Cooking is a big experiment and concoction of flavors. Recipes are sometimes meant to be broken. The availability of ingredients, your own palate taste and sometimes allergies of medical restrictions makes us change some ingredients or find the substitutes.
Knowing substitutes are essential for cooks to be it amateur home cooks or professional chefs. Herbs and spices, in particular, should be something that you need to familiarize and find substitutes. That way, you can make all the dishes you want even if some herbs or spices that are hard to find or not available.
Now talking about herbs and substitutes, let's look at the herb Tarragon and its possible tarragon substitute. Tarragon is an herb usually found in Asia, Europe and other places with a temperate climate. It has three varieties, the French, Russian and Mexican tarragon. The widely used in cooking is the French tarragon because of its aroma and more delicate taste.
Tarragon tastes sweet with a hint of licorice, is typically used in French dishes It is fresh and very aromatic. It gives the distinct taste in your Bernaise sauce and adds a great flavor to vinegar. You will, of course, don't want to have a substitute for it when making Bernaise sauce since it is what it makes its taste unique, but when used as a spice to other recipes with chicken, eggs, or even desserts, you can use substitutes.
The aromatic flavor and sweet licorice taste of tarragon though distinct can also be found in other herbs that you might have been growing in your garden or those which you can easily get a hand into. (http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/ingredients/detail/tarragon)
Marjoram is an oval shaped herb that tastes like a minty, mild and sweeter version of the oregano. It is citrusy and lacks the licorice taste of tarragon but it is the most widely used tarragon substitute.
The mild sweet taste mimics the tarragon taste in sauces and stews. It also goes well with chicken and meat and also eggs. If you often use tarragon in your soups, marjoram will be a great substitute giving you the sweet mild flavor. It will also do great in flavoring dressings.
This herb grows as a native in Europe, and some places may not be growing this herb but it is an excellent substitute for tarragon. Chervil is also one of the herbs that flavors the Bernaise sauce.
The aroma, sweetness and licorice hint of tarragon can be found in chervil, but very very mild. Chervil also has underlying hints of anise making it a very close flavor to that of tarragon. This herb is best used mixed in butter for herb butter which you can use for so many dishes. It will also do great in sauces, chicken, and fish. Chervil is also a known substitute for parsley.
3. Fennel Seed
Fennel is a plant that belongs to the carrot family. The root tastes awesome as it is, and so as the leaves and seed. Fennel has the known aroma and taste of that of anise and also licorice which makes it a perfect tarragon substitute.
This versatile herb works wonders for making soups, cooking with meat and fish. Fennel also surprisingly goes well with desserts and sweet dishes. The unique anise-like taste gives sweet dishes and desserts added depth.
If you combine fennel and tarragon, you will get aniseed. This spice from a herbaceous plant has an aromatic licorice flavor. Aniseed has been used since the old times and not only has great use in cooking but also has proven medicinal uses.
You can actually substitute aniseed when a recipe calls for tarragon and fennel seed. Substitute a pinch of aniseed when a recipe asks for a teaspoon of tarragon. This spice is really aromatic so it is good to use very little amounts and just adjust or develop the taste as you go on. Putting too much aniseed can make your dish bitter.
Aniseed is often used in desserts, candies and sweet dishes, but it also adds good flavor to savory recipes. (http://www.aniseeds.com/)
We know that tarragon transforms white and fatty fishes into amazing dishes. If you don't happen to have tarragon around and you are cooking fish, dill is there to the rescue.
Dill has a light, feathery texture which is really pretty and makes very good garnishes. It is a part of the celery family. The taste is a good combination of sweet,sour and bitter. It is mild and also conveys a citrusy, aromatic undertone. Though it lacks the licorice taste that is dominant to the tarragon, dill makes a great substitute to certain recipes. Dill makes fishes like salmon and flounder stand out with its light bitterness. (http://www.thekitchn.com/inside-the-spice-cabinet-dill-112388)
This may be the herb that is very common and also very easy to find. Basil has couple of varieties. This herb is great for Italian dishes. It works well with cheeses, chicken and sauces.
The taste is sweet and fresh. It has a hint of mint, pepper and very mild anise. If you always use tarragon for sauces, basil might be a very good substitute. It gives great mild flavor and adding freshness.
7. Parsley+Cinnamon Powder
It is advised and recommended to use tarragon for Bernaise sauce, but if it is really not possible, you can try using parsley and cinnamon powder. The freshness and sweet taste of parsley paired with the aroma and anise-like taste of cinnamon makes a good combination for tarragon substitute.
You need to combine ½ teaspoon of parsley + ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon powder + ¼ cup of water then bring it to a simmer. You can use this infused liquid to flavor Bernaise or other sauces that needs tarragon.
Tarragon is a very unique herb with a great distinctive flavor but it is not impossible to use substitutes. I used basil and chervil in place of tarragon in sauces and soups and it actually worked pretty good. Dill is always great in fish and fennel and aniseed will always good in handy in mimicking tarragon.
Try it out and see for yourself if it works out well with your recipes. Don't forget to share this list with others.