Thyme is an important herb used to give recipes an earthy, minty, and slightly lemony flavor. It’s most commonly used as a garnish in traditional French, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine. There are over a hundred varieties of thyme, but they all more or less give the same flavor as common thyme.
Thyme is part of a large family of fresh herbs, so if you’re short on thyme, there are quite a few alternatives you can safely use without altering the flavor of your recipe. Here’s a curated list of 8 substitutes for thyme.
Oregano is not only one of the best alternatives to thyme, it also surpasses thyme in popularity as a garnish for most cuisines. It comes from the same family as thyme, so they have a similar flavor profile.
Oregano is minty, savory, and earthier than thyme, so it adds a layer of bitterness that brilliantly pairs with soup, bread, cheese, and a variety of sauces. It’s also got a spicy herbal undertone that makes dishes more aromatic. Remember to add oregano before cooking or baking to help it infuse better with the other ingredients.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Dried Oregano or 1 Tbsp Fresh Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = 2 Tbsp Fresh Oregano or 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
If you’re substituting dried thyme with dried oregano or fresh oregano with fresh thyme, substitute them 1:1 for the same taste.
Basil, like thyme, is another herb in the mint family with significant importance in Italian cuisine. It adds a distinctively sweet, minty flavor and warmth to a dish. It gives off a tantalizing aroma that tends to pair better with cheese than thyme.
Basil is more than just a garnish. It’s also a key ingredient in multiple dishes, such as soups and pesto sauce.
Fresh basil and dried basil differ slightly in taste. Fresh basil packs a lot of sweetness and hotness, whereas dried basil is mute and earthy. When swapping thyme with fresh basil, as a rule of thumb, swap half because it has a higher potency that can change the flavor or color of the final dish.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = 1 Tbsp Dried Basil or ½ Tbsp Fresh Basil
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = ½ Tbsp Dried Basil or ¼ Tbsp Fresh Basil
Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb with a strong, resinous, and piney flavor that makes dishes smell and taste more exotic. Dishes like soups, stews, roasted vegetables, and rice make an excellent pair with rosemary. However, it can overpower almost every Italian or Mediterranean classic, including soups, salads, casseroles, and stews.
Keep in mind that rosemary has a strong and distinctively “woody” element to its taste. It’s also relatively bitter to thyme, so you might want to add less.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Fresh Rosemary or ¼ Dried Rosemary
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = 1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary or ½ Dried Rosemary
Marjoram is an excellent substitute for thyme for adding warmth to a dish. It has a similar flavor profile to oregano. It’s sharper, sweeter, and mintier but has the same woody, bitter feel that gives earthiness to dishes with exotic flavors.
Marjoram is popularly used in North American and Mediterranean cooking. It pairs really well with tomato-based dishes, meats, poultry, and pulses. If you’re adding marjoram to a spicy dish, keep in mind that Marjoram is a bit spicier than thyme so it will increase the warmth.
Since marjoram, thyme, and oregano are more or less the same when it comes to intensity, the same substitution rules apply here.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Dried Marjoram or 1 Tbsp Fresh Marjoram
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = 2 Tbsp Fresh Marjoram or 1 Tbsp Dried Marjoram
#5. Summer Savory
Savory, as the name suggests, adds saltiness to the dish. It’s another herb in the mint family with a distinctly peppery, salty flavor that intensifies when it’s baked. Summer Savory is widely used as a seasoning for grilled meats, barbecues, and stews in North American cooking as an exotic alternative to salt and pepper.
Savory makes a good substitute for thyme because of its woody, thyme-like richness and gentle aroma. You can use it as a pleasant garnish for soups and risottos or give character to your salad. Thyme and savory can be used almost interchangeably.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Dried Savory or 1 Tbsp Fresh Savory
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = 2 Tbsp Fresh Savory or 1 Tbsp Dried Savory
Parsley is a nutrient-rich and healthy alternative to thyme. It’s been known to work as a natural diuretic and helps reduce blood pressure. It has a very mellow peppery taste with a pleasant earthiness and adds more color to your dish.
Parsley is used as a garnish, a condiment, and even as a salad ingredient throughout the world. It’s also a recurring staple ingredient in various forms of Middle Eastern cuisine. Parsley pairs best with meat dishes for adding depth and complexity. It’s a little weaker than thyme, so it would be safe to substitute it evenly.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Dried Parsley or 1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = 2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley or 1 Tbsp Dried Parsley
Tarragon is a species of herb in the sunflower family. It has a similar taste to Thyme except it’s sweeter with a hint of bitterness. Tarragon is most commonly used in classic French dishes and won’t make a good substitute unless you’re pairing it with meat.
It has a slight anise flavor and minty aroma that makes it a good replacement for thyme. But since tarragon is mild, the flavor is better when you pair it with a chicken or fish dish.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Dried Tarragon or 1 Tbsp Fresh Tarragon
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = 2 Tbsp Fresh Tarragon or 1 Tbsp Dried Tarragon
The name “Za’atar” comes from the Arabic word for thyme. It’s a middle-eastern spice blend composed of lemony sumac, nutty sesame, marjoram, oregano, and yes, thyme too, which is what makes it a great substitute.
It’s a powerful and intricate seasoning that adds a lot of character to any dish it’s paired with. For example, za’atar pairs brilliantly with roasted potatoes, lamb stews, and chickpea salads. However, because of its intensity, you can’t substitute it for thyme evenly. Za’atar can overwhelm the ingredients it’s added to if used excessively. Start with a little, maybe half the thyme you’d add, and add more as per your taste.
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme = ½ Tbsp Za’atar
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme = ¼ Tbsp Za’atar