Running out of ingredients happens to the best of us! If you’re looking for a rosemary substitute rather than a last-minute trip to the grocery store, I’m happy to recommend a few flavorful options to consider.
I’m not gonna lie. Rosemary is near and dear to my heart, so suggesting a swap almost seems like sacrilege in my world.
When I was growing up, my grandfather always made his garlic and rosemary-infused specialty, “Grandpop’s Chicken” especially for me. The flavors complement each other so well.
Because of my love for this dish, I cannot imagine using a rosemary substitute here instead.
My heart tells me to urge you to ALWAYS keep rosemary on hand, whether dried seasoning or fresh, even a rosemary plant.
Of course, if you wanted a trip to the grocery store or better yet the garden center, you wouldn’t be here reading my post, now, would you?
So, I do recognize, a time may come when a substitute for rosemary is necessary!
I’ve pulled together my best rosemary substitute ideas to share with you, but first, let’s learn more about rosemary. (Or simply scroll a bit to get to the substitutions!)
What Is Rosemary and How Is It Used?
Rosemary is a versatile perennial herb that livens up many dishes from entrees to appetizers and almost everything in between.
Especially popular in Mediterranean dishes, Italian and French cuisines tend to use rosemary quite a bit, along with many other western countries like the United States.
Rosemary is featured in the French seasoning blends, herbes de provence and sometimes in bouquet garni. This “garnished bouquet” is essentially a lovely bunch of herbs tied together or held in cheesecloth for flavoring a dish.
The culinary herb rosemary is useful in many forms:
- Minced or chopped as a seasoning or spice
- Whole as a sprig, as with a roast or whole bird
- Individual whole rosemary leaves in dipping oil or marinade
What Is the Scientific Name for Rosemary?
Salvia Rosmarinus is the scientific name for rosemary. This delightfully flavorful herb boasts a truly aromatic fragrance to liven up your menu and your living spaces.
As part of the Lamiaceae family (or mint, dead nettle and sage family), rosemary is in good company with additional culinary herbs such as thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, savory and lavender, among others.
What Is Rosemary Good for in Cooking?
Rosemary is a delicious culinary herb that goes well with chicken and poultry, potatoes and veggies, marinades, soups, pork, lamb, fish, steak, and more.
Personally, rosemary reminds me of Italian food. I love it in my Grandpop’s Chicken and on some nice rosemary potatoes.
Rosemary is a wonderful companion to garlic in a meal and it pairs nicely with other herbs, too.
What Does Rosemary Smell Like?
Rosemary smells like evergreen—clean, fragrant and much like pine.
To get a good smell of rosemary, simply pinch or rub a rosemary leaf. The oils release and the aromatic scent is unmistakable.
The fragrances of rosemary and garlic together are just out of this world!
What Does Rosemary Taste Like?
Rosemary tastes like a blend of pine and lemon. The pungent herb adds an ever-so-slightly minty note with more of a focus on bringing a bit of evergreen to your kitchen.
Rosemary also carries notes of sage and pepper. When eating a rosemary leaf by itself, you may notice a slightly bitter taste at the finish.
When paired with garlic and other herbs, the flavors mingle and play nicely together, resulting in a complex dish that gives a grateful nod to each layered ingredient.
Finding a Suitable Rosemary Substitute
Have you just discovered you’re all out of dried or fresh (or both) and you need a rosemary replacement stat?!
If that’s the case, take some time to think about your dish and this awesome herb in general so you can choose the best substitute for rosemary.
Depending on what you’re making, you may find there’s no perfect substitute for rosemary. If that’s the case, off to the store you go!
But hopefully you can find just the right herb to do the trick in a pinch!
What Is a Good Rosemary Substitute?
Deciding upon a good substitute for rosemary generally comes down to considering the role of rosemary and what foods you’re cooking.
Rosemary’s rich flavor tends to stand out in a dish, but also pairs well with other seasonings, blending to a delicious finish.
Keep this in mind as you look for the best rosemary replacement.
Substitute Dried Rosemary for Fresh (and Vice Versa)
Beyond a doubt the easiest solution, you can substitute dried rosemary for fresh and yield similar results. It’s the same herb, after all.
Of course, there are things to be said for the aromatic oils that release from fresh rosemary when you mince it for a marinade or right before cooking.
Are those oils and that rich fragrance worth a trip to the grocery store if you have dried rosemary seasoning in your cabinet? You be the judge.
Ratio for Substituting Dried Rosemary for Fresh
When you substitute dried rosemary for fresh, start with a replacement ratio of one teaspoon dried for each tablespoon of fresh in the recipe.
Most sources suggest dried herbs contain more potent flavors as the oils are more concentrated in dried rosemary and such. I am not sure if I truly agree, as I’ve grown up loving fresh rosemary my entire life.
My best advice is to do the taste test. The best conversion from fresh rosemary to dried may become obvious the more you taste as you go, if possible. (Understanding this is not possible with raw meats. You can use the sniff test, too!)
You can start with one teaspoon per tablespoon as recommended and simply add more if you believe the recipe needs it.
Swapping Fresh Rosemary for Dried
Likewise, if your recipe calls for dried rosemary and you only have fresh on hand, you’re still golden!
Start your swap with the same logic as above. Replace the dried rosemary at the rate of one tablespoon fresh rosemary for each teaspoon of dried spice in the recipe.
