Need a dill substitute? Not to worry!
Whether your local grocery is out of dill weed, or you are looking for a dill alternative, there are plenty of dried and fresh herbs that will do the trick. But first, it’s important to understand the difference between dill weed, dill seeds, fresh vs. dried varieties, and how to find the best substitution for your specific recipe.
What is Dill?
Dill is an annual herb and a member of the Apiaceae family, which includes common vegetables like celery, carrot, and parsley. The family is also home to cooking staples like anise, cumin, and caraway.
As early as 3,000 BC, dill is believed to have been used as a medicinal herb by the Egyptians. Dill also appears to have been popular in ancient Babylonia, and later became a staple in Greek culture.
Today, dill is perhaps best known as a flavoring for dill pickles– a custom that Eastern European Jews brought to New York City in the late 1800s.
Of course, dill is used for much more than just pickling cucumbers. It is a well-known and loved staple in several European and Mediterranean dishes, especially dairy-based yogurts, dips, and spreads.
Fresh Dill Weed vs Dried Dill Weed vs Dill Seed
Fresh and dried dill both come from the leaves and stems of the plant. However, dill seed is made from the fruiting body of the plant (the seeds).
Although they all come from the same plant, each has a unique flavor. Dill seed is the most unique, and professional cooks often warn against using it as a substitute for fresh or dried dill because the flavor is so potent.
Fresh Dill Weed
- An herb
- Refers to the leaves and stem of the plant.
- Available in the fresh produce section of most grocery stores.
- As a fresh herb, it is delicate and usually added toward the end of the cooking process.
- Taste is reminiscent of celery and anise and it has a pleasant, fresh, strong aroma.
- Also known for its feathery green leaves that have a sweet, bright, and licorice flavor.
- Adds zesty and aromatic flavor to yogurts, dips, spreads, dairy recipes.
- Often a key ingredient in seafood dishes and other European and Mediterranean dishes.
Dried Dill Weed
- An herb
- Refers to dill leaves and stems, which have been dried and pulverized into a powder
- Found in the spice section (not to be confused with Dill Seed)
- Same taste as fresh dill weed, but more resilient. Tolerates heat well and can be added earlier in the cook time.
- Also used in zesty recipes for yogurts, dips, spreads, and other European and Mediterranean dishes.
- A spice
- Comes from the fruiting body of the plant (e.g. the seeds)
- Can be found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores (not to be confused with Dried Dill Weed)
- Stronger flavor than dill weed, with slightly bitter tones and a hint of caraway.
- Typically used in sauces and hearty recipes, where the bold flavor cannot easily overpower the dish.
- Not a good substitute for fresh or dried dill weed, as the flavor is too distinct and often overpowering.
Considerations When Cooking With Dill
Fresh dill and dried dill are two forms of the “dill weed” described above. These forms of dill weed are different from dill seed. That is important to remember, as both dried dill and dill seed can be found in the spice aisle.
The main difference between fresh dill and dried dill comes down to how they are harvested and processed.
As the name implies, fresh dill looks like it was just plucked from the ground. When you buy fresh dill, it will look like the leaves and stems of the plant.
Dried dill, on the other hand, comes in a jar and has a coarse or sand-like consistency. Without a label on the container, it may resemble many other green spices in the spice aisle. This is because the plant (leaves and stems) have been dried and pulverized into a powder.
Here are some tips to consider when working with fresh and dried dill:
- Fresh dill is more delicate and should be added toward the end of the cook time.
- Dried dill is more potent and should be used sparingly.
- Fresh and dried dill can be substituted for one another, however dill seed should not be substituted for either.
- When substituting fresh for dried, start with a 3:1 ratio. You can always season to taste afterward.
- Remember 1 tablespoon is equal to 3 teaspoons, so 1 tablespoon fresh dill is equal to 1 teaspoon dried. Although it looks like 1:1, it is actually 1:3 (because teaspoons are ⅓rd the size of tablespoons).
Fresh dill, dried dill, and dill seeds should each be considered separately when looking for substitutions. Take note of which variety your recipe calls for, then refer to the appropriate section below for substitution recommendations!
Fresh Dill Substitutes
The best substitute for fresh dried dill is, hands-down, fresh dill. It is made of the same plant matter. Dried herbs can be more potent than fresh, so it’s important to get the ratio right.
When the correct ratio is used, dried dill is an excellent substitute in just about any recipe. Dried dill is sometimes preferable to fresh in recipes with a long cook time, as it is more resilient and will not lose as much flavor under heat.
- Tastes Like: A more potent form of fresh dill– fresh, citrusy, with an almost grass-like finish.
- Substitution: Use a 1:3 ratio. For example, substitute 1 teaspoon of dried dill for every 1 tablespoon fresh.
- Special Notes: More resilient than fresh dill and can be added later in the cook time.
Fennel is a good substitute for dill due to its similar taste and appearance. However, fennel will bring a unique sweetness to the dish, which is something to keep in mind. Like dill, fennel has feathery fronds that make it a good garnish as well.
- Tastes Like: Bright, vegetal, and mildly spicy, with a hint of licorice or anise.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 tablespoon of fennel fronds for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Can roast to bring out a sweeter flavor profile.
