The Best Substitutes for Tarragon

Fresh tarragon leaves.
Fresh tarragon leaves to flavor your sauce.

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Most often used for making vinegar, pickles, and sauces, tarragon has a unique licorice-like flavor that also pairs well with meats, stews, and eggs. This herb adds a lot of flavor to dishes without impacting their nutritional profile.

You can easily find dried tarragon leaves in the herb and spice section of your grocery store. Some stores may even carry fresh tarragon. However, because of its unique flavor and uses, tarragon may not be part of your home spice rack. Or, maybe you used your last bit of tarragon to make a special batch of relish. 

Though tarragon has a unique flavor, there are other herbs you can use in its place. This is especially important if you are unable to use the spice for some other reason such as allergies.

What is Tarragon?

Tarragon is a perennial shrub that grows wild throughout the United States and many parts of the world. Though you may find it on the shelves of your grocery store as tarragon, this herb goes by many names including estragon, dragon wormwood, and green sagewort.

In the plant world, tarragon is known as Artemisia dracunculus, which comes from the Latin word dracunculus or small dragon. The species name describes the shape of the tarragon leaves, which resemble dragon tongues.  

Though found all over the U.S., tarragon is a key ingredient in classic French cuisine. Specifically in Bearnaise sauce, which is a more complex version of hollandaise sauce. 

When using the herb, it’s important to know that it has a strong licorice-like flavor and may overwhelm a dish if not used in moderation. A little goes a long way when it comes to tarragon. 

Tarragon is available dried or fresh. The dried herb also contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin A, calcium, and potassium, but not in very high amounts. Though not a significant source of any specific nutrient, researchers note that the components of the herb have antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. 

Tarragon Nutrition Facts

Tarragon is not a significant source of any essential nutrients. The following nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (1.8 grams) of dried tarragon leaves is from the USDA.

  • Calories: 5
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 1.12mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.9g
  • Fiber: 0.113g
  • Sugars: 0
  • Protein: 0.41g

Why You Need a Tarragon Substitute

There are many reasons you may need a tarragon substitute. Though readily available, tarragon may not be a staple ingredient in your day-to-day cooking and may not be something you have in your kitchen cupboard. 

If you are making a recipe that calls for tarragon, you may need to find some other option if going to the store is out of the question. You may also need to substitute tarragon in a recipe if you have an intolerance or allergy to the herb. Though allergies to herbs and spices are rare, you can have a nonallergic reaction to tarragon.

For example, if you have a weed-related allergy, fresh tarragon may trigger a cough. Whether you are out or need to avoid the herb for health reasons, it is always good to know what you can use in place of tarragon. 

Best Substitutes for Tarragon

If your recipe calls for tarragon, but you find that you are out or your market does not carry this spice, there are a few options that you can try. Here are some spices you could substitute in place of tarragon.

Chervil

Chervil is a leafy herb also popular in French cuisine. Chervil has a licorice-like flavor but has a more mild flavor than tarragon so it may not be as overpowering. This leafy herb also tastes a bit like parsley.

You may use chervil to make a vinaigrette or add flavor to roasted fish or scrambled eggs. This herb is also useful for making herbed butter or sauce. 

Fennel

Fennel is an herb and a vegetable. For flavoring, you can use the leaves, stems, or seeds of the fennel plant. This tarragon substitute also has a strong licorice flavor. When using fennel in place of tarragon, use a pinch instead of a tablespoon. 

Like tarragon, fennel seed is not a significant source of nutrients. It also has a sweeter flavor and is one of the ingredients used in chai tea

Anise 

Anise, or aniseed, also makes a good substitute for tarragon. Though an herb, anise is the dried fruit from the Pimenta officinalis Lindl plant, which is part of the parsley family of herbs. Like fennel, anise has a strong licorice flavor. When substituting anise for tarragon use a pinch in place of 1 tablespoon. 

Anise is a versatile spice used in savory and sweet dishes. You may use this sweet spice to make Italian cookies or even a meat rub. The licorice-flavored spice also works as a good substitute for tarragon in Bernaise sauce. 

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to finding a substitute for tarragon, there are several spice options that can easily come to the rescue when you are out, cannot find it at the market, or cannot use it due to an allergy. Alone or in combination, options like anise, chervil, and fennel bring much-needed flavor to both meat and egg dishes, as well as sauces, butter, and even desserts.

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8 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.
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  2. Groen A. USDA, Fire Effects Information System. Species: Artemisia dracunculus.

  3. FoodPrint, Real Food Encyclopedia. Tarragon.

  4. USDA, FoodData Central. Spices, tarragon, dried. Updated April 1, 2019.

  5. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Can spices cause allergic reactions? Updated September 28, 2020.

  6. University of Illinois Extension, Herb Gardening. Chervil.

  7. University of Illinois Extension, Herb Gardening. Fennel.

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