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Parsley Substitute


Parsley is often used as a beautiful, bright green garnish or in Italian pasta recipes. If you’re trying out more French and Italian cuisine lately, you’re sure to see this herb appear pretty often.

Below you’ll find a parsley substitute list that you can use when you don’t have this flavorful spice available.

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.

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.

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. If you can’t find any of the options above at the store, carrot greens, and celery leaves can be used as parsley substitutes. 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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