Making a recipe that calls for thyme but doesn’t have any in your spice cabinet? Here we’ve researched the best alternatives for thyme, fresh or dried fresh or dry which you can use interchangeably.
But before we move on the best alternatives for thyme, let us first understand what thyme is, how you can use it, and what options you have to replace it.
What Is Thyme?
Thyme is a fragrant herb from the Mediterranean region that’s in the same family as oregano, basil, mint, and shiso. Thyme has small leaves that grow on clusters of thin stems. It’s been used for centuries for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
The word thyme originates from the Greek word thymos, which means “courage.” During Medieval times, thyme was thought to be an emblem of bravery.
Thyme is used in many recipes and cuisine, from Indian to Italian. It’s hugely popular and often readily available, but what can you use when you don’t have it? These are my top 14 best alternatives for thyme in cooking. You never know!
Best Alternatives for Thyme
Fresh or dried, oregano makes a great alternative to thyme. The flavors are very similar in the mint family, and it’s an almost imperceptible switch. You can use oregano for thyme in virtually any recipe, no matter what type of cuisine it is.
It has that same blend of earthy, minty, and lemony vibes to it. However, oregano is thyme’s stronger, pungent cousin, packing more flavor. You can use fresh oregano in a 1:1 swap for fresh thyme and dried oregano in a 1:1 swap for dried thyme.
So, if you are using fresh oregano instead of dried thyme, double the amount of oregano. However, if you’re substituting dried oregano for fresh thyme, use half the amount of dried oregano suggested for, as the dried herb can be powerful and throw your recipe off balance.
Oregano Works great with meats, cheese, tomato-based dishes, pasta, stews, and potatoes.
Basil is in the same family as thyme, but that doesn’t mean the flavor profiles match. It’s a suitable alternative for thyme, but remember that basil has a licorice flavor, which could be important for your recipe.
Of all the herbs on this list, basil is the biggest stretch, but it can be an excellent thyme substitute in some circumstances! Fresh basil is very licorice and bright, so use half of the fresh basil as you would fresh thyme and a 1:1 swap for dried thyme.
Fresh basil can take the place of thyme in tomato-based or Mediterranean dishes, like this chicken quinoa salad. It’s also an alternatives for thyme in savory drinks. Dried basil is more muted, so a 1:1 swap for fresh thyme, or a 2:1 swap for dried thyme, would be appropriate.
This delicate herb is milder in flavor than fresh parsley yet still makes a wonderful garnish on nearly any dish. The flavor of parsley is very versatile and fresh. It works well in cream-based dishes, as well as on salads and with meat and fish.
While they may not work well as best alternatives for thyme, it goes well when combine with another ingredient. Use it with marjoram to counteract the sweet taste of the herb and to even get closer to thyme flavor. You can add it with any herbs listed to give a pleasant, fresh taste.
Parsley goes well with salads, vegetables, meats, fish, soups, and cream-based dishes
You can use it in a 1:1 ratio.
Marjoram or savory have similar flavors to thyme, so if you have them, they work an alternatives for thyme. These herbs are unique, so you might not have them on hand. You can also substitute fresh or dried marjoram for the thyme. It has a woody, minty flavor characteristic comparable to oregano, but it’s sweeter and more delicate.
The same rules apply here as they do to oregano:
Marjoram Works great with vegetables, beans, lentils, soups, and stews. Dry marjoram is a popular ingredient in seasoning mixes like poultry seasoning and French Herb de Provence. These seasoning mixes are also thyme replacements.
Use a 1:1 substitution of fresh marjoram for fresh thyme, a 1:1 substitution of dried marjoram for dried thyme, half as much dried marjoram for fresh thyme, and twice as much fresh marjoram for dried thyme.
5. Italian Seasoning
How about mixing them all for a balanced flavor profile? You can’t go wrong there! Dried basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, and rosemary blend is an ultra-fragrant spice blend which is a perfect suitable alternative for thyme.
As the name suggests, it best suits Italian dishes but works well on grilled meats and other Mediterranean cuisines. It also contains basial, rosemary, bay leaf, and sage. Keep in mind that the addition of basil makes Italian Seasoning smell rather fragrant.
It is a sweet herb that tastes a little like clove. However, don’t be deterred by this because it is a versatile herb that works well with all the other flavors in Italian Seasoning. You can use it in a 1:1 ratio.
When you need best alternatives for thyme in a savory dish, consider an herb called savory! Less common in most kitchens, this herb is a member of the same herb family as the others listed above.
Savory offers a milder overall flavor profile than thyme but offers a nice complex, earthy and peppery taste that elevates other flavors in a dish. This spice is often called summer savory because that’s more commonly grown than the perennial winter version, but both can be used interchangeably with thyme.
