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What To Substitute For Parsley


Parsley is often used as a beautiful, bright green garnish or in Italian pasta recipes. Below you’ll find a substitute for parsley list that you can use when you don’t have this flavorful spice available.

If you’re trying out more French and Italian cuisine lately, you’re sure to see this herb appear pretty often.

white bowl with dried green herbs and glass jar with name Parsley

What is Parsley?

Parsley is an herb that originates from Europe and Western Asia. It has been used worldwide for different purposes, from wreaths/garnishes to medicine and now as an edible herb.

Parsley’s name comes from the word petrose (a Greek word), which means rock, as this herb commonly grows in rocky areas in Greece. This herb has been used for over 2000 years for its different purposes. Now, most people use parsley for culinary reasons and its available vitamins and minerals. It offers a clean, subtle flavor to any dish that it is included in.

Curly Leaf Parsley Vs. Flat Leaf Parsley

There are two varieties of parsley that are most often used in the kitchen, curly-leaf parsley and flat-leaf parsley (known as Italian parsley). There are a few differences you’ll find between the two – appearance and taste.

Curly parsley has a ruffled and condensed look, while Italian parsley has flat leaves and appears more spread out. Italian parsley has a richer flavor which is why it is most often used in cooking. Curly parsley has a more mild flavor and is most often used as a garnish.

Parsley Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Chervil

Chervil is an excellent substitute for parsley. It has a very similar flavor to parsley though it is more subtle and has a licorice-like taste. Chervil also looks very much like parsley, though it has a lighter green color and curlier leaves. It is also referred to as French parsley and is commonly used in French dishes.

Pros:

  • The taste and appearance are both very similar to parsley so that it can be interchanged quite easily.

Cons:

  • You’ll need to use more chervil than parsley because it has a more subtle flavor. Start with 1.5x the amount called for in your recipe and then increase if needed.
  • Since Chervil is not commonly used in recipes, it could be a little tricky to find it at the stores.

Cooking Tips:

Don’t cook with chervil that has flowers, as this means the herb is no longer suitable to use. Add it in last, so the flavor does not disappear while cooking.

2. Tarragon

Tarragon is known for its presence in French cuisine. It is part of the herb mix “fines herbes,” including parsley, chervil, and chives. It presents a sweet, bitter, and licorice-like taste. Use it in small amounts due to the difference in flavor between tarragon and parsley.

Pros:

  • Tarragon works well in French dishes.
  • If you’re using any of the other herbs in the “fines herbes” mixture, it will compliment them well.
  • It can be used both as a fresh herb and as a dried herb in dishes.

Cons:

  • It works best as parsley substitution as a dried herb. If you have a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, this is not the ideal alternative. The taste is different than parsley, so it’s not an exact match flavor-wise.

Cooking Tips:

If using it as a fresh herb, opt to keep it as a garnish instead of a recipe ingredient. Use a small amount when cooking with the dried version.

3. Chives

Chives are an excellent replacement for parsley. Their taste is very close to that of onions, and as a fresh herb, they present a similar bright green color. They have a pretty subtle flavor and are not tied to dishes of any particular region or country.

Pros:

  • Chives can be used as a dry or fresh herb. It has a versatile flavor, so it can be substituted in nearly all recipes that request parsley.
  • They are high in nutrients and contain essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Chives are usually quite easy to find in your local stores – in both forms.

Cons:

  • Chives do not have an exact flavor match, so they will not provide the same taste as parsley in recipes.
  • While they provide a similar color, the appearance is different. Chives look like a smaller version of green onions.

Cooking Tips:

Add in chives slowly as they will change the flavor of the dish. Use chives as a garnish for the same green color.

4. Oregano

Oregano is used frequently as a dried herb and complements Greek and Italian foods the best. It works well as a dried parsley substitute if you’re looking to add flavor to dishes. Fresh oregano can be found in stores as well and adds a pop of green color to meals. Oregano is related to mint, so it does have a more robust spicy and peppery flavor. It provides an earthy taste as well, which is commonly supplied by parsley.

Pros:

  • Oregano is a tasty herb that provides excellent flavor to dishes it is incorporated in.
  • It’s easy to find the dried and fresh version in retail stores. The fresh version is typically in the same area where organic vegetables are kept.

Cons:

  • It does not work as well with foods that don’t have a Mediterranean influence.
  • It has a strong flavor that tastes quite different from parsley, so only a small amount is needed.

Cooking Tips:

Use a small amount of sauce to test the flavor of oregano to ensure it meshes well with the recipe. Include oregano in salads, meat seasonings, and pasta dishes.

5. Cilantro

Cilantro can be used as a substitute for fresh parsley. It has an appearance that closely resembles Italian parsley in its fresh state. Cilantro is used most often in Thai and Mexican food due to its intense flavor. You can use fresh or dried cilantro in your dishes. It has a citrus and pepper flavor that comes through strongly in food. Cilantro provides excellent nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K.

Pros:

  • With a similar appearance, a cilantro is an excellent option for a garnish instead of parsley.
  • It provides a great punch of flavor to any dish that it is added to.

Cons:

  • The flavor is strong and quite different from parsley, so it migth not be a perfect match.
  • It works best with dishes that have a Thai or Mexican influence.

Cooking Tips:

Use cilantro for dishes that include fish – it complements the flavor nicely. Opt for a smaller amount of cilantro in dishes – a handful is usually sufficient.

