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Top 25 Most Common Substitutes When Using Herbs and Spices

Updated on January 19, 2017
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Many times, I have started preparing meals and realized I do not have all the proper ingredients that a recipe calls for… so I have to substitute my herbs and spices with something else that I have in the cupboard. I have made a list to help me, and you with the substitutions I may need to use. With this article, I hope I can help someone else out so not to be put in a pinch, no pun intended.

  1. Allspice: 1 teaspoon; you may substitute with: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
  2. Apple Pie Spice: 1 teaspoon; you may substitute with: Mix 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 1 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon cardamom ,or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom.
  3. Cloves: You may substitute with: Allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
  4. Cumin: You may substitute with: Chili powder.
  5. Garlic: 1 clove fresh; you may substitute with: 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, or 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic juice, or 1 teaspoon garlic paste.
  6. Ginger Root (grated fresh): 1/2 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger.
  7. Herbs, dried leaf: 1 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 1/4 teaspoon herbs, powdered.
  8. Italian Seasoning: 2 Tablespoons: You may substitute with: 1 teaspoon each of: basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  9. Leeks (sliced): 1/2 cup: You may substitute with: 1/2 cup sliced green onions or shallots.
  10. Onion Powder: 1 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 1 Tablespoon instant minced onion.
  11. Oregano: You may substitute with: Thyme, basil, or marjoram.
  12. Parsley (fresh, chopped): 1 Tablespoon: You may substitute with: 1 teaspoon parsley flakes.
  13. Pepper flakes, hot: 1 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne.
  14. Poultry Seasoning: 1 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 3/4 teaspoon sage, 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme.
  15. Pumpkin Pie Spice: 1 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground mace, 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.
  16. Red Pepper: You may substitute with: Dash of bottled hot pepper sauce or black pepper.
  17. Rosemary: You may substitute with: Thyme, tarragon, or savory.
  18. Sage: You may substitute with: Poultry seasoning, savory, marjoram, or rosemary.
  19. Salt, seasoned: 4 teaspoons: You may substitute with: 2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sage, 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon marjoram, and 1/4 teaspoon paprika.
  20. Salt, table: 1 Tablespoon: You may substitute with: 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt.
  21. Savory: You may substitute with: Thyme, marjoram, or sage.
  22. Sesame Seed: 1 Tablespoon: You may substitute with: 1 Tablespoon finely chopped blanched almonds.
  23. Tarragon: You may substitute with: Chervil, dash fennel seed, or dash aniseed.
  24. Thyme: You may substitute with: Basil, marjoram, oregano, or savory.
  25. Turmeric: 1 teaspoon: You may substitute with: 1 teaspoon dry mustard.

Storage and Freshness Tips

Here are a few more tips to help with your herbs and spices, as recommended by NCSU:

  • As a General Rule Keep: Herbs and ground spices for 1 year, and 2 years for whole spices.
  • Buy Smaller Containers: Until you determine how fast you will use particular herbs or spices, buying smaller containers will stop herbs and spices from spoiling before you can use them up.
  • To Test Freshness: If it smells strong and flavorful, it is probably still potent. To smell whole spices, such as peppercorns and cinnamon sticks, crush or break them to release their aroma. Initial quality will influence shelf life. Label date of purchase on container with a permanent marker.
  • Storage: Store in a tightly covered container, store in a dark place away from sunlight, store away from moisture, prevent moisture from entering the container during use, and avoid storing near a dishwasher or sink. Remove herbs and spices from container with a dry spoon, and avoid sprinkling directly from container into a steaming pot to prevent steam moisture from entering the container. Store inside a cupboard or drawer. Refrigerate paprika, chili powder and red pepper for best color retention, especially in summer or hotter climates. Herbs and spices can get wet if condensation forms when a cold container from your refrigerator or freezer is left open in a humid kitchen.
  • When to Add: As a general rule; add fresh herbs near the end of the cooking time because heating can cause flavor and aroma losses, for uncooked foods add spices and herbs several hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.Note: Remove whole spices and bay leaves at the end of cooking. Note:Secure them in a tea ball for easy removal.

Spice and Food Pairings

These are the best herbs and spices to use on different foods:

  • Beef: Bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, and/or thyme.
  • Lamb: Curry powder, garlic, rosemary, and/or mint.
  • Pork: Garlic, onion, sage, pepper, and/or oregano.
  • Veal: Bay leaf, curry powder, ginger, marjoram, and/or oregano.
  • Chicken: Ginger, marjoram, oregano, paprika, poultry seasoning, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and/or thyme.
  • Fish: Curry powder, dill, dry mustard, marjoram, paprika, and/or pepper.
  • Carrots: Cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, and/or sage.
  • Corn: Cumin, curry powder, onion, paprika, and/or parsley.
  • Green Beans: Dill, curry powder, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, and/or thyme
  • Greens: Onion, and/or pepper.
  • Potatoes: Dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley, and/or sage.
  • Tomatoes: Basil, bay leaf, dill, marjoram, onion, oregano, parsley, and/or pepper.
  • Cucumbers: chives, dill, garlic, and/or vinegar.

Many times we may not have just what we need, but in using something else who knows we may discover a whole new family favorite dish.

Closing Remarks

Many times we may not have just what we need, but in using something else who knows we may discover a whole new family favorite dish.

Way back when, people did not have recipes to go by, so they improvised with what they could find… Take Bay leafs for instance; who thought of putting leafs in food to make them taste better? Was it a fluke or an accident? Did you know that cinnamon was ‘discovered’ around 700BC, and it comes from the bark of a tree, or that Ginger (a root) was used in China and India 7,000 years ago? I didn't realize that many of these herbs and spices had been around for so long, but someone somewhere had to take a chance and experiment with things such as these to make wonderful tasting foods. What I am trying to say is, don’t be afraid to try something new… If it doesn't turn out the way you want it, don’t make it again and try something else. I see recipes as a guideline anyway, except when baking… Baking is a whole other beast that I will leave for another time.

Well, that is all for this time… Remember, be adventurous; or you may never know what is out there waiting to be discovered by you.

Until we meet again,

Anita Coleman

What is you favorite herb or spice to use when grilling?

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