There is a good reason for choosing dill over tarragon and the other way around. It is all down to how you intend to cook the dish.
Tarragon has a stronger flavor profile to dill and will stand up to the heat of cooking, whereas dill will wilt if used fresh in stews or soups. Dill tastes like a gentle citrus grassy flavor with hints of anise, tarragon is strong and astringent anise licorice flavor with an earthiness.
We are looking at French tarragon in this article as although Russian is hardier it has a much harsher flavor than the softer French variety.
Tarragon Vs Dill
- Tarragon has an astringent anise licorice flavor with musky overtones and an almost mint like freshness. Dill has a gentle anise citrus taste with a hint of grassiness, almost earthy.
- Dill is a perennial that reaches heights of between 2-4 feet. Used dried the leaves are called dillweed. Tarragon is a half hardy perennial that will die back in Winter but return in Spring.
- Tarragon leaves are thicker and more robust than dill leaves and will stand being cooked for longer without wilting.
- Tarragon goes well in sauces for fish or poultry and can make a great compound butter for melting on roasted root vegetables, it also makes a great salad dressing in a vinaigrette. Dill goes well paired with yoghurt sauces, potato salads, as a garnish like you would parsley, used in salads as a leaf or the seeds pickled.
- Dill is high in calcium, magnesium and potassium and is a good source of vitamin C. Tarragon is less nutritionally rich but it is a good source of folate and potassium. Although, in truth you would have to eat a significant amount ( 1 cup a day) of each before you saw these benefits in any real terms.
Alternatives To Tarragon In Cooking
- For that distinctive anise flavor go for fennel leaves as a replacement to tarragon. Just be aware that the leaves of fennel will wilt back somewhat and should you wish to avoid this you can use as a garnish. Not cooking a dish with the anise flavor in will leave it feeling a little flat as you infuse the entire dish by cooking. You can add fennel bulb to give you this cooked in flavor.
- Dill does make a reasonable alternative to tarragon, however it will not have that anise flavor that is so key to cutting through darker meats. Use it like for like in the same ratio, 1 cup tarragon:1 cup dill leaves.
- If the recipe calls for dried tarragon leaves then crushed fennel seeds are ideal as a substitute. You will have that unmistakable anise flavor alongside an earthiness that is helpful in many dishes.
- Chervil can be a delicate version of tarragon and although the leaves are a little less robust they will infuse their anise and parsley like flavor into a dish. We grow our own as actually it can be easier to get hold of fresh tarragon in a market than chervil. Use a 1:1 ratio so one teaspoon of tarragon = 1 teaspoon fresh chervil.
- At an absolute pinch you can substitute tarragon for thyme or rosemary. It will give you that earthiness but without the key anise flavor. Try combining with star anise. 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon = 1 teaspoon thyme/rosemary + 2 star anise.
- If your recipe is calling for dried tarragon and you have a fines herbes mix in your spice rack that would make a good substitute. That is because fines herbes is a mix of equal parts; chervil, chives, French tarragon and chervil. A sweet allium flavor to the anise earthiness.
How To Substitute Dill In Recipes
- When using dill as a garnish you can substitute fennel fronds in the place of dill. It will have a stronger anise flavor and perhaps this can be countered by mixing with parsley. 1 cup dill leaves = 1/2 cup fennel fronds + 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley. There are some key differences to fennel and dill but they make an acceptable replacement for one another.
- If you are using dill seeds in cooking then you can replace with dried rosemary or thyme. reduce the quantities though as both rosemary and thyme retain their strength of flavor when cooked. 1 teaspoon dill seeds = 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or thyme.
- Fresh parsley is a good garnish substitute for dill leaves and can be replaced in a like for like ratio. You will miss a little sweetness but not to the overall detriment of the dish. a handful of dill = a handful of parsley.
- Chervil is a nice light anise and parsley mixture and will replace dill easily in a dish. Go for 1 cup of chervil = 1 cup of dill.
- Cilantro leaves can be a citrus lift as possible dill replacement as a garnish but can also taste soapy to those of us who have the hatred! So remember that and go carefully with guests, perhaps adding to a dish for people to help themselves.
What Next & Further Reading
- Oregano And Marjoram – Differences, Similarities
- Do I need Italian Herbs or Herbes de Provence?
- Rosemary Vs Thyme Differences and Replacements