6. Arugula

Arugula is an excellent swap as it provides a similar peppery flavor. This green is not an herb like parsley; it is a salad green (like lettuce). You’ll find arugula to have a more bitter taste than parsley, so you may want to use it in smaller quantities unless you highly enjoy the flavor.

The leaves are much larger than the leaves of parsley. To create a similar texture in dishes, you can finely chop arugula to present a closer size. You can use arugula in all dishes that require parsley.

Pros:

  • With a similar flavor, it’s easy to replace parsley with arugula. This salad green offers the same peppery taste.
  • It’s also easy to find in grocery stores in the vegetable section.

Cons:

  • The flavor is slightly different when using arugula instead of parsley. If you add too much to a dish, the bitter taste may be unappealing.
  • Using arugula as a sub requires more work as you’ll need to chop it into small pieces.

Cooking Tips:

Use arugula in a 1:1 ratio when swapping it for parsley. You can also use arugula as a garnish for meats like steak, poultry, and fish.

7. Basil

Basil is another herb that you can use in place of parsley. It offers a vibrant, sweet flavor to dishes in place of parsley. Like parsley, basil provides a peppery taste. However, it also provides a licorice and mint flavor. Because of this flavor combination, it is best to use this swap only in Italian cuisine.

Since dried basil has a more pungent taste, you will want to use this replacement fresh. If using basil dried, opt for 1/3 the required amount. This herb is easily accessible – many people grow it in their herb gardens or their kitchens.

Ideal basil meals include pasta dishes, salad dressings, pizza, and even a garnish for alcoholic beverages. It’s quite a versatile herb if you stay within the Italian-inspired food realm.

Pros:

  • Basil is easy to find in stores or, you may already have some in your home.
  • It provides a peppery taste to dishes and works excellently with Italian recipes in place of parsley.

Cons:

  • You’ll find basil does not work with all recipes because of the multitude of flavor notes it offers.
  • It’s limited to Italian-inspired meals when replacing parsley.

Cooking Tips:

Use ½ of the required amount of this herb when using it as a swap for parsley. Try adding basil leaves to summery gin cocktails for a pop of flavor.

8. Carrot Greens

You’re likely familiar with using the carrot itself in salads, stews, soups, and more. However, you can use carrot greens in cooking as well. These greens offer a pop of green color to any dish. Use them as a garnish in place of parsley.
Carrot greens are sweet and earthy with a parsley-like flavor. The taste of carrot greens is similar to that of carrots (not surprisingly). You’ll also find these greens to offer a bitter flavor (similar to basil leaves). Because of this, you will want to use less than the recipe requires.
You can find carrot greens by heading to a nearby farmer’s market. Or, if you grow carrots in your garden, you’ll already have them available.

Pros:

  • Carrot greens are easy to find and have a similar taste to parsley.
  • They brighten up any dish with a pop of green color when you use them as a garnish.

Cons:

  • It’s easy to add too much carrot greens to dishes, which can make the meal unappealing.
  • You should not use carrot greens for cooking, which limits the available recipes.

Cooking Tips:

Use ½ the required amount when using this swap. Always rinse carrot greens (and vegetables) well before use to avoid dirt and bacteria in dishes.

9. Celery Leaves

Since you can use carrot greens as a replacement, it only makes sense also to use celery leaves as a substitute. The inside leaves offer a mild taste and make an excellent garnish for meats, soups, salads, and more. In comparison, the outside leaves have a bolder flavor.
Use the outer leaves in cooked recipes like soups and sauces. These leaves provide a more robust flavor and have a tougher texture. To use these, you’ll need to blend them before including them in recipes. Otherwise, they will be too tough to consume. Do not use the outer leaves in salads.
As you may have guessed, the flavor of celery leaves has a strong celery flavor and can also be bitter in large doses. Use less than the recipe calls for when using this swap.

Pros:

  • Celery leaves are easy to find – you may already have some celery in your fridge from which you can pluck some leaves for soup or a garnish.
  • They add bright green color and fresh taste to dishes.

Cons:

  • There is a taste difference when you use celery leaves as a swap. Expect a celery taste in your recipes; avoid this swap if you do not enjoy this flavor. Too many celery leaf pieces yield a bitter taste.

Cooking Tips:

When using as a garnish, use a 1:1 ratio of the inner celery leaves.
Use ½ the required amount of outer celery leaves to replace parsley in cooked recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of flavor does parsley add?

Parsley is often described as earthy and peppery. Expect these flavors to show up in your dishes when including this herb.

What can I use instead of parsley in parsley sauce?

Your best option for a parsley alternative in parsley sauce is chervil. It has the most similar taste and can easily be swapped for parsley.

Is parsley similar to basil?

Parsley and basil do carry some similarities. They both can be purchased dried and as fresh herbs and provide a bright green color when fresh. Basil can be used as a substitute, though it has a strong flavor; only use it in Italian dishes.

Is parsley just a garnish?

No, parsley is not just a garnish. This is a common misconception because it is so often used as a garnish. It works well in salads, soups, pasta, and many other dishes.

Summary

If you’re digging for parsley in your spice drawer and can’t seem to find it, try one of the substitutes for parsley above. They will add a new twist to your dishes, and most will provide a bright green color for extra flair.

Start with chervil as your first choice for a substitution, then shift down the list according to the cuisine style you are creating. All these options and alternatives will allow you to swap parsley out for a different herb seamlessly.

Recipes with Parsely

Salmon Frittata with Cream Cheese

two slices of Salmon Frittata with Cream Cheese on a white plate

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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