5 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes for Cooking (updated 2023)

Bay Leaf Substitutes

If you run out of bay leaves but the dish you are cooking requires one, fret not. You can use bay leaf substitutes to achieve a similar taste in your recipes. Check out this article to discover the best substitutes for a bay leaf.

A bay leaf is a Mediterranean herb that has a peppery, mildly minty flavor. You might find it underwhelming at first, but it excels at enhancing taste and balances heavy and strong flavors in dishes.

Best Bay Leaf Substitutes

1. Basil


Try some basil as a suitable replacement for bay leaves in your recipe. Basil is an herb that is part of the mint family. It has bitter and peppery flavors as well. Dried basil tastes more like a bay leaf than fresh basil.

In Italian dishes and tomato-based recipes, such as pasta sauces and stews, basil works well as a backup for bay leaves.

To substitute for every half teaspoon of crushed bay leaf, add a half teaspoon dried basil.

2. Thyme

Thyme - Bay Leaf Substitutes

You can opt for dried thyme, which also comes from the Mediterranean region. It has a sweet, woodsy, and slightly peppery and minty taste.

In beef and lamb recipes, dried thyme serves well as a bay leaf alternative.

Even though the two ingredients have little in common in terms of appearance, they have a close flavor profile.

To substitute for each bay leaf, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed bay leaf, you can use 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme.

3. Oregano

Oregano - Bay Leaf Substitutes

You can also consider using oregano. Dried oregano can serve as an alternative to a bay leaf. It is another bitter, peppery, and mildly minty herb.

If you are making tomato-based sauces and beef and lamb recipes, this herb works well as a bay leaf replacement.

To use as a substitute, add 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano if the recipe requires 1/4 teaspoon crushed or one full bay leaf.

4. Boldo Leaf

Boldo Leaf

Are you familiar with boldo leaves? Boldo is a close relative of the bay, which explains the similarities in taste and fragrance.

Boldo leaves have a mildly bitter, rich, and savory taste, but a softer overall flavor than bay leaves. Thus, they are best used in lighter recipes, including vegetable-based recipes and mushroom dishes.

To make your substitution, for every bay leaf, you can use half a boldo leaf. While for every half teaspoon crushed bay leaf, you can use 1/4 teaspoon crushed boldo leaf.

5. Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries - Bay Leaf Substitutes

How about trying Juniper berries? Yes, you can use them in your recipe instead of a bay leaf. Juniper berries are small blue pinecones that resemble berries. They also have the strong, pungent taste that you know gin for. There are also traces of citrus in the piney taste.

Take note that these berries have a powerful flavor that can quickly overpower a dish. Two or three berries in place of a single bay leaf will make a safe exchange for bay leaves.

To help unleash the taste of juniper berries, you can chop or grind them.

What Is a Bay Leaf?

What is Bay Leaf

A bay leaf is an aromatic green leaf from the bay laurel tree native to the Mediterranean region. Bay leaves have several names, including laurel leaves, bay tree leaves, leaves of the sweet bay tree, and several more.

Fresh bay leaves are typically green with a lustrous topcoat. When dried, the leaf turns a brown color and gets a crispy texture. Fresh leaves are usually pricier than dried leaves.

Bay leaves are widely used all over the world. You frequently find these leaves in recipes that call for a long cooking time. They are present in soups, pasta sauces, and stews.

The Bottom Line

In case you can’t get hold of any bay leaves, the ingredients mentioned above can act as a decent bay leaf substitute in your recipes.

Basil, thyme, oregano, boldo leaves, and juniper berries, can imitate the taste of a bay leaf without sacrificing the flavor of your dishes.


5 Best Bay Leaf Substitutes

Check out these great substitutes for Bay Leaf that have been shared on Pinterest.

  • Author: Recipe Marker


  1. Click on each link above to view the pin.
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Best Bay Leaf Substitutes

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