitutes and alternatives for each other.
As both basil and rosemary can be found in Italian seasoning, it’s safe to say that they work well not only together, but as alternatives for each other.
So yes, you can substitute basil for rosemary. Although the flavor will be slightly different, it will be similar enough, and it should work just as well.
What is the flavor of rosemary?
Rosemary is one of the most aromatic herbs, and its flavor is incredibly versatile, allowing it to work with a vast number of different food dishes. It especially works with meat dishes, such as lamb, chicken, and pork.
However, it also complements light types of fish and works extremely well in salads, potato dishes, and soups or stews of many different kinds.
Basically, it’s highly multi-purpose, so it is no wonder why it is one of the most popular herbs.
But what does it actually taste like?
Let’s try and describe it.
Overall, rosemary has a minty flavor, and this is due to it belonging to the mint family of plants, along with basil and oregano.
Rosemary is also very similar to sage, and it has a peppery and balsamic taste, which leaves behind a bitty almost woody aftertaste.
One of the best things about the flavor of rosemary is that it isn’t reduced after being cooked, so it remains just as strong. This is why it works so well in stews and soups!
However, as rosemary is very aromatic and has a strong flavor, it can very easily overpower other herbs and flavors. This is why it is recommended that you add it into your recipes gradually, without overdoing the amount.
There are also different varieties of rosemary, and these can have slight changes in their flavor. You can try out different types of rosemary to determine which works best with each specific food!
Can you substitute lavender for rosemary?
The answer to this is yes. Lavender and rosemary work really well as substitutes and alternatives for each other. However, as rosemary is stronger, it’s best to adapt the quantity so that you’re using less than you would lavender.
Rosemary is a popular herb that offers a floral, woody hint to dishes, and it works particularly well with roasted meats such as lamb.
It’s always best to use rosemary if a recipe calls for it, but if you don’t have any to hand, there are a range of herbs out there you can use instead.
Our Best Substitute For Rosemary
- Thyme fresh or dried, including garnishes
- Sage fresh or dried, including garnishes
- Marjoram dried or fresh
- Savory dried or fresh
- Caraway seed
- Italian seasoning
- Try our kitchen tested substitutes for rosemary.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.