Parsley is a herb that has a plethora of uses and has a significant role in the presentation. From adding flavor to salads, soup, and dips to being used as an essential garnish in many dishes, this little plant is one of the most versatile herbs you will come across! But what happens when parsley runs out? This is the list of thirteen best substitutes for parsley for any occasion.
This herb is an integral part of certain recipes (chimichurri & tabbouleh) and is hard to substitute. Here you will find the 13 best parsley substitutes, and tips on how & when to use them.
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What is parsley
Parsley is a biennial plant and is commonly used in Middle Eastern, European, and American cuisine. It is an herb that has a strong, distinctive flavor. Known for its slightly peppery flavor. It is often added to dishes after cooking or sprinkled on top just before serving.
This plant belongs to the carrot family and can resemble celery or dill in appearance. However, parsley leaves are flat rather than round like carrots. It also has health benefits because this herb is rich in vitamin C and iron.
Where does it grow? Parsley loves to be grown in cool weather conditions with plenty of sun exposure. It is a biennial plant that can have both green parsley leaves or purple leaves depending on where you live.
But what happens when you don't have any fresh parsley? What substitute can you use? Read this blog post to find out!
Different Types of Parsley
Before we check what are the substitutes for fresh parsley, let's see how many different types of parsley are there and their distinct flavors.
Most recipes simply mention "parsley" to use, but let me tell you, there are four varieties of it that exist. And if you are new to cooking, you must be using either flat-leaf or curly parsley most of the time. Out of four types of parsley, these two are most common.
- Flat Leaf or Italian Parsley is the most common substitute for parsley. This variety has a more subtle flavor than curly varieties, which makes it perfect to substitute in any recipe that calls for fresh or dried parsley. It has a disticnt, strong herbaceous and slightly peppery flavor. Most commonly used in soups, pasta, stew, dips, and garnishing.
- Curly Parsley or curl-leaf parsley is often used in garnishing. But works well as a substitute of Italian parsley. Keep in mind, it is mild in flavor and less peppery as compared to flat leaf so you need to use it more in quantity.
- Japanese Parsley also known as Mitsuba or Purple-Leaved Japanese Honewort is an edible plant from leaf to roots. It belongs to carrots family and is a biennial/annual herb. Mostly cultivated in Japan and a part of Asian cuisines. It tastes in like celery with a hint of cilantro and slightly bitter. Mostly used in soups, salads, stir-fries, and rice bowls (donburi).
- Hamburg Parsley (a.k.a. Root Parsley) resembles a carrot in appearance. Its root taste like celery and stems & leaves are consumed just like normal parsley. However, root parsley has a different flavor profile altogether due to which it not considerd as a substitues of flat leaf parsley.
Curly Parsley vs Italian Parsley
As the name explains itself, curly parsley has a ruffled look with a mild flavor. While flat-leaf or Italian parsley has a very strong peppery flavor profile along with crunchy dark green flat leaves. Both are used for seasoning and garnishing.
Can you substitute flat parsley for curly?
Both Italian and curly parsley are commonly used in soups, stews, dips, and salads for seasoning/flavoring and garnishing. You can easily replace flat-leaf parsley with curly one but not vice versa as curly is mild in flavor. Flat-leaf parsley is very strong and can be cooked longer in dishes without wilting as compared to curly ones. If anytime flat-leaf parley is not available using double the quantity of curly one will compensate the flavors to some extent.
Dried Parsley vs Fresh
Fresh parsley has very strong flavors as compared to dried parsley which is more subtle & milder. Due to which fresh has always priority to use for enhancing flavors. Dried parsley has a long shelf life and can endure long cooking hours without losing its flavor profile. In cooking, fresh start wilting, having said that flat-leaf has better chances in cooking in terms of texture and flavors as compared to curly one. For garnishing fresh parsley is the best choice as it gives a more vibrant green color with a fresh herby aroma.
Start with 1 teaspoon dried parsley for 1 tablespoon of a fresh one and adjust as per taste.
Tip- If you dry parsley leaves at home, do not crush them until you are ready to use them. Crushing dried herbs helps in releasing their aromatic oil that enhances the overall flavor profile.
Best Parsley Substitutes
Keep in mind some recipes call for fresh parsley and may not taste authentic by replacing it. Can you imagine making the Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad without fresh parsley leaves? Ranch and green goddess dressings are BEST when made with a fresh.
Replacement also depends on the use, whether in cooking or garnishing. Now that we know it is very hard to find the alternative to fresh parsley, I am here to list down 13 of the BEST substitutions for parsley in a pinch. Choose wisely as per requirement.
It belongs to the same family and is the BEST parsley substitute anytime in terms of flavors, texture, and visual presentation. Since it is milder in taste, you need to use more, approximately 1.5x of parsley to achieve the intensity of flavors. Fresh chervil or dried both makes a great replacement for parsley anytime, it is also known as 'French Parsley'.
