As a confirmed, self-confessed Foodie, I can’t help but marvel at the wonders of nature. We have so many magnificent edible plants just waiting to be added to our pots. While it is glorious to have a garden, you don’t really need much more than a small space on your kitchen windowsill to grow a pot of aromatic chervil and other herbs. If you don’t have chervil, there are a few things that you can use as substitutes for chervil.
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When I think ‘herbs’, of course, that beautiful song comes to mind, “Parsely, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme….” and I find myself with the melody stuck in my head for hours. There are so many exotic dishes that we can cook up with these wonders of nature.
What Is Chervil?
Chervil is a herb that is one of the four main ingredients used in fines herbes. Now you may be asking, ‘What is fines herbes?’ Fines herbes is a special blend of herbs that is used as a base ingredient in many dishes in French haute cuisine. The other three ingredients are parsley, tarragon, and chives.
This unique blend of herbs gives its own special flavor to dishes such as chicken, fish, and eggs. It is particularly good when added to an omelet, or sprinkled lightly over scrambled eggs. It is also used as a seasoning in many French sauces.
While chervil is a key ingredient in many exotic French dishes, you may find it somewhat ironic to learn that it gets its name from Greek. The Greek word chaerophyllon means ‘herb of rejoicing’, and it was known in Greece as the happy herb.
What Does Chervil Look Like?
Chervil looks a little like parsley, but the color is a slightly lighter shade of green. The leaves are thinner and more fragile and have a frilly edge to them. They are also slightly flatter than parsley leaves.
You may be surprised to learn that chervil is actually a member of the carrot family, and its leaves look a lot like carrot leaves.
If you find chervil with blossoms, you should not use it in your cooking. The herb usually becomes bitter once it starts to flower.
What Does Chervil Taste Like?
Again, when it comes to taste, there are some similarities between chervil and parsley, but chervil is not as strong as parsley. The taste is more subtle. The undertones of the flavor have a hint of aniseed.
What Should Chervil Be Used For?
Because of its unusual, mildly aniseed flavor, chervil adds an interesting touch to many fish dishes. Just a small amount can totally change the flavor of the fish.
Chervil can be added to soups and stews, giving them a more elegant and sophisticated twist.
Using chervil in sauces like a butter sauce, or a mushroom sauce will add a delicious hint of exotic flavor. Many substitutes for chervil will also add a hint of something different to your cooking.
Does Chervil Have Medicinal Properties?
Many people who believe in natural remedies make use of a variety of herbs in their medicinal preparations. Chervil is one of those herbs that is often used to prepare natural remedies. All the parts of the plant, leaves, flowers, juice, and roots, are considered useful and beneficial.
Unfortunately, when it comes to natural medicine, the experts say that there are no substitutes for chervil. Each herb has its own unique properties. Chervil is used to treat problems of the digestive system, respiratory issues, bloating caused by water retention, and elevated blood pressure.
Even though chervil is considered by many to be an effective natural remedy, I do not advocate relying on it to treat any kind of serious ailment. If you are not well, I recommend seeking professional medical advice.
What Are The Best Substitutes For Chervil?
Chervil has a fairly mild, subtle flavor. Because it is not overpoweringly strong, it is not always easy to identify it straight away in foods. For this reason, if you find that you don’t have any chervil when magically creating that exotic French dinner, there are substitutes for chervil that you can use. These may not give exactly the same flavor, but, when blended with all your other ingredients, will taste just as good.
When your recipe says chervil, but your chervil jar is empty, don’t despair. All is not lost, and nor do you have to take off your apron and rush out to the nearest store. Rather try using a substitute for chervil.
Even if you do heroically put your cooking on hold and tear off in search of chervil, you may not be able to find it. It is not always readily available in all stores.
Chervil can be added to recipes in either fresh or dried form. If your recipe calls for fresh chervil, which you now realize you do not have, try using one of the following, in each case allowing for a substitution of 1 tablespoon of the substitute for 1 tablespoon of fresh chervil leaves.
- Freshly chopped parsley leaves.
Although many people think that parsley should only be used to garnish food, it also contributes a lovely flavor to your food when added during cooking. If you don’t have any chervil, you can use fresh parsley and it won’t affect the outcome of your dish.
An extra advantage to using parsley is that it is known to have many health benefits. It is rich in vitamin K and is said to have certain properties that could protect against some types of cancer.
- Freshly chopped tarragon
Tarragon is a perennial herb and is a member of the sunflower family. Now if chervil is a member of the carrot family, and tarragon comes from sunflower lineage, you may think that they are not related and therefore are very different. However, their flavors do have some similarities.
Fresh tarragon has a strong licorice taste, similar to the undertones of aniseed that we can taste in chervil. This is because they both have an organic element known as estragole. This element is what gives them the licorice flavor. It is also found in my next suggested substitute for chervil.
- Freshly chopped fennel leaves.
Although fennel is not considered a root vegetable, it is also a member of the carrot family. It consists of a bulb topped with leaves, and it is these leaves that also have that hint of aniseed in their flavor. Therefore, when your recipe calls for fresh chervil leaves, but they are unavailable, you can successfully use fennel leaves instead.
- Fresh dill
Dill is a highly versatile herb, coming from the celery family. Both the leaves and the seeds are rich with flavor and can be used in many different dishes. It has a grassy flavor and aroma, with a hint of citrus undertones. It goes really well with other herbs such as mint and parsley and also enhances the flavor of garlic.
When used as a substitute for chervil, fresh dill may not have exactly the same flavor, but it will be a pretty good alternative.
- A mixture of chives, hyssop, fennel, and thyme, in equal quantities
This blend of herbs creates a unique flavor that closely resembles the taste and aroma of fresh chervil. When using it as a substitute for chervil, your dish will give off a tantalizing herby aroma as it cooks. And it will taste as good as it smells.
This little-known herb is also a plant that comes from the celery family. It has a sweetish flavor, with that same undertone of aniseed. Because of its slight aniseed flavor, Cicely can be used as a good substitute for chervil.
In addition to being a good substitute for chervil, Cicely is often used to make a hot tea-like drink, used in natural remedies for ailments such as coughs and sore throats.
When chervil is dried, it loses much of its flavor. This is why most recipes that include chervil call for fresh chervil, rather than dried chervil. However, if your recipe includes dried chervil, it is usually safe to use any of the above substitutes for chervil in their dried form.
How Long Can Fresh Chervil Keep?
If you want to avoid having to use a substitute for chervil, you can ensure that you always have a fresh supply. When you buy your chervil, wash it in fresh cold water as soon as you bring it home. With paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, pat it dry very well, then wrap it in a clean, slightly damp cloth and store it in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. It will keep like this for 2-3 days.
Can You Freeze Fresh Chervil?
You can freeze chervil. Keep the leaves attached to the stem. Place in a single layer in a dish and place in the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen, store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months, and use when needed.
In this way, you will not need to worry about finding substitutes for chervil.