The Best Substitute for Thyme

Three foolproof options.

From Grandma's roasted chicken to a fancy herbed shortbread, fresh thyme offers a unique flavor among common herbs. And when it comes to a good substitute for this versatile herb, using something else depends entirely on why you need the substitute. Here are a few suggestions to get you through a recipe without any fresh thyme.

I Just Don't Have Any

Thyme is a hard herb, meaning it grows on a semi-firm wooden stick and has a heartier quality to the leaves. The other most common hard herb that makes for a decent substitute is rosemary. Rosemary is also unique in flavor but it can almost always be used in place of thyme for both savory and sweet recipes. Conveniently, rosemary grows wild all over the South and is easy to identify, so chances are good that you can find some during a quick walk around the neighborhood.

I Don't Like The Taste

Thyme isn't for everyone, and that's perfectly okay. Rosemary is still a good substitute, but if you want to explore a different fresh herb that beautifully compliments most savory dishes that include thyme, give fresh oregano a try. Fresh oregano has a strong fragrance similar to thyme, but it's unique in its slightly bitter and robust minty flavor. Unlike most other herbs, dried oregano is rarely a good substitute for fresh oregano, so if you're able to find the fresh stuff, use that! It's also important to note that oregano doesn't make an easy substitute for thyme in sweet recipes, so save it for your roasted chicken or tomatoey ragu.

I'm Bored With The Flavor

All of our palates need a break occasionally. Too much of one flavor is bound to create a brief aversion, and thyme is no different. A unique species of herb that resembles thyme in flavor but is distinct in origin is lemon thyme. With some of the same earthy notes as thyme, lemon thyme has the unmistakable citrus aroma of lemon balm or lemon verbena, making it the ideal substitution for sweet recipes that you want to enhance with something more than traditional thyme. Not as bold as lemon zest and definitely not as acidic as the juice from citrus, lemon thyme offers a delicate lemony compliment to the rich undertones of thyme.

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