13 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes
Since Ancient times, bay leaves have been around in the world’s cuisine. It is also one of the most traded ingredients for herbal medicine and flavoring. Moreover, bay leaf is a type of leaf from the laurel tree with a floral and herbal aroma. In the market, you can easily find fresh and dried bay leaves.
With a sophisticated flavor, bay leaf is the best spice when making soups and stews. Furthermore, bay leaves are also rich in vitamins and minerals that boost your health.
It is such a fantastic ingredient that it may not be easy to find a bay leaf substitute when you run out of them.
If you are wondering, “What can I substitute for bay leaf?”; with no further ado, let’s check out what ingredient you can use as a replacement in the content below!
Do Bay Leaves Make Food Taste Better?
Yes, of course. As you can see, people love these leaves for the beautiful flavor they bring to the table. When adding the bay leaves to your recipes, you may find a hint of tea-like, sweet notes that balance out your savory dishes.
Moreover, bay leaf’s cooking is widely popular in European cuisine to spice various dishes from vegetables, sauces to meat, stews, and soups. In many French recipes like pate sauce and pickling marinades, it also plays a fundamental role in determining the iconic taste of the dish.
What Does Bay Leaf Taste Like?
You can find two types of bay leaf in the market: Turkish bay leaf and California bay leaf. Each type can have slight differences in flavor. More specifically, when infused with liquid like broth or water, the leaf gives you a combination of spearmint and menthol flavor with a mild pungent undertone similar to pine and black pepper.
Overall, the fresh bay leaf has an oval shape with a strong green color. They are quite firm to the touch with a fresh, herbal aroma.
13 Ingredients Used As Bay Leaf Substitute
Bay leaf is a great ingredient for adding flavor layers to your dish. If you run out of them, is there a substitute for bay leaves? Yes, let’s find out what bay leaf substitution you can use in this list below!
1. Dried Bay Leaf
Suppose you’re out of fresh bay leaf for your soups; you can easily use the dried bay leaf as a fresh bay leaf alternative or bay leaf powder substitute. They are practically the same ingredient! A bonus for dried bay leaves is their long shelf life which can last for years. Yet, when using dried bay leaf, you might not get the same aroma in the fresh bay leaf.
Regardless of the fragrance, dried bay leaf is still as flavorful as the fresh version that you can add to your broths or stocks. The dried bay leaf infused with the liquid releases their pungent and strong minty flavor to blend with the heavy, creamy, and umami soups.
2. Ground Bay Leaf
Another version of bay leaf you can use to substitute in your soups, stews, and sauces is ground bay leaf. Fresh bay leaves are harvested, dried, and grounded into a fine powder.
Ground bay leaf is ideal when you need to use them for seasoning and marinating fish, poultry, and other meat. However, it is not a great ingredient if you want to add some green color to your dish.
Regardless of the appearance, the ground version is similar to the fresh bay leaf, which has a savory, strong taste with a minty undertone. Furthermore, it is greatly used among professional chefs due to the consistency of the flavor. It is best to use ground bay leaf if you’re working on a new recipe so that you can measure the amount more easily and correctly.
3. Curry Leaf
Another amazing Asian bay leaves alternative is curry leaves. It is a common spice in many Indian and Southeast Asian recipes.
The curry leaf has a similar look to the bay leaf, an oval shape, and a slender look with vibrant green. The taste of curry leaves can be described as savory, slightly sour, and warm.
Some people find it is a combination of anise, lemongrass, and citrus. When you cook soups, stews, or curry with this leaf, its taste is quite strong and adds a richer and deeper layer of flavor like the bay leaf. People use curry leaves best in rice, curry, dal, and soup dishes.
One of the most popular herbs in the American kitchen is Rosemary. Thanks to its flexible taste, this soft and tender ingredient can also be an amazing bay leaf replacement. Native to the Mediterranean, Rosemary has another name called “dew of the sea.” This plant species has a different look compared to bay leaves. With small and narrow leaves attached to their slim plant body, Rosemary has a strong herbal aroma that you can find in bay leaves.
When cooking with Rosemary, the plant has a fresh and slightly minty, and sweet flavor. However, the spiciness of bay leaves lacks in Rosemary, so this is a great ingredient if you like a less peppery taste. Nevertheless, this ingredient is used widely in stews, soups, galoshes, and mixed green recipes.
Another great bay leaves replacement in soups is thyme. As a member of the mint plant family, you can find thyme flavor similar to bay leaf in many ways. A bonus point for this ingredient is its popularity, which you can find in any local market. Thyme can also be used to substitute for Rosemary because of their similar look.
When using thyme in bay leaf dishes, there is a warm, peppery and mild minty taste from the thyme that blends amazingly to your stews, soups, and sauces. Unlike the dominant flavor of bay leaf, thyme is better to be used for light dishes as its aroma and flavor are not too strong.
Oregano is another spice similar to a bay leaf; the fresh oregano plant has small green leaves with a distinctive aroma. They are usually available in fresh or dried versions in the market and are normally added to many soups and stews.
