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The 5 Best Substitutes for Bay Leaf

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Have you ever wondered what gives French cuisine its distinctive flavor?

Or why your homemade tomato sauce never quite tastes the same as the restaurant version?

The answer may lie in a small, unassuming herb known as the bay leaf.

Bay leaves often add a subtle yet complex flavor to soups, stews, and sauces.

However, they can be difficult to find and also quite pricey.

If you find yourself in a pinch, here are five-bay leaf substitutes that give your dish a similar flavor profile.

What is Bay Leaf?

what is bay leaf

Bay leaf, also called laurel leaf, is a common ingredient in many culinary dishes.

It has a sharp, slightly bitter flavor released when the leaves are cooked.

Bay leaves are often used to flavor soups and stews, and they are also a key ingredient in bouquet garni, a mixture of herbs used to flavor stocks and sauces.

Bay leaves can be found fresh or dried at most supermarkets.

When using dried bay leaves, remove them before serving, as they can be quite tough.

Fresh bay leaves, on the other hand, can be eaten whole.

When cooking with bay leaves, remember that a little goes a long way- too many bay leaves can make a dish taste overly bitter.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Bay Leaves

If you don’t have bay leaves on hand, there are several substitutes that can be used in their place.

Here are the five best substitutes for bay leaves.

1 – Basil


For many, the choice of herbs is a personal one.

But when it comes to basil vs.

bay leaf, there is a clear winner.

While bay leaves can add a bit of depth to a dish, their flavor is often subdued by other ingredients.

Basil, on the other hand, has a bolder taste that can hold its own against other strong flavors.

Additionally, basil is much easier to find than bay leaves, which can be difficult to track down in stores.

And finally, basil is a much lower maintenance herb than bay leaves; it doesn’t need to be removed before eating, and it doesn’t have the same risk of ending up stuck in your teeth.

2 – Dried Thyme

dried thyme

While bay leaves are a common ingredient in many stews and soups, they can be difficult to find.

If you find yourself in a pinch, dried thyme makes an excellent substitute.

Not only does it have a similar flavor profile, but it also helps to add depth and complexity to dishes.

Add a teaspoon of dried thyme to every bay leaf called for in the recipe.

You may need to experiment with the amount of thyme you use, as some recipes can be quite strong.

However, with a little trial and error, you’ll be able to create delicious dishes that are sure to please your family and friends.

3 – Oregano


Oregano is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes, from pasta sauce to roast chicken.

While it is frequently used as a substitute for basil, oregano can also be used in place of bay leaf.

Bay leaf is traditionally used to add flavor to soups and stews, but it can be difficult to find in stores.

Oregano has a similar flavor profile to bay leaf, with a slightly minty taste and hints of thyme.

In addition, oregano is widely available and easy to grow.

As a result, oregano is an ideal substitution for bay leaf in any recipe.

4 – Juniper Berries

juniper berries

Juniper berries are often used as a flavoring agent in gin, but did you know that they can also be used as a substitute for bay leaves? Juniper berries have a similar flavor profile to bay leaves, with notes of pine and citrus.

They can be used whole or ground and are a versatile ingredient that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

When substituting juniper berries for bay leaves, use half as many berries as you would leave.

For example, if a recipe calls for two bay leaves, use one juniper berry.

Juniper berries can be found in specialty stores or online and are a great way to add flavor to your cooking.

5 – Boldo Leaves

boldo leaves

Boldo leaves are a common ingredient in Chilean cuisine, where they are used to flavor stews and soups.

These days, boldo leaves are increasingly being used as a substitute for bay leaves in other cuisines.

Boldo leaves have a similar shape to bay leaves, but they are smaller and have a more pungent flavor.

When used in cooking, boldo leaves should be added at the beginning of the cooking process so that their flavor has time to infuse the dish.

A little goes a long way with boldo leaves, so start with just one or two and add more to taste.


In conclusion, there are many substitutes for bay leaves that can be used in recipes.

Some of the best substitutes include dried thyme, oregano, boldo leaves, and basil.

Each of these herbs has a unique flavor that can enhance the taste of your dish.

When substituting bay leaves, it is important to use a smaller amount than what the recipe calls for.

This will ensure that the dish is not overpowered by the herb’s flavor.

Experiment with different herbs to find the perfect flavor for your dish.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Bay Leaf

Recipe by Andrew Gray Course: Substitutes


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  • Basil

  • Dried Thyme

  • Oregano

  • Juniper Berries

  • Boldo Leaves


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.

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