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Best Thyme Substitute


Are you looking for the best thyme substitute because you can’t find this spice on your spice rack? This delicious herb enhances the flavor of many recipes, including soups, stews, marinades, vegetable dishes, and even sweet recipes on occasion. This robust herb is a staple in many kitchens. A few different herbs can be used as substitutes for thyme in recipes.

dried brown spice inside glass jar labeled "thyme"

What Is Thyme?

Thyme is part of the Lamiaceae group (mint family) related to oregano. This tasty seasoning has been used for thousands of years for various uses, including medicinal and culinary. This herb originated in the Mediterranean. Though now it is grown worldwide, including in the US.

This herb has small, green leaves on its stem when purchased fresh. You can also find it as a dried version in the store. Thyme has a peppery heat that it brings to dishes. It’s well-known for its inclusion in herbes de Provence blends.

This flavor enhancer is used in many cuisines like Italian dishes and French meals. There are even some teas that use thyme leaves for flavoring.

Thyme Varieties

There are multiple varieties of thyme, though Thymus Vulgaris, aka Common Thyme, is the most widely available in the US. Another known type is lemon thyme which offers a citrusy scent to dishes. Additional types include caraway thyme and broadleaf English thyme.

Thyme Substitute Options

Fresh Thyme

Fresh thyme is the best dried thyme substitute as it provides the same minty, earthy flavor in recipes. It has a more subtle flavor than the dried version, so you’ll need to use a larger quantity in dishes.

Pros
Use fresh thyme for any recipes that call for dried thyme.

Cons
If you add fresh thyme in too early, it can cause the flavor to be ruined. Finding fresh thyme at the grocery store may be challenging if it’s out of season. It also requires more prep work than dried thyme, as you will need to pull off the tiny leaves from the stems before use.

Cooking Tip:
Use one tablespoon of fresh thyme for every teaspoon of dried thyme.

Fresh Basil

This herb is part of the same plant family as thyme – the mint family. This connection means it will offer similar flavor notes in recipes.

Pros
This fresh herb is generally easy to find in grocery stores, especially during summertime. Using fresh basil provides a pop of green to recipes.

Cons
If you add fresh basil to a cooked recipe too early, it will lose its flavor. Though, you can use this thyme substitute for both cooked and raw dishes. Basil also offers a licorice taste which may be a turn-off to some if you are not a fan of these flavors.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace fresh basil with fresh thyme.

Dried Basil

Like fresh basil, dried basil will provide a minty, lightly sweet taste in recipes.

Pros
Use this herb for Italian- based recipes, specifically any recipe that is tomato-based, like marinara or pizza sauce. The dried version works best for slow cooking recipes as the flavor becomes more apparent the longer it cooks.

Cons
Dried basil has a more robust flavor than fresh basil, so you will need to use a smaller quantity to avoid overpowering the dish. Avoid this swap if your dinner guests do not enjoy the taste of licorice in dishes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace dried thyme with dried basil.

Fresh Oregano

Oregano shares the same peppery, earthy, minty taste as thyme. However, it does have additional flavor notes, like a slight spiciness. This is an excellent substitute for fresh thyme.

Pros
Use this replacement for thyme in Greek dishes to add a similar green color.

Cons
Fresh oregano is challenging to find out of season. Its uses as a thyme substitute are limited.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to swap fresh oregano for fresh thyme. Use a 2:1 ratio when replacing dried thyme with fresh oregano.

Dried Oregano

Dried oregano is more versatile than fresh oregano. You can use this thyme replacement in Mexican, Italian, Turkish, and Greek dishes.

Pros
This variety of oregano is much easier to find at grocery stores, and it’s available year-round in the spice aisle.

Cons
This herb has a more robust flavor than thyme, making it easy to overpower the other flavors in a recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Start with ½ the amount required and add more slowly if necessary. When replacing dried thyme, use a 1:1 ratio.

Fresh Marjoram

This herb is another option that hails from the same family, offering similar flavors in recipes. Expect a minty, citrusy, woody taste when using fresh marjoram. This herb also has a sweet taste, while thyme is slightly bitter.

Pros
Use fresh marjoram in meat dishes and as a bouquet garni for soups and sauces. Other recipes which work well with marjoram include tomato-based dishes, poultry, and fish dishes.

Cons
The flavor is subtle, so it may require a larger amount, depending on the recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Start with a 1:1 ratio, then add more as needed.

Summer Savory

Summer savory provides its own unique flavor in the recipe that is spicy, peppery, and piney. Even though the taste is strong, it will not overpower dishes that include more subtle seasoning.

Pros
This herb works well for stuffings and most recipes that call for thyme. It’s also one of the ingredients in herbes de Provence, so you know it will blend well with any herbs also found in the spice blend.

Cons
This herb is challenging to find in stores. Likely, it will need to be ordered online.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio if you’re replacing fresh thyme with fresh summer savory or dried thyme with dried summer savory. Otherwise, a 2:1 ratio for fresh savory to dried thyme is acceptable.

Fresh Herbs

If you have extra fresh herbs in the fridge that need to be used up or in an herb garden, using fresh herbs as a substitute for thyme is an excellent option.

Pros
This herb is a budget-friendly option as you already have the replacements. If one of the listed dried herbs is available in your drawer, you can use the recommended quantity.

