Substitutes for bay leaf

Substitutes for bay leaf
Substitutes for bay leaf

Bay leaf is a type of aromatic leaf which is used for cooking purposes. It may be used as ground, dried, or whole. They have a sharp, bitter, and pungent taste if eaten whole. Just like most spices and flavor, bay leaf has a noticeable fragrance, unlike taste. The fragrance becomes floral, herbal, and slightly the same to thyme and oregano when dried. These leaves are extracted from various plants, including California bay leaf, Bay laurel, Mexican bay leaf, Indonesian laurel, West Indian, and Indian bay leaf. Bay leaf has chemical constituents of 45% eucalyptol, 1.3% essential oils, 12% terpenes, 3% methyl eugenol, 4% sesquiterpenes, and 8 to 12% terpinyl acetate. It also has lauric acid, linalool, pinenes, terpineol, and geraniol. Eugenol, as well as myrcene that is a constituent of essential perfume oils, can be obtained from bay leaf. In Pakistan and Indian cuisine, bay laurel is commonly used in rice dishes such as biryani and garam masala ingredients. Philippines use dry bay laurel in dishes like adobo, beef pares, and Menudo. In addition, they are used as a flavor in European and American dishes.

1. Juniper berries

These are female seed cones that are obtained from several juniper species. Juniper is not a real berry but a cone containing unique fleshy scales. Species of Cones are used in European cuisine as spice and flavoring. Moreover, juniper help in medicinal purposes like improving heart health, treat diabetes and protect cells. They provide vitamin c that is important in immunity, synthesis collagen, and blood vessel functioning. Juniper has anti-inflammatory effects for protecting body cells from damage, which can lead to illness. In addition, research indicates that berries have high antibacterial and antifungal properties. These exist in their oil, including myrcene, sabinene, alpha, beta-pinene, and limonene.


Juniper berries will help to achieve your cooking goal if you do not have bay leaves around. They can also be used to create a new cooking level even if bay leaves are in the kitchen. Mix it with rosemary to get an excellent complement. However, young children and expectant mothers are not allowed to eat cuisines with juniper berries.

2. Oregano

This is a flowering plant found in the family of mint. The perennial herb, also called sweet marjoram or wild marjoram, originated from Eurasia and Mediterranean region. Its strong taste brings a great change in dishes as well as the subtle sweetness. Even though it is used in minimal amounts, oregano has essential nutrition benefits. For instance, it contains antioxidants that destroy harmful radicals inside the body. Free radicals often lead to chronic diseases such as heart conditions and cancer. Also, it consists of antibacterial compounds that fight bacteria. The herb is rich in antioxidants that have properties for anti-cancer. Studies show that they are capable of killing cells for cancer. Lastly, the test shows that oregano assists to limit viral infections and protect the body from viruses.


It is a common alternative when you cannot get bay leaves. The herb will enhance your dish like bay leaf, especially if used for health benefits. Subspecies of oregano have a different range of tastes from sweet, spicy to more complicated. Oregano can be obtained while oily, fresh or dried, and you will be able to see significant changes in your health.

3. Thyme

Thyme is a perennial herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family and genus Thymus. They are specially formulated to be used in culinary purposes. It is available in both dried and fresh forms. Fresh one has more flavor but inconvenient when it comes to storage. It rarely lasts less than a week, and dried ones can stay for several months if frozen well. Unlike other herbs, thyme retains strong flavor even when it is dried. Essential oil for the herb contains extra components like borneol, cymene, linalool, and myrcene. The research found that the perennial herb can lower blood pressure. Its essential oil is a natural remedy for cough. Furthermore, it contains vitamin c to boost immunity. It is a useful disinfectant to places with low mold concentration. Pesticides contain thyme as ingredients, thus helps to reduce pests. Natural and organic products for skincare contain thyme. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks also used thyme in burning incense and bath.


You may think thyme will not give perfect results for being totally different from bay leaves. It is not in a similar family with a bay leaf, but thyme is among the best substitutes. Choose thyme in case you do not have a bay leaf. Use a quarter of dried thyme and sprinkle on meat to marinate.

4. Basil

Great basil belongs to the Lamiaceae family, and it a culinary verb. There are varieties of great basil, and sweet basil is used as a flavor. Other varieties are cinnamon, Thai, Greek, and lettuce basil. It contains varieties of essential oil that have a different scent. Nutrients available are vitamin k, vitamin A, iron, calcium, and manganese. Basil has health benefits, for example, reduce the loss of memory, depression, stroke, blood pressure, and prevent cancer. Other benefits are repelling insects, thin blood, improve blood sugar, and prevent ulcers and growth of bacteria.

Do not worry anymore when you run out of bay leaves.


Basil has a sweeter flavor than bay leaver slightly and should be applicable when preparing beef dishes or cooking tomato. Most Italian cuisines use basil in view of the unusual flavor, unlike other spice herbs. Both bay leaves and basil are measured in a similar amount while making cuisines.

5. Boldo leaves

Boldo belongs to the Moniliaceae family and genus Prunus. Its family is closely related to the Lauraceae family that has aromatic leaves like bay leaf, cinnamon, camphor laurel, and cassia. It is mixed with other teas in order to moderate flavor. Rural and urban places in South America use the herb as folk medicine. The herb helps to prevent gas in the stomach, liver, and bladder complaints. It also acts as a natural medicine for treating disorders in the digestive system and serve as a stimulant for secreting bile. They have also been used in relieving cold, syphilis, gonorrhea, rheumatism land gout.


Most cooks have settled for boldo leaves as a bay leaf substitute. Bay leaf is closely related to boldo, seeing that they have similar aroma and taste. You can make it strong by combining it with yerba mate. Its flavor is described as spicy, warm alongside minimum bitterness. It can be used twice much more when substituting it with bay because of the potency.

Summary Table

Item Calories (per 100g) Total Fats (g) Carbohydrates (g) Proteins (g) Source Works Best In
Juniper Berries 258 2.07 50.88 2.67 Dried berries of Juniperus communis Game meats, sauces, gin
Oregano 265 4.28 68.92 9 Herb from Origanum genus Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican dishes
Thyme 101 1.68 24.45 5.56 Herb from Thymus genus Soups, stews, roasted dishes
Basil 22 0.64 2.65 3.15 Aromatic herb Pasta dishes, pesto, salads
Boldo Leaves 46 1.04 5.28 3.24 Leaves of Peumus boldus plant Traditional herbal remedies


Do bay leaves really make a difference in cooking?

Yes, bay leaves can make a noticeable difference in cooking. When used correctly, they impart a subtle, earthy, and slightly floral flavor to dishes. Bay leaves are often used to enhance the overall aroma and depth of flavor in soups, stews, sauces, and other recipes.

Can I use basil instead of bay leaves?

Basil and bay leaves have different flavors and uses. Bay leaves provide a more subtle, background flavor, while basil has a more pronounced, herbal taste. It’s not recommended to directly substitute basil for bay leaves, as it can significantly alter the dish’s flavor.

What is a substitute for bay leaves in curry?

For a curry recipe, you can use dried thyme, oregano, or marjoram as a substitute for bay leaves. These herbs can provide a similar depth of flavor to your curry.

What flavor does bay leaves give?

Bay leaves add a mild, slightly earthy, and subtly aromatic flavor to dishes. They contribute to the overall complexity of the flavor profile, enhancing the taste without overpowering other ingredients.

Mei Lin Zhang

Written by Mei Lin Zhang

I love to writes about stories and cooking. I really enjoys creating new recipes and taking pictures of my food. When I am not writing, you can find me in the kitchen or snapping photos of my tasty creations.

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