Sage is a common ingredient in hearty dishes and many popular fall and holiday dishes. Nothing is more stressful than getting ready for a big holiday feast and not having a necessary ingredient. Luckily there are many good substitutions for sage.
For fresh substitutions for sage use equal amounts of the herbs being substituted. 1 tbsp of fresh savory, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, and oregano for 1 tbsp of fresh sage.
For dried substitutions for fresh sage use ⅓-½ the original amount. 1-2 tsp of dried sage, savory rosemary thyme, marjoram, basil, and oregano for 1 tbsp fresh sage.
As with any herb, the flavor is key. Knowing the flavor of sage and of herb substitutions will help you make the best decision for your meal.
What is Sage?
Sage is an herb. It comes from the leaves of an evergreen shrub. It is part of the mint family. Sage is native to the Mediterranean region. There are many varieties of sage, both culinary and non-culinary. Culinary sage is commonly known as common sage, kitchen sage, or garden sage. Its scientific name is Salvia Officinalis.
Sage has a long history of use. It was used by Ancient Egyptians up to 4000 years ago. It was used for a number of medicinal purposes. It was also a popular cure in Ancient Rome and France in the Middle Ages. Non-culinary sage is often burned and the smoke is used for cleansing.
What Does Sage Taste Like?
Sage has a warm earthy flavor. The herbal flavor of sage has a slightly peppery flavor. Other flavors include mint, eucalyptus, and lemon. Sage can also taste slightly piney and citrusy.
Sage is often paired with rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. Other flavors it pairs well with are garlic, lemon, and onions. Sage leaves are thick and a little fuzzy. They can be eaten fresh though usually sage is used dried in dishes.
Substitutions for Sage
Each herb has its own unique flavor. However, many herbs have similar flavor profiles. Many of the substitutes below have one or more flavors in common with sage which makes them good substitutes.
Dried Sage for Fresh Sage
Dried sage can be substituted for fresh sage. As far as flavor goes dried sage is the best substitution for fresh sage. There are two kinds of dried sage, rubbed and ground sage. Ground or powdered sage is finer than rubbed sage.
When substituting dried sage for fresh sage you need 1 tsp dried ground or powdered sage for 1 tbsp fresh sage. If you are using rubbed sage you need 2 tsp of rubbed sage to substitute for 1 tbsp of fresh sage.
Savory for Sage
There are two kinds of savory that can be used as a substitute for sage: summer and winter savory. Summer savory mimics the peppery undertone of sage. Winter savory mimics the earthiness and mint. In both cases, if using fresh savory substitute 3-4 tsps of savory for 1 tbsp of fresh sage. If using dried savory 1-2 tsps of savory will substitute for fresh sage.
Rosemary for Sage
Rosemary has a strong piney flavor which makes it an ideal substitute for sage in savory dishes. Especially if other ingredients include garlic or onion. Because of its strong flavor use less rosemary when substituting it for sage. 1 tablespoon of fresh sage can be substituted with 1-2 tsps of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp of dried rosemary.
Marjoram for Sage
Marjoram is also a member of the mint family. It has a slightly woody, citrusy, and floral flavor that mimics sage well. Marjoram is milder in flavor and loses its flavor quickly when cooked. If choosing to substitute marjoram for sage add it later in the cooking process and add a little bit more than you would for sage. For a tablespoon of fresh sage substitute 4 tsps fresh marjoram or 1-2 tsps dried marjoram.
Thyme for Sage
Thyme is another herb from the mint family. It has a woody flavor similar to sage and can also have hints of mint or citrus. Thyme is best used as a substitute in hearty dishes. Substitute 1 tbsp of fresh thyme for 1 tbsp for fresh sage. If using dried thyme, substitute 1 tsp of dried thyme.
Basil for Sage
Basil is another member of the mint family. Fresh basil has delicate leaves and needs care when cooking. Dried basil on the other hand is heartier and better survives cooking. Basil has a peppery, slightly bitter, and slightly sweet flavor. Basil can also have hints of lemon, cinnamon, or anise in the flavor. For 1 tbsp of fresh sage substitute 3 tsps of fresh basil or 1-2 tsps of dried basil.
Oregano for Sage
Oregano is also from the mint family. Oregano is more peppery than sage. It adds an earthiness and depth to any dish. Oregano is a strong herb and does well when cooked. Substitute 1 tbsp of fresh oregano for 1 tbsp of fresh sage. Substitute 1-2 tsps of dried oregano for 1 tbsp on fresh sage.
Substitutions for Dried Sage
If all you have in your spice cabinet are spice blends. Or if you want to make sure you have sage in the recipe use the following spice blends to substitute for sage.
Poultry Seasoning for Dried Sage
Poultry seasoning is a good substitute for sage in most dishes. Its ingredients include thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg. Most of these ingredients are listed above as substitutes for sage which makes this seasoning a great option. Use 1-2 tsps of poultry seasoning as a substitute for 1 tbsp of fresh sage.
Italian Seasoning for Dried Sage
Italian seasoning is a good substitute for sage in most Italian dishes as well as any dishes with garlic, tomatoes, onions, or other Mediterranean ingredients. Italian seasoning has oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary, and sage. Every one of these ingredients is a substitute for sage. Use 1-2 tsps of Italian seasoning as a substitute for 1 tbsp fresh sage.
How To Store Sage
For dried sage, storage in an airtight container in a cool dry place is best.
For fresh sage, they sell it in most stores. It can be found in the produce section along with other fresh herbs. The leaves are left on to preserve freshness. Keeping the leaves on the stems until you are ready to use them is ideal. Keep fresh sage in the refrigerator for up to one week.
In addition, fresh sage can be dried at home to increase shelf life. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Tie the bunches of sage and place them in a paper bag. Punch holes in the bag. Hang the bag in a cool dry place. This process takes about 1 week.
Lastly, you can remove sage leaves from the stems and freeze them for later use.
Whether you intend to use fresh or dried ingredients. There are many substitution options for sage. If you enjoy trying new things try different substitutions and decide which one works best for you.