It also has a pleasant peppery flavor. Swap out fresh savory 1:1 for fresh thyme and dried savory 1:1 for dried thyme. Use 2:1 fresh savory for dried thyme and half of the dried savory in place of fresh thyme.
7. Herbs De Provence
Herbs de Provence is a dried spice blend. Thyme is usually near the top of the ingredient list, so this is a substitute, but not. It usually includes most other herbs on this list, occasionally lavender.
This is a blend of dried herbs from the Provence region of France often comprises dried basil, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and fennel seeds. It’s a distinctive flavor, so you might want to add a bit of thyme (pun very much intended) as you swap it in a dish.
The herbs blend is an excellent substitute for thyme because it is one of its core herbs. This blend is not as delicate as thyme, but it can be added in a 1:1 ratio to balance the flavor.
Hailing from the Levant region, Za’atar generally contains dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sometimes lemony sumac, and toasted sesame seeds and salt. You may want to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe if you use Za’atar as a substitute for thyme.
However, due to the inclusion of sumac and sesame, sumac adds a sour, citrusy, tanginess, and tartness, while sesame adds a nutty, oily, rich, salty, and sweet vibe. It would be best to use Za’atar sparingly as it will not be as delicate in taste as thyme. Start with a 1:2 ratio and adjust as you go along.
That being said, we think Za’atar makes a delicious addition to many meals, especially Middle Eastern cuisine. It works great with plenty of meals, especially vegetables, beans, and hummus, but also chicken, beef, or lamb.
The wonderful herb rosemary is also quite adaptable. It is a delightful alternative to thyme despite having a distinctive flavor of its own. It tastes particularly good on potatoes and poultry, but it can also be the ideal complement to savory dishes, bread and salads.
Rosemary is also an excellent herb to pair with thyme. If you have thyme but not enough for a recipe, try replacing the portion you are missing with rosemary. Replace dried or fresh thyme with dried or fresh rosemary in a 1:1 substitution. Try this out if you want a new twist on a thyme-flavored dish!
10. Poultry Seasoning
Poultry seasoning is a blend of herbs that adds flavor to poultry dishes. It works best in chicken, duck, and turkey. Its main ingredients are sage, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary. Nonetheless, some versions also include garlic, pepper, and nutmeg.
Thyme is frequently one of the primary ingredients in poultry seasoning, which is available from a variety of merchants. For this reason, if you’re in a bind and require a substitute right away, you can swap out the thyme in your recipe for some poultry spice.
Poultry seasoning is often quite intense in flavor, especially if it has salt added, so ensure you add only small amounts at a time.
Popular in French cuisine, tarragon can be used in place of thyme in any recipe. It provides many similar qualities to thyme but is milder in overall flavor.
It is a popular addition to chicken or fish dishes in France, so the next time you need an alternative to thyme, try tarragon for a French-inspired taste!
Use tarragon in a 1:1 ratio for thyme in any recipe. It is best to replace dried tarragon or fresh tarragon with dried thyme.
Sage is among the best alternatives for thyme, especially when associated with meats. Sage has a minty aroma, a dash of earthiness, a slightly lemony vibe, and a hint of bitterness.
However, because of this distinct flavor, be mindful that it will change the overall taste. Sage has a minty aroma, a dash of earthiness, a slightly lemony vibe, and a hint of bitterness.
It is also known for bringing out the surrounding flavors. Therefore, it is a great option when you need a substitute in a dish with several other seasonings.
It works great with anything meat-based or fish, but also anything tomato-based. It’s also great in marinades and sauces.
Make sure to add in small quantities. Maybe start with a 1:2 ratio.
13. Bay Leaves
Bay leaves will provide that blend of minty, freshness, and a hint of earthy, woodsy tones to your dish. Bay leaves work great with any dish sauce or liquid-based: sauces, stews, soups, and broths.
It’s also a great addition to any recipe with cabbage that includes thyme and beans. One bay leaf can replace ½ teaspoon fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme.
14. Lemon Thyme
While you can swap thyme and lemon thyme, it doesn’t always work. Thyme can be a lemon thyme substitute and the other way around. But we recommend you do this when it doesn’t come from specific recipes.
It works great with any dish that calls for thyme, to be fair. It’s going to add some other aromas in there as well, but it’s only going to enrich the experience.
Thyme is a fan favorite in chicken recipes due to its light flavor and noticeable aroma; thyme adds a lot of flavor to French onion soup. Still, if you don’t have any on hand and can’t do without it, you can opt for any of our best alternatives for thyme above.
However, when using any substitute, ensure you add it proportionately to the thyme flavor you are looking for. Happy cooking!