substitute for bay leaf in recipes

In this article, you will learn all about the best substitutes for bay leaves in your favorite recipes. Regardless of whether you like bay leaves or not, or if you just want to mix up your herbs by swapping and changing them now and then, you won’t regret trying any of the alternatives featured in this post.

Cooking is all about trial and error, and fortunately, I have done the testing for you so that you don’t have to. I hope the following information helps you!

1. Basil

Basil is a brilliant substitute for bay leaves in Italian dishes. Basil is a little sweeter than bay leaves, but the great thing about it is that you can be heavy-handed when adding it to a dish without it overpowering your meal.

Only use this alternative if you are cooking beef or tomato-based dishes. Tomato and basil are perfect partners, so if you haven’t tried this combination before, I suggest giving it a go!

2. Oregano

Oregano is a perennial herb. It has similar features and flavor characteristics to bay leaf and will therefore enhance the flavors in your food in a similar way to bay leaves. You will be pleased to learn that much like bay leaves, oregano has the same immune-boosting health benefits and can be used to detoxify and strengthen your body.

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3. Thyme

If Bay leaf is your regular herb of choice with meat dishes, then thyme is a great herb for you to try instead. Thyme isn’t part of the same family plant as bay leaves, but fear not, it can work wonders on your dish in ways that even bay leaf can’t!

Use a sprinkle of dried thyme on roasted red meat or as part of minty meat marinate. Thyme is also a lovely herb on roasted potatoes drizzled with olive oil, so don’t just save it for your meat dishes!

4. Juniper Berries

Adding juniper berries to duck dishes will take your meal to the next level! You don’t need to switch out the bay leaves for juniper berries because they go very well together, but if you do want to use something different, try rosemary instead of bay leaves.

Note: Pregnant women and small children are not allowed to eat juniper berries, so be mindful of this if you are having guests over for dinner.

Recipes Containing Bay Leaves

Are you new to the bay leaf craze and unsure what bay leaves are used for? Don’t worry; this section will help you out! The following dishes often contain bay leaves in their recipes.


Bay leaves are great herbs for soups. If you are thinking of putting a whole bay leaf in the soup while it cooks, make sure you remove it if you want to blend the final product. Blending a whole bay leaf could turn the soup sour, so taking a less-is-more approach is key.


You can use Bay leaf in meaty risotto recipes, tomato-based risotto, and any other risotto recipe you like unless it contains fish. Keep the bay leaf whole and remove it before serving the dish for the best results.

Homemade Stocks

Chicken, meat, and vegetable stock all taste better with a hint of bay leaf. Beef stock tastes particularly succulent with a hint of bay leaf, so don’t hesitate and add it next time you make beef stock.


Adding a bay leaf in with rice when you are preparing a dish is very common practice in the Middle East. Once you have washed the rice thoroughly and drained any excess water from the rice, fry it off in some vegetable oil, add two cups of water for every cup of rice, throw a bay leaf or two into the pot, and leave it to cook.

Meat Dishes

Red meat dishes such as stews and roasts will be elevated to the next level if you add Bay leaf to the mix.

Final Thoughts

There is nothing quite like bay leaf, but the alternatives in this article will make an old family favorite dish feel fresh and new. It takes a lot of trial and error to get herbs spot-on, but if you use the above suggestions then you are already on your way to success!

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Q: How do you use bay leaves?
A: Throw a whole leaf into stock, stews, or red meat curries and remove the leaf once the dish is ready.

Q: How long should I cook bay leaves to dry them out?
A: Fresh bay leaves should be baked for three to four hours if you want them to dry out completely.

Q: What do fresh bay leaves taste like?
A: Fresh bay leaves have a very floral taste to them and are less overpowering than dried bay leaves in a dish.

Q: Are bay leaves good for you?
A: Yes, bay leaves have a lot of positive medicinal properties. They are great for healing wounds, boost the immune system, and even act as insect repellants!

Q: What is the difference between bay leaves and Indian bay leaves?
A: Indian bay leaves are the leaves from a cinnamon tree, whereas bay leaves are the leaves of a European bay tree.

Q: Can I use bay leaves in tomato sauce recipes?
A: Yes, bay leaves taste amazing paired with tomato sauces. Bay leaves make the tomato sauce taste richer and give it more depth than cooking without the herb.

Q: When should I use a bay leaf substitute?
A: You can use a substitute for bay leaf whenever you want to mix up an old recipe and try something new. There aren’t any rules when it comes to cooking and experimenting with new flavors. If you aren’t sure what to choose as a bay leaf substitute, check out the alternatives in the article above.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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