5 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes

Need a last-minute bay leaf substitute? These best five ingredient alternatives will get you out of trouble.

best bay leaf substitutes

What are bay leaves?

Bay leaves come from the Laurel tree. As such, they are sometimes called laurel leaves. They come as whole leaves and can be used fresh or dried. They can also be ground and used as a powder in various recipes.

The laurel plant is a shrub that grows all year long. Bay leaves are known for their fragrant and floral notes, which they are known for bringing to dishes.

Bay leaves also have a strong bitter taste. So, it’s important to know what quantities to use so you don’t end up with a dish you can’t eat; less is more. Their strong taste means that one leaf may be all you need for an entire recipe.

When you use dry whole bay leaves, you can expect a more robust flavor than when you use fresh leaves. There are two primary varieties of bay leaves: Turkish and California. The main difference being the shape of the leaves.

Need a last-minute bay leaf substitute? These best five ingredient alternatives will get you out of trouble.

Fresh vs. dry bay leaves

You can get bay leaves in different forms, and this is one of the things that makes it such a versatile spice. The two can be used in place of each other depending on the recipe. However, the quantities will differ due to the intensity of taste being different. One of the differences between dry and fresh bay leaves is their appearance. Fresh leaves are green and glossy, and dry leaves are browner in color.

The process of drying the leaves also brings out the stronger side. The flavor intensifies as the leaves are dried. Also, their shelf life increases considerably when they are dried. However, when it comes to taste, they are very different. The fresh version has a robust menthol-like taste. If it is left too long in the dish, it tends to take over. Dried bay leaves have a strong, bold flavor.

The other difference is that fresh bay leaves are more expensive. So, if price is a factor for you, then you might want to go for dried leaves.

For replacement ratios, you can use one fresh bay leaf in place of two dried bay leaves. You can substitute a single dried leaf with ¼ of a teaspoon of ground bay leaves. A fresh leaf can be replaced by ½ of a teaspoon of ground bay leaves.

Thyme

Thyme is an everyday fresh herb used in place of bay leaves. The leaves grow on thin stems and are plucked to season dishes with. You can either use it in conjunction with other spices or on its own. It can be found as both fresh and dry herb, and they both taste the same. It has been used in various cuisines throughout the years because of its many health benefits.

The taste is sharp and grass-like; but, its citrus lemon flavor is what stands out the most. To get the best results when substituting, use dried thyme.

Dried thyme will have a similar flavor to bay leaves, so it fits right in, especially in beef and lamb recipes. Use ¼ of a teaspoon of dried thyme in place of 1 bay leaf. For ¼ of a teaspoon of crushed bay leaf, use ¼ of a teaspoon of dried thyme.

Oregano

This herb is a member of the mint family, and as such, it bears similar flavors. Its origins can be traced back to the Mediterranean. The flavor mainly comes from the antioxidants, which are strong, earthy, and spicy.

The leaves are small, but they pack a punch. They are pungent enough to flavor a variety of dishes effectively. It makes a good substitute for bay leaves because it is aromatic and also minty. It pairs well with tomato-based dishes.

To use it as a substitute, use ¼ of a teaspoon of dried oregano for 1 bay leaf. Or equal amounts if you are replacing crushed bay leaves.

Basil

This herb is another member of the mint family. It, therefore, brings the same flavors as the mint family. It is native to India and is quite aromatic.

Basil also works well when paired with fresh salads. Fresh basil leaves, just like fresh bay leaves, are green and glossy. The dried version of both is similar. The subtle pungency, aromatic, and sweet flavors make basil leaves a suitable replacement.

1 fresh bay leaf can be substituted with 1 fresh basil leaf. If you are using dry ingredients, ¼ of a teaspoon of crushed bay leaf is the same as ¼ of a teaspoon of dried basil.

Juniper berries

You may know these berries as the spice used to flavor gin, but that’s not all it’s good for. Juniper berries are an excellent option for cooking. The name can make you think these berries are a fruit, but they are actually more of a spice.

Juniper berries are an aromatic herb, and their flavor makes them an excellent choice for flavoring food. They have pine and pepper-like flavor, which can overpower a dish if they are not used sparingly, just like bay leaves.

To replace bay leaves with juniper berries, use 2 or 3 berries for 1 bay leaf. Just like bay leaves, you can use the berries to get the flavor you desire, but you will need to remove them to keep those flavors balanced.

Boldo leaves

These leaves are taken from the boldo plant. They make an excellent bay leaf substitute because they have similar notes and flavors. For example, they are both bitter. However, boldo leaves are still somewhat milder and softer than bay leaves. Since they are milder, they pair well with recipes that require a milder taste and still have the same taste as bay leaves.

To replace bay leaves with boldo leaves, you can use half of a boldo leaf for every single leaf called for in the recipe. Or you can use ¼ of a teaspoon of crushed boldo leaf for ½ of a teaspoon of crushed bay leaf.