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7 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes That You Can Try

7 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes That You Can Try

In this article, we will be talking about the best bay leaf substitutes. Now, if you are a fan of cooking in general, I am sure you must be aware of bay leaves. They add an exceptional amount of flavor to various foods and even to stocks. 

However, there can be times when you need that specific bay leaf flavor, and you seem to be all out of it. Don’t run to the store to buy some in a situation like this! Just use a substitute instead. This article will help you find the best substitutes for bay leaf. 

I am sure you must be wondering, what are the best substitutes for bay leaf? The best bay leaf substitutes are thyme, oregano, basil, boldo leaves, juniper berries, rosemary, and red bay leaves. 

However, before I start discussing the substitutes with you, how about we talk a little bit more about bay leaves? This will give you a better idea about the same. So, let’s get started.

What’s In The Post

Quick Peek: Bay Leaf

This section has a lot of information on a bay leaf. You will get to understand what it is, its flavor, texture, uses, and nutritional information. 

What Is a Bay Leaf?

Bay leaf, also known as bay laurel, is an aromatic leaf used in cooking in both whole and ground forms. Fresh bay leaves have a very mild flavor and don’t develop their flavor properly until they are dried. There are various forms of bay leaves available in the world. 

Some of these varieties are California bay leaf, Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf, West Indian bay leaf, and Mexican bay leaf. Generally, bay leaves remain stiff even after cooking. Hence, they are removed from food right before consumption. 

Describing Bay Leaf: Flavor And Texture

Bay leaves are pungent, with a sharp and bitter taste. The fragrance of bay leaf is generally more predominant than its taste. Dried bay leaf has a herbal and floral aroma that is quite similar to oregano and thyme. 

When infused into various types of food, it imparts a slightly minty flavor with subtle hints of black pepper. Dried bay leaves have an olive green hue as we talk about texture. Dried bay leaf has a brittle texture with the edges slightly curved. 

Uses Of Bay Leaf

As you may already know, bay leaf flavors various stocks and broths. However, bay leaves are used way beyond that and in various parts of the world. In the Indian subcontinent, bay leaf is a very important ingredient. 

They are an essential part of garam masala and are used whole to flavor various dishes like biryani. Dried bay leaves are also used in Filipino cuisine in dishes such as adobo. Moreover, it is also popular in various European cuisines and in America. 

Bay leaves are used in French and Italian cuisine in various dishes and as a part of bouquet garni. Ground bay leaf generally imparts more flavor than whole bay leaf. However, since ground bay leaf is more difficult to remove, it is usually added in a muslin cloth. 

Other than culinary uses, bay leaves are also used to kill insects (Yes, you heard that right!)They are an essential part of killing jars for insects. Moreover, the leaves also stop the growth of molds. 

Bay Leaf On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

Bay leaf is generally used in very small quantities in various recipes. Hence, it does not provide too many health benefits. However, it has been linked to various health benefits. Bay leaf helps with a healthy immune system, as it contains vitamins A, B6, and C. 

Moreover, bay leaf tea can help cure an upset stomach and blocked sinuses. Bay leaf also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, and manganese. A certain study has also shown that bay leaf can help reduce risks of type 2 diabetes. However, this study is still in an early stage of research. 

Why Use A Substitute For Bay Leaf?

I am sure you must have thought of this question. While there are many reasons to use the bay leaf in a recipe, there are a few reasons as to why you can consider using a substitute. 

Firstly, not everyone likes the flavor of bay leaves. If the flavor profile does not suit you, a substitute can come in handy. A substitute will provide a similar flavor profile. However, it won’t be an exact match to bay leaf. 

Moreover, bay leaf needs to either be removed from food in the end or added in a muslin cloth. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of all this, a substitute can easily work out well for you.

Lastly, if these aren’t good enough concerns for you and you simply are out of bay leaf, why run to the store? Using a substitute will definitely save a lot of your time and energy!

I think I have given you enough information on bay leaves. Now, let me quickly introduce all the best bay leaf substitutes.

7 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes

This section has a list of all the best substitutes for bay leaf. Moreover, you will also get to understand how you can use each substitute in place of bay leaf. 

1. Oregano

Oregano has a minty, peppery flavor that can be quite similar to that of bay leaf. Dried oregano generally makes a great substitute for bay leaf. 

You can use fresh oregano as a substitute for bay leaf. However, dried oregano has a robust flavor and works better as a bay leaf substitute. Moreover, it particularly works well as a bay leaf replacement in tomato-based gravies. 