It looks similar to parsley, bright green with a mild flavor profile. It makes a good fresh parsley substitute in garnishing due to its color. Since it tastes like onion and garlic, you need to adjust it to taste. It works well in many recipes as a parsley replacement. It resembles small green onions or garlic scapes.
3. Fresh basil
It is one of the best substitutes for parsley in Italian dishes as it is the most prominent ingredient in Italian cooking. Many recipes call for garnishing like fries, soups, roasted vegetables, and pasta. Basil makes a great replacement in Italian dishes for fresh parsley.
4. Fresh Oregano
It is another herb with strong savory flavors and belongs to the mint family. For Italian dishes, oregano seems to be a good substitute for parsley. You may need to use it in less quantity due to its intense flavors.
It is another substitution for parsley in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes like Shirazi salad, or Shakshuka or Tabbouleh. You can find it easily in any grocery store. However, if you want to avoid the sharp scent-like smell coming from cilantro leaves, skip it and move on to the next alternative from the list. Check my post on substitution for cilantro.
6. Celery leaves
It provides a similar texture and mild fresh flavor that can substitute parsley in many dishes without altering the taste or appearance of your dish. Finely chop and use in garnishing. Always add at the end of cooking so they do not lose their flavors.
It looks very similar to curly parsley and other salad greens just like arugula. Like arugula, it is also peppery and bitter in taste. It makes a possible alternative of parsley, chop them finely and use in soups, stews, or garnishing. Use it mindfully to avoid bitterness.
8. Carrot greens
These are members of the parsley family and have a bitter aftertaste with a mild flavor. So consider them as salad greens and use them in recipes where you need subtle flavor profiles like soups and stews. Make sure to chop them finely.
It has a very strong flavor profile and is slightly peppery. Tarragon is a bright green aromatic herb and looks similar to parsley in appearance. Due to which you can still use it in garnishing, however, tarragon is the last herb to use as a replacement.
It is a salad green with a similar flavor of parsley, slightly bitter and peppery. Like carrot top, celery greens, and endive you need to chop them really fine and use them in garnishing. Having bitter taste, you might like to use it in less quantity.
11. Dried basil or oregano
Both go well to replace dried parsley. Make sure to use smaller quantities as both are strong in flavors. Again good substitute only in Italian dishes.
12. Italian Seasoning
It is a good substitute for Italian dishes. It is a premixed seasoning of dried herbs containing basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. This definitely lifts up the dish but has a bit different flavor altogether.
13. Fines Herbs
It is a mixture of tarragon, parsley, chives, and chervil and is used in French cuisine. Fines herbs is a premixed seasoning with dried herbs and make an excellent replacement of parsley in cooking dishes. Start with a small quantity and adjust accordingly.
Other than the above substitutions, you can still use a pinch of dill, fennel, thyme, and rosemary for garnishing. BUT these are all very strong in flavors and may ruin the dish if you use them in a good amount.
Now that we know these BEST parsley substitutes, please remember to add them at the end of cooking or just before cooking. Using fresh herbs in the cooking process lose their flavors
In general best substitutes for parsley as a garnish are carrot greens, celery leaves, chives, or cilantro, and for cooking use chervil or chives.
Here is the infographic to help you remember all substitutions in one go.
Frequently Asked Questions
Parsley is a great substitute for cilantro. In Indian cooking, cilantro is used most often. Being a fantastic alternative to cilantro you can use parsley in making all recipes that call for cilantro. Parsley chutney, parsley rice, parsley potatoes, yogurt dip, parathas, and many more.
Can I substitute parsley flakes (dried parsley) with fresh parsley and vice versa? Yes, you can. Using dry parsley is not always a good choice due to its muted flavor profile but it can be used. You need to double or triple the quantity required for the recipe.
On the other hand, fresh herbs have a strong aroma and taste. Always use a smaller quantity if you need to replace the dried version with the fresh one. If you replace dried parsley with fresh then use the half quantity of fresh for the amount of dried one.
Keep in mind one teaspoon of dried parsley is equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh parsley.
Parsley is listed as a thyme substitute so it can be interchanged as well. Please understand fresh thyme has a floral aroma and may not go well for recipes that require peppery flavors from fresh parsley. However, you can use dried thyme in a pinch anytime.
Falafel is a Mediterranean recipe. If you do not have fresh parsley handy, dill and cilantro are the other best herb to choose from. You can also use dried parsley. Use 1 teaspoon for 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley.
You can replace parsley for cilantro in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes easily. But if soapy or scent smell is something you don't like then you may look for other alternatives. But in general, cilantro goes well as a substitute for parsley.
Let me know if you use any other parsley substitute so I can include it in the list.