Thyme has a complex flavor profile — it is earthy, grassy, woodsy, minty, slightly lemony-citrus, sweet, piney, and floral. Given its matching earthiness, citrusiness, and mintiness, sage is one of the best substitutes for thyme, especially for bringing out the flavors of other seasonings.
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What is thyme’s flavor profile?
Like cumin, thyme has a delicately complex flavor profile featuring several mashing tastes. It is minty, earthy, piney, woodsy, a bit peppery, sweet, floral, slightly lemony, and grassy.
Thyme’s complex flavor makes it a versatile herb in French and Mediterranean dishes, where it’s also preferred for its fragrant aroma.
What is the closest spice to thyme?
Since they share several flavors with thyme, oregano and marjoram are the two closest thyme substitutes you can choose for your dish.
Dried and fresh oregano has an earthy, minty, spicy, slightly bitter, savory flavor with herbal notes and hints of lemon and rosemary.
Using oregano to replace thyme means your dish will have the extra touch of rosemary, bitterness, spiciness, and savoriness present in oregano.
Oregano as a thyme alternative works well with stews, cheese, grilled chicken or lamb, pasta, pizza, salad dressings, and potatoes.
Use the following quantities when subbing thyme with oregano:
- 1:1 for fresh oregano to fresh thyme
- 1:1 for dried oregano to dried thyme
- 1/2:1 for dried oregano to fresh thyme
Marjoram makes a good thyme substitute because it replicates the woodsy, minty, floral, piney, and earthy flavor. It is, however, sweeter than thyme and may overwhelm your dish with sweetness. If this happens, add some parsley to balance the flavors using the ratio of 1/2 parsley to 1 marjoram to 1 thyme.
Both fresh and dried marjoram add a piney flavor to tomato and vegetable dishes, vinaigrette dressings, roasted meats, and German or Polish sausage recipes.
You can use marjoram in place of thyme when you want to forego the strong aroma of oregano.
Use the ratios below to replace thyme with marjoram:
- 1:1 for fresh marjoram to fresh thyme
- 1:1 for dried marjoram to dried thyme
- 1/2:1 for dried marjoram to fresh thyme
- 2:1 for fresh marjoram to dried thyme
Best dry thyme alternatives
While the usual practice is to replace thyme with other herbs in the same family, excellent flavor results are achievable in sweet recipes using spice blends such as the ones discussed below.
- Italian seasoning
- Herbs de Provence
- Poultry seasoning
|Italian seasoning||Has oregano, thyme, marjoram, dried basil, and rosemary, goes well with lasagna, salad dressings, baked chicken or fish|
|Herbs de Provence||The blend features marjoram, rosemary, dried basil, thyme, parsley, fennel seeds, and tarragon, useful for marinades, roasted pies, salad dressings, potato and lentil stews|
|Poultry seasoning||Has marjoram, black pepper, sage, nutmeg, and rosemary, good for spice rubs for turkey or chicken|
|Zaatar||Incorporates oregano, salt, toasted sesame seeds, marjoram, dried thyme, goes with hummus, kebabs, vegetables, and meatballs|
1. Italian Seasoning
Italian seasoning features oregano, thyme, marjoram, dried basil, and rosemary as a spice blend. Rosemary will affect the final flavor by incorporating garlic and pepper notes.
Use Italian seasoning in Italian dishes such as lasagna, salad dressings, baked chicken or fish, and as a pizza garnish. Mix it into tomato sauce to use with spaghetti and veal.
To substitute thyme with Italian seasoning, use the ratios below:
- 1:1 Italian seasoning to dried thyme
- 1/2:1 Italian seasoning to fresh thyme
2. Herbs de Provence
Also called Provencal herbs, herbs de Provence refers to a spice blend from the Provence region of France. The blend features marjoram, rosemary, dried basil, thyme, parsley, fennel seeds, and tarragon. Some varieties also contain dill, chervil, and French lavender.
Herbs de Provence is perfect with nearly every dish that includes thyme. Use it in marinades, roasted pies, salad dressings, potato and lentil stews, and braised chicken or rabbit.
Start with small amounts of the spice and keep adding to attain the perfect flavor.
3. Poultry Seasoning
Most poultry seasoning incorporates marjoram, black pepper, sage, nutmeg, and rosemary. The seasoning can be more overpowering than thyme. Sage will enhance the flavors of the other spices.
Use a 1:1 ratio of Italian seasoning to dried thyme and a 1/2:1 ratio of the seasoning to fresh thyme.
Poultry seasoning substitutes thyme perfectly in turkey or chicken soups, spice rubs for turkey or chicken alongside butter, roasted vegetables, homemade gravies, stews, and potatoes.
The seasoning also works well with Thanksgiving stuffing recipes for pork chops, chicken, turkey, and duck.
Zaatar is a popular Middle Eastern spice that usually incorporates oregano, salt, toasted sesame seeds, marjoram, dried thyme, and at times, lemony sumac.
The final taste of your dish will change when you substitute thyme with Zaatar because of sesame seeds and sumac. While sesame is oily, nutty, and salty, sumac is citrusy, tangy, tart, and sour.
Use zaatar as a garnish for salads, hummus, kebabs, vegetables, and meatballs. Combine it with plain yogurt and olive oil to make a dip. It goes well with chickpea salad, marinades, and grilled poultry.
Start with 1/2 of zaatar for the specified amount of thyme and keep adding to taste.
