Thyme is one of those deliciously herby tastes that complement a huge variety of recipes.
It is a common feature in the cuisines of many cultures around the world, playing a role in many savory dishes and a handful of sweet ones too.
It is renowned for its benefits on the skin, too, and thyme essential oil can be found in many products. It is also a common feature in dental care products such as mouthwash.
However what happens when you need a bunch of thyme for your recipe but you are fresh out? Is your recipe doomed forever?
Thankfully, that is not the case because there are a number of substitutes that can be used in place of thyme with great success.
We are going to be telling you all about our favorite thyme substitutes in this article, and letting you know the best type of recipes to use them in.
Before we do that, though, we should first explore the flavor of thyme, letting you know exactly what makes it so popular. This will allow you to better choose what kind of substitute would suit your dish best, based on the element of thyme you like most.
Flavors of Thyme
Thyme is a herb that belongs to the mint family, and so it does have a slightly mint undertone.
It is a fresh, earthy flavor that mostly lends itself to savory food (although it can taste beautiful in sweeter dishes too).
It has a slight citrus flavor, which is more of a note than an intense taste. Some people also describe the herb as woody.
It is super versatile, and pairs well with meat, fish, vegetables, and cheeses. It also holds up well in the heat, unlike many other herbs that wilt easily. This makes it an excellent addition to soups, stews, broths, and other heated dishes.
As we mentioned in the introduction, it is widely used in a variety of different cuisines, but it is perhaps best known in the Mediterranean, as this is where it originates.
When choosing the best substitute for thyme, it will be helpful to identify what flavor element you want to replicate. This will of course depend on the cuisine and the particular dish you are creating.
If you want the woodiness of thyme, then choose the right substitution for this. If you are drawn to the citrus or mint notes in thyme, then the herb you choose may be slightly different.
The first substitute we want to draw your attention to is oregano. Oregano possesses that same earthy flavor as thyme and also has those mint and citrus notes so well loved by thyme fans.
Oregano is very popular in Italian dishes, working well with other herbs and spices. It is also a prominent feature in Italian seasoning.
The overall taste of oregano is stronger than that of thyme, and so less of it should be used. The recommended ratio is three-quarters of a teaspoon of oregano for a whole teaspoon of thyme.
That being said, it is still a wonderful replacement for thyme, especially when used in Italian dishes such as pasta, tomato based dishes, and grilled meat.
Herbes de Provence
This mixture of herbs features thyme, along with rosemary, basil, lavender flowers, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, and savory.
The exact mixture of herbs used depends on where you are in the world. It is thought that the addition of lavender flowers is solely a North American custom.
In the United Kingdom, there is often sage added to the mix too. Thyme seems to remain a solid addition, wherever in the world you purchase Herbes de Provence, and so this makes a great substitute for plain thyme.
Because of the range of flavors in the product, it may not be the same delicate taste delivered by thyme alone, so bear this in mind.
You can use it at a ratio of 1:1, meaning one teaspoon of Herbes De Provence is equal to the same as thyme.
However, because the flavors will be a little stronger and will have more ‘going on’ as such, you may want to go for half first, and then add the other half to taste if you wish.
You can use it in most cuisines and dishes where thyme is an ingredient, but it lends itself best to French and other Mediterranean cooking.
Yet another mixture of herbs, Italian seasoning is another great replacement for thyme.
As the name suggests, it is best suited for Italian dishes, but also works well on grilled meats and in other Mediterranean cuisines.
Italian seasoning contains thyme, as well as many of the other replacements for thyme such as oregano, savory, and marjoram.
It also has basial, rosemary, bay leaf, and sage in there. Bear in mind that Italian seasoning often smells quite sweet thanks to the addition of basil.
It is a rather sweet herb, with a taste that is a little like cloves. Don’t let this put you off though because it is a very versatile herb that works well with all of the other flavors in Italian seasoning.
Similar to Herbes de Provence, you can use Italian seasoning at a ratio of 1:1, substituting one teaspoon of thyme for one teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
That being said, depending on your dish you may want to add a little less because of the variety of other flavors that are also present along with the thyme.
For a chicken or fish dish that calls for the use of thyme, you could use tarragon instead. It is a little sweeter than thyme and has somewhat of a bitter taste.
However, the slight anise flavor and the mint-like taste is what lends this herb so well as a replacement of thyme. You can use it like for like. By this we mean, one teaspoon of thyme correlates to the same of tarragon.
However, you may want to add it bit by bit, tasting in between if possible. If you are struggling to place the flavor of tarragon having never tried it before, think back to a time where you have eaten Bearnaise sauce.
Tarragon is the main flavor element in this sauce. The flavor is best suited to French cuisine, and may not be as versatile as some other substitutes on this list because of its very distinctive taste so do bear this in mind first.
We have mentioned marjoram a few times already as it is a key feature in Herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning.
It also works well on its own as a replacement or substitute for thyme in many recipes. Marjoram has a taste that is very similar to thyme.
Like thyme, it is a member of the mint family, and it possesses a delicate, slightly minty flavor. It is a sweet, woody taste that is very fresh.
It is also related to oregano, albeit more delicate in flavor. You can use it as a replacement for thyme in most dishes, using it at a ratio of 1:1, meaning one teaspoon of marjoram for the same of thyme.
It works especially well in meat and vegetable dishes, as well as in soups from all cuisines.
The flavor of parsley is very fresh and versatile. It works well in cream based dishes, as well as on salads and with meat and fish.
Whilst it may not work well on its own as a substitute for thyme, it certainly works well when paired with another ingredient.
Use it with marjoram as a way of balancing out marjoram’s sweet taste. You can also add it in with any of the herbs we have listed already to give a pleasant, fresh taste.
This member of the mint family is very similar in taste to thyme. You may also know it by the names Summer savory and winter savory.
Summer savory has peppery notes, meaning it complements meat and fish really nicely. Winter savory is a little more toned down and earthy, meaning it goes well in any recipe.
It is especially good for Mediterranean dishes. You can use savory at a ratio of 1:1, substituting one teaspoon of thyme for the same of savory.
Poultry seasoning that you can get from many different retailers typically features thyme as one of its main ingredients.
For this reason, you can replace thyme in your recipe with some poultry seasoning if you are in a pinch and need a replacement as soon as possible.
Poultry seasoning is often quite intense in flavor, especially if it has salt added into it too, so ensure you add only small amounts at a time.
This Middle Eastern spice mixture often features thyme as one of its main components. It is flavorful, often containing sumac, sesame seeds, and salt as well as herbs including thyme and oregano.
Due to the inclusion of sumac and sesame, you should use za’atar sparingly as it will not be as delicate in taste as thyme.
That being said, we think za’atar makes a delicious addition to many meals, especially those of Middle Eastern cuisine.
We hope that you can see just how many wonderful thyme substitutes there are.
Whether you don’t like the taste of thyme, you are bored of it, or you just don’t have any in your store cupboard, there is a substitute to suit every need.
Remember, all you need to do is identify what exactly thyme will be bringing to your recipes - earthiness, citrus notes, or minty undertones - and choosing a substitute will be easy!