8 Tarragon Substitutes That Work as Well as the Herb Itself

Chervil as a Tarragon substitute
Did you know you can also use frozen tarragon in the place of fresh tarragon? Just store fresh whole tarragon sprigs in air-tight bags in the refrigerator for up to 3 - 5 months. These bags will ensure that the flavor gets locked in. You don't even need to defrost the frozen sprigs before using it in a dish. Works wonders.
Before you start hunting for possible tarragon substitutes, you must know what tarragon is like and what about it boosts its usage in cooking. Basically, a redolent herb with a bittersweet taste, tarragon is a perennial herb with green elongated leaves which have a wider mid-section. Along with the leaves, the soft stem of the plant is often used for flavoring various delicacies. Since the dried version of tarragon has a rather attenuated flavor to offer, most food experts around the world prefer to hack up the fresh foliage of this plant for their variant culinary purposes.
  • Cutting up ½ an ounce of fresh tarragon will leave you with ⅓ cup of this green flavoring.
So, what is tarragon similar to? Belonging to the plant family of Asteraceae, the taste of tarragon is rather similar to the respective tastes of anise and fennel and also licorice to a certain degree.

Largely, it is the German variety of tarragon called estragon which is used all over the globe for cooking purposes, like infusing different types of vinegar, making a French remedial sweet-flavored tea effective for treating insomnia, and of course to flavor up soups, salads, meats, broths, and pickles. Now unlike the sweet aroma of the German tarragon, the Russian tarragon is bitter to taste and hardly fragrant at all! So what do you do when you have run out of it and just do not have the time to run to the grocery store and get it? Well, in such culinary exigencies, opt for these tarragon alternatives which work equally well.
Parsley + Cinnamon Powder
Bearnaise Sauce
This substitute to Tarragon can be used in French Sauce, Béarnaise
Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 tablespoon

To be Replaced with: ½ a teaspoon of parsley + ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon powder + ¼ cup of water

Procedure: Heat the water. Put the spices into the hot water. Once a steady simmer sets in, take the pan off the heat source. Remember, do not let the water boil, just a slight simmer is fine.

Keep in Mind: Use it for salad dressings, soups, or the famous French sauce béarnaise
Tagetes (Mexican Tarragon)
Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes)
Mexican Tarragon is also used to brew tea which is used for medicinal purposes in Mexico.
Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 teaspoon

To be Replaced with: 1 teaspoon of tagetes (dubbed Mexican tarragon)

Keep in Mind: Tagetes, also called Mexican mint marigold, are very similar to German tarragon, if only a tad sweeter. It is widely available in southern parts of the US, where the hot, humid climate limits the growth of the original tarragon.
Angelica
Angelica Plant
Not only for flavoring, but Angelica is used to make traditional musical instrument in Lapland.
Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 teaspoon

To be Replaced with: 1 teaspoon of angelica

Keep in Mind: This parsley family member which is used primarily for flavoring liqueurs, making candies, desserts, and for cake décor, is a grand substitute for tarragon.
Dried Tarragon
Ground Fennel Seed
In many parts of India, roasted fennel seeds are eaten as after-meal digestive and mouth freshener.
Ingredient called for: Dried tarragon

Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 teaspoon

To be Replaced with: A dash of ground fennel seed

Keep in Mind: Increase the amount if you want a stronger and sweeter effect.
Fresh Tarragon
Ground Fennel Seeds
Fennel seed oil is used to relieve cough, bronchitis and as a massage oil to cure joint pains.
Ingredient called for: Fresh tarragon

Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 tablespoon

To be Replaced with: A dash of ground fennel seed

Keep in Mind: Increase the amount if you want a stronger and sweeter effect.
Aniseed
Aniseed
Anise has an anethole-like odor and sweet "licorice-like" aromatic taste.
Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 teaspoon

To be Replaced with: ½ a teaspoon of aniseed

Keep in Mind: This works well as a replacement because tarragon is very anise-like in nature. First use ½ the amount of aniseed and then add more if you want a more accentuated flavor.
Chervil
Chervil Twigs
Because of its delicate flavor, Chervil is usually included in soups and salads.
Ingredient called for: Fresh tarragon

Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 teaspoon

To be Replaced with: ½ a teaspoon of chervil

Keep in Mind: Try the same trick with chervil. Start with half the amount and then add more if you want an accentuated flavor.
Marjoram
Marjoram
Marjoram is also used in skin cream, body lotions, shaving gel and bath soaps.
Ingredient called for: Dried tarragon

Quantity of Tarragon Required: 1 teaspoon

To be Replaced with: 1 teaspoon of marjoram

Keep in Mind: Marjoram does a splendid job as a tarragon fill-in, given its natural licorice taste. However, if you are using it for mild egg preparations, chicken, salmon, turkey, or cheese dishes, begin with ½ a teaspoon of marjoram and then use more, if required.
Advertisement
There are suggestions of using an equal amount of thyme, dill, or rosemary instead of tarragon, but personally, I feel that they would change the taste of the dish, even though that doesn't mean they will ruin it. Using oregano instead of dried tarragon and basil to sub for fresh tarragon will give the dish a flavor which will be way stronger than that of tarragon, so using it depends on your judgment really.
Tarragon also happens to be one of the four non-resinous constituents of the French fines herbes, the other three being chervil, chives, and parsley. So, one has all the reasons to use this herb to add that French touch to fish, meat, and salad recipes, especially now that a research team from the European Union has proven it to be a fact that the natural compound 'estragole' present in tarragon is cancerous only for rats and not for humans, even when consumed a thousand times more than normal. After all, you cannot make sauces béarnaise, Béchamel, Hollandaise, or tartare and not use tarragon. So, here is something else you can do. Freeze fresh tarragon when you can lay your hands on it. That way you will be able to make the most of it even when it is not locally available. Here is how you can do it.
Freezing Fresh Tarragon
☛ Begin by collecting enough fresh sprigs of tarragon to fill up a large Ziploc bag.
☛ Do not bother separating the leaves from the stems. They will fall off on their own.
☛ Next, wash the sprigs thoroughly in a salad spinner and let them spin-dry.
☛ Once all the moisture has vaporized, stuff the sprigs into the Ziploc bag.
☛ Keep the Ziploc bag open and let it stand on the kitchen counter undisturbed for a minimum of 5 hours.
☛ After that, you will need to squeeze out all the air from the bag, seal it shut, and place it in the freezer.
☛ After exactly 4 days, remove it from the freezer and pour the contents of the bag into a bowl.
☛ You will see that the leaves have separated from the stems. Just pluck the few that have not fallen off.
☛ You can store the leaves in a clean glass jar with a tight lid.
☛ Keep the jar in the freezer and use the herb when necessary.

Tarragon in itself has a very fine aroma which often reminds me of the typical smell of a pipe that has been recently used for smoking. It has a rather unique smell of its own. But, you can try to successfully replicate the aroma to a great extent with the tarragon substitutes mentioned above. Also, I would greatly appreciate anybody who can share some other tarragon alternatives that they may have stumbled upon. After all, cooking is a science where inventions are a daily affair!