This plant may not look like a bay leaf, but it is surely a cousin in terms of flavor. When mixing the oregano leaves, you might notice a spicy, sweet, and bold flavor with the organic compound camphor’s slightly bitter and earthy undertone. Thus, oregano is a great spice with gluten-free content for any vegan and vegetarian diet.
When talking about Asian spices, it would be a shame not to mention basil! Basil is a famously known spice in the mint family that you can find in many Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Italian recipes. If you have had pesto, then you probably know how tasty this spice is on your pasta.
Basil has a vibrant green with a delicate aroma. When comparing basil vs bay leaf, the leaves of basil can be similar to bay leaves which are wide and smooth. Basil has a fresh and pungent flavor that you normally find in bay leaves. With some leaves in your sauces, you can make a deliciously creamy and minty bay leaf-based recipe.
8. Juniper Berries
Juniper berries may sound like a strange ingredient for you, but it is a nice ingredient included in some Northern Europe and North America areas. These scented berries grow from an evergreen tree; then, people will harvest the cone of the juniper berry for making spices.
These pale blueberries are attractive to the look and delicious to the taste. Many people find it to have a flavor combination of fruitiness and spiciness, which you can use for bay leaf recipes. It is best to use it for marinating as the herb is not edible.
9. Boldo Leaves
An aromatic herb that is native in Andes Mountain and Chile is Boldo leaves. You can also find this evergreen plant in other countries’ cuisine like Morocco, Ecuador, Argentina, and Mexico.
The use of Boldo leaves been known for a long time as herbal medicine and a flavorful spice with versatile flavor that you can use to substitute for bay leaf seasoning. Additionally, the boldo leaves are mildly bitter with a coniferous taste when cooked with fish, vegetables, and mushrooms.
Sage or Salvia officinalis is another member of the mint family which can be used as a good substitution for bay leaf. Sage is most popular in the Mediterranean area with many health benefits. Similar to Rosemary, sage has a strong fragrance which is cooked often with poultry. This ingredient has a certain minty and peppery hint that will remind you of bay leaf in many meat and seafood dishes.
11. Lime Zest
In case you’re in a hurry; then, a lime zest can replace bay leaves to complete your umami stews and soups! The punchy, citrusy, and lemony flavor of lime can balance out your dish’s heavy texture and a savory flavor, similar to a bay leaf. You can grate the lime and mix it with some lime juice in marinade sauces, rich soups, stews, and curries.
Cilantro can look like a parsley leaf with a bright green. Although it is not as firm as bay leaf, cilantro can provide a bright, potent, lemony, and grassy flavor to blend evenly in many bay leaf recipes. Believe it or not, the mixture of citrusy and floral taste is a powerful combination that you should try out when you’re out of the bay leaf.
13. Kaffir Lime Leaf
Lastly, Kaffir lime leaf is another potential substitute for bay leaf when you have few choices left. This is an aromatic ingredient with a wide green leaf. Some people also find it is similar to bay leaf and curry leaf because of its complex taste. From my point of view, I can only describe the flavor as spicy, citrusy, and slightly bitter, which works like a charm in many rice, soups, stir-fries, and curry dishes.
You can also add the lemony taste to barbecue meat to create an interesting mix of sweet and sour flavor for your main course. Especially, slice them into thin strips and sprinkle them on broiled chicken or roasted shrimps to enjoy a flavorful tasting experience!
Using Bay Leaves Substitutes
As we have looked through the list of bay leaf substitutes, it might be difficult for you to choose which one is suitable to add to your dish. So, what can you use instead of bay leaves for the best similar taste? Let’s find out now!
The best option to substitute all bay leaf recipes is getting a different version of bay leaf-like dried or ground ones. In this case, 1 bay leaf equals how much dried?
You can easily measure the ingredients by these ratios. Suppose you’re using dried leaves for a fresh one; the ratio should be one fresh bay leaf for two dried bay leaves.
Moreover, fresh bay leaf can also be replaced with ground one at a ratio of 1 fresh bay leaf for ½ teaspoon of ground bay leaf.
Perhaps you cannot use bay leaves at all. Common ingredients you can substitute for bay leaf in soup, tomato sauce, and stews are thyme, curry leaf, Rosemary, oregano, and basil. Make sure you use the same amount the recipes require a bay leaf, so the flavor is equally balanced.
Other ingredients like cilantro, juniper berries, boldo leaves, sage, kaffir lime leaf, and lime zest are capable of elevating your marinade and stock flavor and bring out the best in these dishes.
1. Laurel Leaves Vs Bay Leaves: Are They Different?
If you’re new to the use of bay leaves, you might come across another name called Laurel leaf. When comparing laurel leaf vs. bay leaf, they are the same type of leaf with different names. So, if you see a bag of laurel leaves, then you know it is just what you need!
2. What Are The Health Benefits Of Bay Leaf Herbs?
Bay leaf is not only for seasoning, but you can also make refreshing bay leaf tea. Bay leaf is rich in Vitamin C, A, and several minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Thus, it promotes your metabolism, strengthens your bones, and enhances your skin and hair.