Best Substitutes for Sage

sage on a wood cutting board

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Though sage is used in Italian, Mediterranean, and French dishes, it may not be a common ingredient in your daily cooking. During the holidays, though, sage seems to be the star of the meal. Sweet and savory, you may use this herb to enhance the flavor of your holiday turkey, stuffing, and eggs. 

If you have been put in charge of making the vegetarian stuffing or you have a craving for holiday comfort food, you may be wondering what you can use if you do not have any sage on hand. Although this herb has a unique flavor that is hard to imitate, there are substitutes you can use if you are all out, you cannot find it, or you cannot use it. Here is what you can do in a pinch.

What Is Sage?

Sage is a perennial shrub—so it grows every year—and a member of the mint family. It goes by many names, including culinary sage, garden sage, and common garden sage. 

Not to be confused with white sage (Salvia apiana), which is native to North America and sacred within Indigenous communities, native to the shores of the Mediterranean, sage means wise. The scientific name for sage—Salvia officinalis—means to be in good health or to save. Before hitting the holiday scene, sage was used as a traditional herbal remedy in Ancient Rome and Greece, as well as in traditional Chinese medicine.

Today, sage is touted as an herbal remedy for a wide range of ailments including sore throat, diabetes, and high cholesterol. However, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (NCCIM), evidence to support any health claims surrounding sage is limited.

Sage, however, packs a very powerful punch when it comes to adding flavor to food. Its piney, sweet flavor pairs well with rich meats and game, sausage, stuffing, and vegetables. Italians use sage to flavor chicken, pork, potatoes, and beans and it is the star flavor in the classic dish saltimbocca, which is meat—veal or chicken—wrapped in prosciutto and sage and marinated in wine. 

You may be able to find fresh sage in the produce section of your grocery store or the dried version in the aisle with all the other dried herbs and spices. When cooking with sage, use 1 teaspoon of dried sage for every 1 tablespoon of fresh sage in a recipe. 

Sage Nutrition Facts

A small amount of sage adds a lot of flavor to your dish. This small serving size also means it is not a significant source of nutrients.

However, sage is chock full of many essential vitamins and minerals. The nutrition information for 1 teaspoon (0.7 grams) of dry ground sage comes from the USDA. 

  • Calories: 2.2
  • Fat: 0.09g
  • Sodium: 0.077mg
  • Carbs: 0.425g
  • Sugar: 0.012g
  • Fiber: 0.282g
  • Protein: 0.074g

Though not a significant source of any vitamin or mineral, sage contains small amounts of calcium, potassium, folate, and beta carotene. 

When to Use a Sage Substitute

Unless you regularly cook Italian or Mediterranean cuisine, sage may not be an herb you keep in your kitchen cupboard. You may be searching for an alternative if you are making a savory dish that calls for the flavorful herb. Or, maybe you are unable to find sage at your grocery store.

You may also need a substitute for sage if you have an allergy to ragweed pollen. Sage is a member of the ragweed family of plants. While people with these allergies usually have symptoms when they inhale pollen, it is possible to have a reaction if you eat any pollen that might remain on the plant.  

However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), it is not the sage that is causing the allergic reaction, but the pollen that remains on the leaf of the herb. This is known as a nonallergic reaction called oral allergy syndrome, which causes symptoms like an itchy mouth or cough.

If you have an allergy to pollen and want to know if you can eat sage or not, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms. They can help you determine if sage is responsible for your symptoms.

Best Substitutes for Sage

Whether you are out of sage or want to avoid sage, there are alternative herbs you can use instead. However, because sage has a unique flavor—sweet, savory, and woody with a pinch of bitterness—it may be hard to get an exact replica of the original dish using alternative ingredients. Here are some options to try when you need an alternative.

Marjoram

Marjoram is also a member of the mint family of plants like sage and is often used to add flavor to savory dishes like meat, sausage, and stew.

This herb has a sweet and piney flavor with a hint of citrus and makes the best substitute for sage if you’re trying to recreate the same flavors as the original recipe. Use the same amount of marjoram when replacing the sage.

Thyme

Thyme is a flavorful herb used in a wide variety of dishes and a staple in most kitchens. You may not have sage or even marjoram, but you probably have thyme.

Thyme makes a good substitute for sage in meat, poultry, and fish recipes, as well as vegetable and stuffing dishes. Use the same amount of thyme as sage in your recipe. 

Poultry seasoning

Poultry seasoning contains a blend of herbs, including sage, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary, and makes a good measure-for-measure substitute for sage in your recipe. You can use it with any protein, including meat or fish, as well as poultry. This mix of herbs also works well with stuffing and vegetables.

A Word From Verywell

Sage is a flavorful herb that provides a unique flavor to savory dishes. Although it is sometimes hard to replicate its sweet, savory, and woody flavor profile, there are options that will come close. You may have to experiment somewhat to determine which herb works best in your dish. But when you are out or cannot eat sage, it is good to have some alternatives in mind.

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7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension. Sage, Salvia officinalis.

  2. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Sage.

  3. FoodPrint. RealFood Encyclopedia. Sage.

  4. USDA. FoodData Central, Spices, sage, ground.

  5. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Ragweed pollen allergy.

  6. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Can spices cause allergic reactions?.

  7. University of California, UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County. Oregano and sweet marjoram.