Chervil is an edible herb that is often used in French cooking. It is a delicate, mild-flavored ingredient with a subtle taste of anise. Although chervil is a tasty addition to egg dishes, it also pairs well with soup, fish, chicken, and seafood. It also is a lovely addition to dressings, and for flavoring butter.
What happens if a recipe calls for chervil and you don't have any in the kitchen? You could take a visit to the store and stock up. The problem is, it's often not available in supermarkets. In this case, you're going to need a suitable chervil substitute. We've got six options for you to choose from so keep reading.
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Recommended substitutes for chervil
Before deciding on an alternative, you may want to consider leaving chervil out altogether. It is a subtle herb, so omitting it won't have a significant impact on the recipe. However, you'll need a substitute if its an essential ingredient in recipes such as ravigote sauce, Béarnaise sauce, or fines herbes.
Fresh tarragon is the best option for replacing chervil. Although it has a mild, bittersweet flavor, there is also a subtle undertone of licorice. Tarragon is also a component of fines herbes, a French herb combination of chopped parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil. It is an excellent seasoning for fish and poultry – it does not overpower delicate ingredients.
Although tarragon is mild, it is stronger than chervil so you'll want to reduce the quantity. Use a half tablespoon of fresh tarragon to replace one tablespoon of chervil.
We reveal a selection of our favorite tarragon substitutes.
Using fennel leaves or fronds is a good option in seafood, pork and when seasoning sausages. It is another ingredient that has an anise flavor, similar to chervil. If a recipe calls for chervil in salads, then fennel is a perfect choice.
Use one tablespoon of fresh fennel fronds to replace one tablespoon of chervil.
Italian parsley is from the same family as chervil and their leaves look very similar. If you're using chervil for a garnish, then parsley is a suitable substitute for visual appearance. The taste of parsley is very mild and doesn't have any hint of anise so you won't mimic the flavor of chervil. In saying that, parsley also won't ruin a dish with out-of-place aroma or flavor.
Use one tablespoon of fresh parsley leaves to replace one tablespoon of chervil. Add the herbs at the end of cooking so that the vibrant color isn't cooked out.
Dill is an excellent alternative to chervil if you're looking to season fish, potatoes, sauce or soup. It is from the same family as chervil and shares a similar mild aroma of anise. Dill also has delicate, visually appealing fronds that look delicious on fish or vegetables.
Dill has a slightly lemony, bitter taste that could spoil a dish if too much has added. Use a half tablespoon of fresh dill to replace one tablespoon of chervil.
For many, cicely will be a new herb to add to their arsenal of flavorings. It is also known as sweet chervil and has a similar anise flavor. However, cicely is also quite a sweet herb and is used for flavoring candy, baked goods, and desserts. If you're considering using cicely, use in moderation. Savory dishes that are overly sweet aren't tasty.
The biggest challenge with cicely is that it isn't readily available at supermarkets. You'll need to visit a specialty store or grow your own.
Cicely has a sweet flavor profile that wouldn't work in many savory dishes in large quantities. Use a quarter tablespoon of fresh cicely to replace one tablespoon of chervil. Taste test and add more if necessary.
6. Dried Chervil
Dried and fresh chervil can be substituted for each other as they have a similar flavor. Keep in mind that the dried version will have lost a lot of its impact during the drying process. The best application for dried herbs is in slow cooked meals. You'll need to add the dried chervil early in the cooking process to allow time for the flavors to infuse through the dish.
Replace one teaspoon of fresh chervil with two teaspoons of dried.
Learn how to preserve herbs at home with our step-by-step guide.
If you're looking for a chervil substitute, then your best fresh options are tarragon, fennel or parsley. If the spice rack is your only choice, then use an increased quantity of dried chervil. The dried option is only recommended for casseroles, soups and other dishes that are cooked long enough to allow the flavors to infuse.
If you're struggling to find fresh chervil in stores, you may want to grow your own? Plant out your seeds in spring or late fall. If you don't have a garden, you can use a pot and grow them on your windowsill. They eventually grow to around 2 feet tall, but you can harvest the leaves for months before they get too big for indoors. Then you can dry the remaining leaves in a dehydrator, toaster oven or microwave for later use.
Note: If you're considering investing in a toaster oven check out our review of the Breville Smart Oven Pro.
Do you have a favorite alternative to chervil that we haven't mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.