Bay Leaf Substitutes

What can you use instead of bay leaf? Read on to know about the various bay leaf substitute.
Tastessence Staff
Those who are acquainted with traditional cuisines must have heard and experienced a lot about the bay leaf. This spice is mainly used in flavoring various soups, braises, pâtés, braises, stews, etc. They are the aromatic leaves of the plant bay laurel.these leaves are used mainly for culinary purposes, as they provide a distinct flavor to food recipes. Uses of this spice in Mediterranean and Indian cuisine are just phenomenal.

There is nothing as finding the perfect bay leaf substitute, as it is almost impossible to replicate. Still, there are several cases when people don't find this spice where they live in the desired form. In such cases, there is definitely a need to look for other substitutes. Let's try to figure out what you can use instead of a bay leaf.


There is a misconception that bay leaves are toxic and hence shouldn't be eaten or kept in the food after the cooking procedure is done. It must have come from the fact that they are similar in appearance to several other species of the same genus Laurus that have toxic effects and are not sold commercially for culinary uses. However, the only precaution to be taken is to not swallow the leaf from the food. If you observe, bay leaf remains hard as original even after a thorough cooking and there are chances that it can damage the intestine on its way down.

This spice can be substituted by its other forms, meaning crushed bay leaf can be substituted by the whole leaf (¼ teaspoon crushed bay leaf = 1 whole bay leaf). One can also use ground bay leaf as a substitute. The substitute other than various forms of bay leaf can be equal amounts of dried or fresh thyme, ground basil, and other species of bay leaf, like California bay leaf for Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf for Indian bay leaf, and vice versa. People also use boldo leaves that have a strong flavor as a substitute. One can also try juniper berries as a substitute, especially when cooking meat.

Uses and Benefits

This spice is found to be originated in Asia Minor, from where it spread to other countries having similar climatic conditions. Today, we can see that bay leaf plants are cultivated in countries like Italy, Turkey, Belgium, France, India, Russia, and Central and North America. In all, Turkey is said to be the largest exporter of this spice. It is not cultivated in the northern regions for lack of suitable climate. There are three varieties of this spice that are used, viz., California bay leaf, Indonesia, and Indian bay leaf. All these types vary greatly in taste and flavor.

When eaten raw, this spice has a strong aroma and a sharp bitter taste. Nonetheless, the flavor of bay leaf is more distinct than the taste of it. Many people can't avoid comparing this spice with several other herbs, like thyme and oregano, that are totally different species. It is most popularly used for various culinary purposes, but its medicinal uses cannot be overlooked either. Bay leaves are ground or crushed in various recipes of meat, seafood, stews, and soups. There are many classic French recipes that one can't imagine without the aroma of this herb. It has also been used to serve several medicinal purposes. Two of the famous essential oils, Myrcene and Eugenol, are derived from the bay leaf.

The distinct aroma of bay leaves is said to be insecticidal and is used to get rid of moths. It is also beneficial for treating several health conditions, like high blood sugar levels, bacterial infections, fungal infections, migraine, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems, like gastric ulcers. This spice is a good diuretic as well and it stabilizes the insulin processing in the body. Several health conditions, like amenorrhea, colic, and rheumatism are also effectively treated by using this herb. With so many uses, there is not really a need to find a substitute as such, provided there is no scarcity of the bay leaves in your area.

Well, I guess you have found the answer to what can you use as a substitute for this wonderful spice. As I said earlier, I wouldn't really suggest anything as a bay leaf substitute, as it will forfeit the flavor of the food that requires this spice as the main ingredient.