Cons
It requires some kitchen experimentation or research time to discern which fresh herbs are suitable for your intended recipe. The flavor will be noticeably different when using random herbs unless you have one of the above options on hand, like oregano or basil.

Cooking Tip:
The quantity will vary depending on which herbs you use. Start with ½ the amount required and adjust as needed.

Sage

Sage is an herb that is commonly grouped with thyme. This note means that sage pairs well with most other seasonings in thyme recipes. Sage offers a piney, warm, spicy flavor. It is common to taste this flavor during winter holidays, as it’s a typical ingredient in holiday dishes.

Pros
Use this herb for seasoning poultry, sausages, and stuffing.

Cons
It’s less likely to find fresh sage at grocery stores, so the dried sage is the best option. If you have fresh sage in your garden, you can use double the required amount for recipes. It’s easy to overpower recipes with sage; ensure you start with a smaller amount first.

Cooking Tip:
Start with ½ the required amount and add more slowly if needed.

Poultry Seasoning

Poultry seasoning is another thyme alternatives containing thyme, black pepper, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage. These herbs create a nutty, peppery, piney flavor that mimics thyme’s taste.

Pros
It is an affordable option that’s easy to find on grocery shelves. Or, if you don’t have enough thyme left for your recipe, you can combine the above spices for a complex flavor.

This herb blend is more versatile than its name alludes to. You can use it to season poultry, but it’s also an excellent choice for bread, dressing, sauces, and meatloaf.

Cons
Poultry blends from different brands can have other ingredients, which may provide an unexpected flavor in recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Start with a 1:1 ratio when replacing thyme with poultry seasoning.

Herbes de Provence

As mentioned, thyme is part of the herbes de Provence blend, making this a great alternative to thyme in French recipes as you’ll still find the earthy, peppery taste present in thyme. Keep this herb in mind for savory dishes.

Herbes de Provence includes bay leaf, rosemary, basil, marjoram, tarragon, fennel, parsley, lavender flowers.

Pros
This herb blend is easily accessible and budget-friendly.

Cons
You will need to adjust the other seasoning in your recipe to account for the extra spices found in herbes de Provence.

Cooking Tip:
Start with ½ the amount required by the recipe and increase as needed.

Italian Seasoning

This spice blend also typically contains thyme, so you’ll be able to add the earthy, woody, slightly bitter taste when including Italian Seasoning into recipes. Other ingredients include rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and basil.

Pros
Italian seasoning works well with Italian-inspired recipes like pizza, marinara, seafood, roast chicken, and meatballs. This option is readily available and budget-friendly.

Cons
Some of the herbs in Italian seasoning may not blend well with your recipe, causing an unsatisfying flavor. Regardless of whether the herbs fit together or not, you’ll likely need to adjust the quantity of the other seasonings.

Cooking Tip:
Start with ½ the required quantity and add more slowly as needed.

Za-atar

Za-atar is another seasoning blend that uses marjoram, thyme, oregano, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds to create a unique flavor in dishes. This swap offers a citrusy, nutty, bold, and strong flavor.

Pros
Use Za’atar for Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Other uses include seasoning vegetables, eggs, and salads.

Cons
This spice blend is another swap where the ingredients vary depending on the brand. As noted, this can create an unexpected flavor in recipes. Some za’atar mixes are incredibly salty, so it is a good idea to alter any other salt present in the recipe to avoid an unpleasant taste.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing dried thyme with za’atar.

Dried Herbs

Dried herbs are one of the best thyme substitutes as you’ll already have these options on hand.

Pros
This swap is a budget-friendly option. Depending on what herbs you have available, you will be able to create additional recipes and customize the flavor of your dish.

Cons
As most dried herbs have a more robust flavor, you must be careful not to use as much in recipes as this can overpower the flavor. You’ll need to experiment to find the correct quantity in dishes, which will add time and steps to your meal.

Cooking Tip:
Start with ½ the required amount and add more if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Thyme Tastes Like?

Thyme has an earthy flavor with a citrusy minty flavor. The available varieties do have different flavor notes present. However, common thyme presents the above taste in recipes.

What Can I Substitute for Thyme?

The top thyme substitutes are fresh oregano or dried oregano. This option provides most of the flavor notes present in thyme. Plus, it’s easy to find at local grocery stores.

Can I Substitute Basil for Thyme?

Yes, you can substitute basil for thyme. This herb is in the same plant family as thyme, providing similar flavor notes. However, basil has a more robust flavor, so it’s best to use this replacement in smaller quantities.

What Can I Substitute for 1 Sprig Fresh Thyme?

You can substitute dried thyme for 1 sprig of fresh thyme. This option is the most straightforward swap as you’ll need to use ½ the amount for the dried version. Plus, it provides the same flavors as fresh thyme.

Can I Substitute Sage for Thyme?

No, sage is not the best substitute for thyme. However, you can use it in some instances. Any recipe that calls for Italian seasoning or a similar blend should work well with sage. However, you can expect a noticeable flavor difference in recipes, especially with sage’s pine flavor.

Summary

If fresh thyme is available, this will be the best option as a substitute for dried thyme. Otherwise, any herbs in the same mint family, like oregano, basil, and marjoram, will provide a similar flavor in recipes and work best as thyme substitutes. If the listed herbs are not available, you can try dried or fresh herbs in a pinch.

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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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