Thyme, which rhymes with “time”, is a commonplace spice used in a number of dishes of Caribbean, Regional American, Central and Latin American, African, Mediterranean, British, and European origin. It’s a worldwide spice enjoyed across different nations, in other words.
If you decide to plant thyme in your home garden, they tend or proliferate around growing months outdoors and year-round indoors.
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What is thyme?
Thyme is an herb with small leaves. The leaves grow thin stems or dusters. It’s an herb used to season a variety of dishes. You can use a bouquet of garnishes alongside other herbs like marjoram, sage, and rosemary. It can even be part of a blend for good measure.
It fits every diet. Rarely does it cause allergies. Thyme can be consumed by the majority who wishes to add taste to their dishes through the addition of fresh herbs.
Best substitutes for thyme
You can also avail of thyme substitutes like the following in case you’re running short on thyme (and time).
Here are the fresh herb substitutes for thyme.
Fresh oregano is one of the primary substitutes to thyme. They differ in certain aspects though, such as their scent and flavor. Thyme has a more peppery and sweet combination of flavors. It can also be more lemony and minty as well.
In contrast, oregano has an earthy, pungent flavor to it. Sure, as far as smell is concerned, oregano is more reminiscent to mint. However, in taste terms, the bold earthiness of oregano really comes through when compared to thyme’s peppery sweet flavor.
However, they’re both considered staples in many kitchens because of their versatility and how easy to use they are.
Marjoram is another aromatic herb in the mint or Lamiaceae family. It has been grown by humanity for millennia. It even features in Greek mythology, particularly its connection with Aphrodite, who cultivated them.
Marjoram is a good substitute to thyme because they taste similar. However, marjoram is sweeter and has a stronger aroma. It’s also a little bitter, slightly sharper, and warm. It even has a milder flavor to oregano to boot.
It is characterized by its fuzzy and green oval leaves. These leaves grow opposite from one another, forming knots or distinctive clusters.
Both rosemary and thyme are two of the most used herbs in the kitchen. They’re good substitutes to one another or they could be used together for bringing more herbal flavors to meat dishes and stews.
However, they add different flavors to the dishes they’re added to. Sure, they both belong in the mint family, thus they’re both minty. However, they’re from two different genera. Thyme belongs in the thymus genera.
Meanwhile, rosemary belongs to the salvia genera. It also has a stronger, more pungent taste. It’s also slightly bitter and resinous. Thyme is comparatively more subtle and savory.
In French and Italian kitchens, savory (the herb, not the taste variant) is a staple ingredient. It’s used less often on its own in the U.S.A. and Canada. Therefore, it’s harder to find it in regular grocery store shelves.
You need to go to Italian or French specialty supermarkets. The savory herb is characterized by its savory taste. It serves as a thyme substitute because they’re closely related in terms of savory taste. However, thyme is more pungent and minty.
You can swap fresh or even dried thyme with the savory herb. You can even use the same suggested serving for good measure.
Tarragon is a perennial herb that grows grass-like. Tarragon has both Russian and French varieties. Most use the French variant due to its strong flavor properties. It’s prized for its highly aromatic, flavorful, and skinny leaves.
French cuisine uses tarragon quite heavily. It’s considered by the French as one of the fines herbes in French cooking. Moreover, tarragon is considered to have a thyme-like flavor for sure. You can use tarragon on dishes that contain chicken and fish.
In fact, if you use a teaspoon of thyme, you can substitute it with a teaspoon of tarragon (the same portions). It also works vice-versa.
Last but not least is basil. It’s commonly used in the U.S. It’s characterized by its peppery yet mild anise flavor. It’s quite the versatile herb for sure. Basil belongs to the same family as thyme.
This makes it a good thyme substitute. You can feel free to use it in place of thyme in a variety of dishes, using half the portions. Fresh basil offers a bright, almost licorice-like taste.
Because of the strength of its flavor, use only half the amount of basil compared to the portions used with fresh thyme. If it’s dried thyme, a 1:1 swap is perfectly fine.
Here are the dried herb substitutes for thyme.
7. Herbs de Provence
You can substitute dried thyme with Herbs de Provence or Herbes de Provence too. It’s used for traditional French Provencal cuisine, which is known for its locally grown vegetables, eggs, cheeses, and fresh meats.
These herbs from Provence tie all those ingredients together with this herb. It’s an all-purpose, versatile seasoning that came from France’s Provence Region. It’s not one herb but several herbs and spices mixed together.
Why is it considered a thyme substitute? It’s because it’s composed of thyme along with other herbs and spices such as bay leaf, oregano, marjoram, savory, tarragon, rosemary, and basil.
8. Italian seasoning
Italian seasoning, like Herbs de Provence, is a popular spice blend or herbal mixture that originates from the Mediterranean. This blend also contains thyme along with marjoram, basil, savory, sage, rosemary, and oregano.
In other words, it’s a good thyme substitute because it’s composed of thyme and thyme substitutes. The blend is quite complex, so when you add it to dishes, you end up with a complex blend of delicious, savory flavors doing the tango in your taste buds.
It’s an ultra-fragrant spice blend that’s regularly used in Italian dishes mainly because it contains many common spices used in them anyway.
9. Poultry seasoning
As for poultry seasoning, it’s another blend that has thyme in it. This particular seasoning includes thyme, sage, nutmeg, rosemary, marjoram, and black pepper. The nutmeg adds a lot to the poultry dishes it’s been developed for.
It’s also considered a natural thyme substitute or swap because it serves as an amazing flavor enhancer for cooked meat, poultry, and so many other types of cuisine. It’s used by rubbing it on chicken, turkey, and many white meat upland game birds.
It’s also used for lamb, veal, and pork for that extra tanginess and nutty flavor. Additional ingredients that might be added to it include garlic powder, ground pepper, basil, celery seed, onion powder, and parsley.
Last but not least is Za’atar. Za’atar is able to reproduce the sharp, woody, and floral taste of thyme by containing thyme, salt, oregano, toasted sesame seeds, marjoram, and lemony sumac. If you’re using this on your dish, reduce the salt needed for it.
This is because Za’atar has saltiness to spare on its own. This is the dry spice blend you should use for recipes that have dry thyme in them because of its unique combination of thyme goodness mixed with nuttiness, citrus aroma, and saltiness.
The za’atar blend of spices is characterized by its mouth-watering toasty, nutty, and herbal tanginess.
What does thyme taste like?
Thyme used fresh produce, floral, wood, and sharp grass hints on a mostly concentrated herbal flavor. If you use lemon thyme, you get a citrus fragrance that characterizes this version of thyme. Thyme has a taste similar to dried basil (not fresh basil), marjoram, sage, or oregano.
Any of the five could serve as substitutes for thyme whether they’re dry or fresh. Dried thyme retains its potency and tastiness when sealed in a plastic container or glass in a dark and cool place for about three years.
What’s thyme good for?
Thyme has loads of culinary uses, but it’s also used for medicinal purposes as well. This is because it possesses antibacterial and antiseptic properties as well. Thymol is an active compound, which in turn is used in home sanitation and personal hygiene applications.
Thyme products in fresh and dried form are available in the supermarket’s refrigerated product section. You can add them whole to dishes or use the leaves with the stems removed. This plant has a hardiness and robustness to it.
You can use thyme by picking single leaves off of the stem with a pinching motion that’s gentle at the base of every leaf cluster or as a whole to give your dishes that herbal zing. You can replicate the same effect with oregano, rosemary, marjoram, basil, and so forth.