Common fresh thyme substitutes
The spices below are all great substitutes for fresh thyme.
- Summer savory
|Parsley||A mild spice with less earthiness than thyme, works as a garnish for almost every dish, and best replaces fresh thyme in dips, cream-based dishes, and salads|
|Rosemary||Rosemary adds a piney flavor to roast pork, chicken, and lamb|
|Basil||Fresh version has a licorice flavor, goes with tomato-based dishes|
|Tarragon||Milder than thyme and adds a bittersweet taste to sauces such as hollandaise, bearnaise, bechamel, and tartar, also goes with rabbit, lake fish, veal, broth-based soups|
|Summer savory||Has peppery flavor with woodsy notes, ideal for sausage recipes, peas, soups, beans, and meats|
Parsley is a mild spice with less earthiness than thyme. It works perfectly as a garnish for almost every dish, and best replaces fresh thyme in dips, cream-based dishes, salads, meats, and vegetables.
Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute fresh thyme with fresh parsley.
The minty, woodsy, piney, and earthy flavor in fresh thyme is replicable with rosemary. However, rosemary has a stronger flavor than thyme, so start with 1/2:1 dried or fresh rosemary to fresh thyme.
Rosemary adds a piney flavor to roast pork, chicken (especially when incorporated with lemon, black pepper, and garlic), and lamb.
Replace fresh thyme with rosemary in vegetables, salads, cocktails, savory breads, stews, potatoes, and meats.
Basil is also a member of the mint family, but its fresh version has a licorice flavor and alters the final flavor of a dish when you use it in place of thyme.
Use fresh basil to replace thyme in tomato-based dishes using a 1/2:1 ratio to manage the licorice flavor.
Like fresh basil, tarragon has a licorice flavor. It is milder than thyme and adds a bittersweet taste to sauces such as hollandaise, bearnaise, bechamel, and tartar.
Tarragon is a key spice in fine herbs blends, chicken, Iranian savory pickles, rabbit, lake fish, veal, broth-based soups, French dishes, and salads featuring fresh herbs and raw vegetables.
Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute fresh thyme with fresh tarragon.
5. Summer savory
Also fondly called the bean herb in Germanian cuisine, summer savory is milder than thyme and has a peppery flavor with woodsy notes.
Use a 1:1 ratio of fresh summer savory to fresh thyme in sausage recipes, peas, soups, beans, meat, fish, and Romanian sarmale cabbage. The spice also works well as a substitute for sage in poultry stuffing recipes.
What about sage?
Sage is another good substitute for thyme in sauces, fish, tomato-based dishes, meats, and marinades. It has the same earthy flavor as thyme, but its overall flavor featuring mintiness, citrusiness, and bitterness, is more robust. It can easily overpower your dish.
The advantage is that sage enhances the flavors of other spices in savory dishes with multiple seasonings.
Start with a 1:2 ratio of sage to thyme and keep adjusting to taste.
What can I substitute for thyme in a recipe?
Different recipes call for different thyme substitutes to closely replicate the flavor of thyme or alter it altogether. For example, herbs de Provence works perfectly with rabbit and chicken, while summer savory goes well with bean dishes.
Best thyme substitute for soups
You can substitute thyme in soups with oregano, parsley, savory, and marjoram.
If you add other seasonings to your soup, use winter savory rather than summer savory. Winter savory is earthy but milder and brings out the flavors of other seasonings in the soup.
Oregano will add subtle herbal undertones to your soup, while marjoram makes it sweeter, and parsley adds a bitterness that doesn’t ruin the original taste of the soup.
Best thyme substitute for steaks
Use zaatar and black pepper to replace thyme in steak dishes. The sumac in zaatar adds a tangy and tart twist to your steak, while the sesame makes it nutty and saltier.
Best thyme substitute for pork
You can switch thyme with Dijon mustard and fresh basil in pork recipes.
Dijon mustard adds a spicy touch and tangy flavor to the pork, especially when it is powdered.
Being a mint family spice, fresh basil has a strong mint flavor. It also tastes like anise and black pepper. Use it to add a licorice flavor to your pork dishes.
Best thyme substitute for beef
You can place thyme with rosemary, cumin, and tarragon in beef recipes.
Cumin provides a complex flavor profile, while bittersweet tarragon provides a licorice flavor. Rosemary adds a characteristic piney flavor to beef, especially roasted.
Best thyme substitute for fish
When used to replace thyme in fish recipes, bay leaf provides a minty flavor with piney, woodsy, and earthy tones. Use 1/2 a teaspoon of bay leaf to replace 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme.
Adding a sprinkle of lemon juice to fish makes cooking faster since the citric acid denatures the proteins in the fish. Add some salt to season the fish fully.
Best thyme substitute for turkey
As noted earlier, herbs de Provence works well with nearly every thyme dish—including turkey. It adds complex flavors derived from individual spices such as thyme, fennel seeds, rosemary, and dried basil.
Poultry seasoning perfectly replaces thyme in turkey soup and Thanksgiving stuffing recipes featuring turkey. Use this seasoning to add complex flavors of spices such as sage, thyme, rosemary, and black peppers.
Can you leave thyme out of a recipe?
You can leave thyme out of a recipe, but you will have a bland dish.
Thyme is an aromatic herb that adds a unique flavor to your dish. Leaving it out once and not substituting it with a suitable spice in chicken soup meant I had to take a less palatable soup that left a bland aftertaste in my mouth.