Oregano also works well with various forms of meat as a bay leaf substitute. As a general rule of thumb, use ¼ teaspoon of oregano for every single bay leaf. However, you can add more if you like the flavor of this herb. 

2. Thyme

Thyme belongs to the same mint family as oregano. It has a slightly peppery and minty taste and can work well as a bay leaf substitute. 

Even though bay leaf and thyme are very different in appearance, they do have a similar flavor profile. Dried thyme generally works extremely well with beef and lamb recipes. 

The substitution ratio for thyme is pretty simple. Use ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme for every bay leaf used in a recipe. You can alternately also use fresh thyme if it is available. 

3. Basil

Basil also has a slightly bitter and peppery flavor, a little similar to that of bay leaf. Hence, you use it as a substitute for bay leaf. 

Dry basil is generally quite subtle in taste compared to fresh bay leaf. However, in this case, dry basil, makes a better substitute. Basil generally works best in tomato-based recipes. So you can effectively use it in pasta and pizza sauces. 

It can be used in other recipes, too. However, that may impact the overall flavor of your dish. Use ¼ teaspoon of basil for every single bay leaf in a recipe. 

4. Rosemary

The flavor of rosemary isn’t quite similar to that of bay leaf. However, if used in small quantities, it can work as a substitute in certain recipes. 

Rosemary is quite a versatile ingredient. You can usually use it as a substitute for bay leaf in any recipe. However, rosemary generally tends to go well with meat. Try using rosemary with steak, lamb, fish, and gamey meats. 

Since their flavor profiles aren’t an exact match, try using ⅛ teaspoon of rosemary for every bay leaf as a substitute. In case you want a stronger flavor of the herb, you can always add more later. 

5. Boldo Leaves

Boldo leaves are a close relative of bay leaves. They have a mildly bitter, rich, and savory taste, quite similar to a bay leaf. Hence, they can be used as a substitute for bay leaves. 

The flavor of boldo leaves is much milder than that of bay leaves. However, if not used properly, they do tend to have an overpowering flavor. Boldo leaves generally tend to work well in lighter recipes, such as vegetable dishes. 

Considering the similar flavor profile and the fact that boldo leaves can overpower a dish, try using half the quantity as a substitute. So for every bay leaf, use half a boldo leaf. 

6. Red Bay Leaves

Red bay leaves come from the red cove plant. They are, in fact, not green but red. Though not very common, they can be used as a bay leaf substitute. 

Though it may not be common everywhere, red bay leaves are, in fact, common in certain parts of the world. They are commonly used as bay leaf substitutes along the Atlantic shore. 

While using them as a substitute for bay leaf, follow a 1:1 ratio. Moreover, you can use them in the same way as bay leaves and remove them right after your food is cooked. 

7. Juniper Berries

Though called berries, juniper berries are actually a type of pungent tasting spice. They have a strong taste with notes of citrus. They can work well as a bay leaf substitute. 

To help impart their flavor properly in food, you can crush or grind juniper berries. However, juniper berries do tend to overpower a dish. So, they must be used carefully. 

While using them as a substitute for bay leaves, try using 2-3 berries for each bay leaf. This is usually a safe substitution, flavor-wise. If the flavor seems a little bland, you can always add more juniper berries later. 

Short Recap For Bay Leaf Substitutes

Those were some great substitutes for bay leaf. However, after reading all the substitutes, are you still confused about which one would work best in your recipe? For that, I have broken it down further. Have a look!

Most Suitable: The most suitable bay leaf substitute is red bay leaf. 

Easily Available: Oregano is the most easily available bay leaf substitute. 

Best Flavor Profile: Thyme will give the best flavor profile when used as a bay leaf substitute. 

Final Word

As we have reached the end of this article, I hope it has helped you find the best bay leaf substitute. Bay leaf may seem like a difficult flavor to replicate. However, if the substitutes are used in an appropriate way, they can give a considerably similar flavor profile. 

That being said, all the substitute options given are extremely worthy alternatives for bay leaf. Try using them in the way suggested, and they will definitely add to the flavor of your dish. So, the next time you are out of bay leaf, do give one of these options a try!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is bay leaf used for?

Bay leaf is used to add flavor to food and for certain medicinal purposes.

What is another name for bay leaf?

Laurel is another name for bay leaf.

What is a bay leaf called in India?

Bay leaf is called tejpatta in India.

Why is bay leaf removed from food in the end?

Bay leaf is usually removed from food once it imparts its flavor as it can be a choking hazard.

Can you drink bay leaf tea?

Yes, bay leaf tea is a natural drink with various health benefits.


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