Other Herbs Like Rosemary
If you don’t have fresh or dried rosemary at your disposal for an easy swap, you can generally find other culinary herbs to get the job done. (Keep in mind all flavors are not created equal.)
It mostly comes down to how much of a rosemary purist you are!
Consider these rosemary substitutions:
Check your spice cabinet when choosing a substitute for dried rosemary, because that little bottle of Italian seasoning might just save the day!
Most times, Italian seasoning contains a mix of rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, and marjoram. (Or at least most of those!)
If all of these flavors play nicely with what you’re making, you might’ve just saved dinner!
Also boasting a flavor that’s beloved in Italian cuisine, oregano works well as a substitute for fresh rosemary.
Oregano keeps that Italian vibe alive and the richness of the flavor adds to the recipe.
By the way, you may be interested in my post on Oregano Substitute Ideas, as well!
Similarly loved for its aromatic fragrance, basil makes another nice choice for a substitute for rosemary leaves or minced rosemary. You can cut the basil leaves into strips that resemble the rosemary needles if necessary for appearance.
However, do remember that basil doesn’t withstand long cooking times, so you’ll likely want to add it further toward the end of the cooking time.
Keep in mind rosemary, basil, and oregano are not identical herbs, so you will very likely notice a difference from your usual recipe.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Able to withstand long cooking times, thyme can work in a pinch as a suitable rosemary substitute.
Knowing it won’t be quite the same, use fresh or dried thyme to replace rosemary when you don’t have any on hand.
Remember that thyme’s mild flavor won’t be a direct swap for the rich and pungent rosemary. But at least it gets the job done with a complementary flavor and saves you from a trip out during meal prep time.
Sprigs of thyme make for a lovely garnish if you’re needing a replacement like that. Just saying!
Tarragon’s robust flavor lends itself to dishes as a rosemary alternative.
Be warned that this strong taste of French tarragon is akin to anise. If you aren’t a fan of black licorice and anise, you may wish to skip this one as a rosemary substitution.
Otherwise, it can be a good swap, particularly in dishes with fish or poultry, seafood, soup, and more.
In the same family as rosemary, sage can also work as an alternative. Unlike thyme, sage does have a stronger taste and can change the outcome of a dish.
Start with the less-is-more approach. Replace rosemary with sage at the rate of ½ what the recipe calls for.
You can always add more fresh or dried sage as needed.
The peppery taste of savory herb would lend itself well to a rosemary substitution.
You can use sweet and spicy summer savory for a light approach or the more potent, earthy and bitter flavors of winter savory to complete your dish.
If cooking time is an issue, choose summer savory to withstand temperatures for a longer time.
Also from the mint family, marjoram brings hints of pine and citrus to the table. For this reason, marjoram would make a fine rosemary substitute in many cases.
Closely related to oregano, it makes sense that marjoram would also make a good substitute for rosemary.
Sometimes, There’s No Rosemary Substitute!
As you’re looking for replacements, keep in mind sometimes there is no good substitute for rosemary. This is often the case when rosemary is the signature flavor of the dish!
You’ve just gotta have it.
This is the case with my Grandpop’s Chicken.
I believe it’s also the case with a ridiculously delicious rosemary garlic dipping oil my dad and I enjoyed with homemade bread at a restaurant recently.
So, before you make a swap and choose a rosemary alternative, take pause and clearly think about whether the dish stands on its own without that outstanding rosemary flavor.
I don’t want you to be disappointed, so this step is very important! Be honest!
Take the 15 minutes to run to the store or send your significant other or spouse to buy rosemary.
Sometimes you just can’t beat the real thing.
As you try to choose a rosemary replacement, keep in mind that different other ingredients in the meal may help give you clues on what to use.
- Chicken – A good rosemary substitute for chicken can range from Italian seasoning to basil or sage. Thyme also works very well with poultry, but just doesn’t pack the same punch of flavor and fragrance as rosemary.
- Lamb – Consider peppermint, thyme, and bay leaf as suitable substitutes for rosemary in dishes containing lamb.
- Potatoes – Rosemary potatoes are so good! Still, you can swap other ingredients like parsley or thyme to add a bit of green and a mild flavor to the dish.
- Steak – Choose thyme as a rosemary substitute when making steak. The milder flavor will let the taste of the steak shine through.
- Soup – Parsley and thyme can elevate the taste of your soup, even if you don’t have any rosemary available for use.
- Fish – Rubbed sage makes a fine flavoring for fresh fish, such as grilled salmon.
- Mushrooms – When cooking with mushrooms, choose marjoram as a rosemary substitute. The flavors work so well together and you can just add more marjoram if the recipe already requires it.
Final Thoughts: Best Rosemary Substitute Ideas
Instead of rosemary, try any of the above substitutions based on your flavor preferences for the dish you’re cooking.
My personal preference is to always have rosemary on hand. I accomplish this by caring for my own rosemary plant and keeping dried rosemary seasoning in the spice rack in my cabinet.
As a perennial shrub, rosemary is generally hardy in zones 7 to 10. Here in zone 6 where we live, you can try your luck leaving it outside or bring rosemary inside to overwinter.
I cannot recommend enough getting your own rosemary plant to enjoy in the kitchen!
Now you have some rosemary substitute ideas and you know where I stand on getting yourself a little plant to care for and love!
Let’s chat in the comments about the dishes you’re making and how much you’re loving your rosemary and any rosemary substitutions!