Substitute for Tarragon
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Carole Kolesko
Posted on: January 21, 2001

I am using a recipe in my new clay cooking dish that calls for tarragon. I have not used tarragon before so I do not have it available. What would be a substitute for tarragon so I can make this dish today, Sunday, in a chicken recipe.

There are many who would say that there is no substitute for fresh-cut french tarragon. Even the dried tarragon is a pale reflection of the distinctive sharp licorice and anise flavour of fresh tarragon leaves because much of the flavour is lost in drying.

There are several other herbs that are grown as substitutes where the true french tarragon does not otherwise grow well. One is the "sweet marigold", also known as "mexican tarragon", and botanically known as "Tagetes lucida". This variety does not have the exact tarragon flavour, but it tolerates heat much better than the french tarragon and has become popular in the southern U.S. and Mexico.

I doubt that you have the more obscure sweet marigold available, so you are really asking what common herbs and spices you might use in place of french tarragon in your chicken recipe. It is difficult to give you a simple answer which will work in every recipe. The spice star anise might work in some recipes but it too is not commonly found in home spice racks.

You might try experimenting with anise or fennel seeds. Don’t overdo it because their flavours are sweeter and potentially more cloying than french tarragon. You might try adding a tiny touch of mint to replicate the minty component of tarragon. Without actually having tried these ideas myself, I must warn you that they are highly experimental and there is no guarantee they will work! Your best bet might be to look for another recipe until you can find some tarragon or grow some yourself.

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