If you are looking for a mild substitute for dill, then parsley is your best bet. Parsley and dill are in the same family, but the former boasts a more mild and earthy taste.
Fresh parsley is an especially good choice in dishes that are easily overpowered by flavors, like simple sauces, potato salads, and other cold dishes.
- Tastes Like: Clean, earthy, and peppery.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 tablespoon of parsley for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: A great substitute when milder flavors are needed. Ideal for sauces, salads, and other cold dishes.
Cilantro is a popular substitute for fresh dill, however it contains a plant chemical called aldehyde that makes it taste “soapy” to some people. Not everyone can sense the aldehyde, however. For those who cannot, cilantro brings a spicy citrus flavor that is a good alternative to fresh dill.
Like fresh dill, cilantro does not hold up well in heat and should be added toward the end of the cook time. A ½:1 ratio is recommended to start, then you can add more to achieve your desired flavor.
- Tastes Like: Fresh, citrusy, with a slight spice– for some, a soapy aftertaste.
- Substitution: Use a ½:1 ratio. For example, substitute ½ tablespoon of cilantro for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Best when used in dips, salads, cold salad dressings, or sauces. Not advised when cook for a large group, as some people may think it tastes soapy.
Tarragon is a staple in French cuisine, and it has recently grown in popularity throughout Europe. It also shares a similar flavor profile as dill, which makes it a popular alternative.
Unlike most of the other herbs mentioned in this section, tarragon is resilient and can be added earlier in the cook time without losing its flavor. A 1:1 ratio is recommended when substituting.
- Tastes Like: Pungent, bittersweet, with a mild licorice aftertaste.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Great for maintaining a similar flavor outcome as dill. Holds up well to heat and should be added earlier in the cooking time.
Rosemary is a beautiful herb that is most often used to season meat and potato dishes. It is an aromatic herb with unique floral notes that pairs well with sauces, dressings, and stocks as well.
Interestingly, rosemary is often perceived as “more pleasant” than dill. This makes it a popular alternative for anyone who wants to try a new take on a traditionally dill dish (like Greek tzatziki, for example).
- Tastes Like: Floral and aromatic, with a lemony-pine and peppery taste.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 tablespoon of rosemary for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Strong, pungent, but “more pleasant” than dill. Great substitute for those who do not like the taste of dill. Ideal for Mediterranean dishes, especially with dressings, potatoes, sauces, and meats.
Mint is a popular herb in Middle Eastern cuisine and often found in salads and teas from around the world. It has a sweet and cool taste that is both refreshing and soothing to the stomach.
Fresh mint is often a great substitute for dill in cold dishes. Although they taste quite differently, they tend to work well in the same recipes. Dips, dressings, salads, and sauces are a few examples where this substitution shines.
Mint has a much stronger flavor, so begin with half the amount and season to taste.
- Tastes Like: Sweet, with a uniquely “cool” feeling that lingers afterward.
- Substitution: Use a ½:1 ratio. For example, substitute ½ tablespoon of mint for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Stronger, so use less. Fresh mint is ideal for cold dishes, like dips, dressings, salads, and sauces. Mint is a well-liked substitute, although it will fundamentally change the recipe’s flavor.
Thyme is an herb popular in Mediterranean dishes. It is also a member of the mint family described above, and it has a sweet and earthy flavor.
Dill and thyme have different flavor profiles, but work well as substitutes in dishes such as meat and fish marinades. Thyme does not lose flavor while it cooks, which makes it a particularly good substitute for grilled, roasted, baked, or stewed dishes.
Like mint, thyme has a relatively stronger flavor. Begin with half the amount and season to taste.
- Tastes Like: Rosemary, but with a more balanced earthy, minty, sweet, and savory taste.
- Substitution: Use a ½:1 ratio. For example, substitute ½ tablespoon of thyme for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Stronger, so use less. Resilient and ideal for longer cook times. Common in grilled, roasted, or baked dishes, along with hot soups and stews.
Basil is another popular herb in the Mediterranean region that makes a good substitute for dill. It is commonly used in Italian cooking and has a sweet taste that many find more appealing than dill.
Sauces, rich dressings, and meat and fish dishes are just a few examples of where basil works the best. A ratio of 1:1 is recommended for this savory and balanced herbal alternative.
- Tastes Like: Sweet, savory, and balanced-out with mint, licorice, and pepper.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 tablespoon of fresh basil for every 1 tablespoon fresh dill.
- Special Notes: Sweeter and generally more appealing than dill. Ideal for Italian dishes and other recipes with sauces, rich dressings, and meat or fish dishes.
Dried Dill Substitutes
Just as dried dill makes a good substitute for fresh, the opposite is also true. When substituting the other way, however, be sure to use a 3:1 ratio. Fresh dill is less potent, so you must use more.
Although it’s less potent, fresh dill has a more vivid taste that allows each flavor dimension to be experienced more clearly. Always add toward the end of cook time to ensure the heat doesn’t burn away too much of the flavor.
- Tastes Like: A less potent yet vivid form of dried dill– fresh, citrusy, with an almost grass-like finish.
- Substitution: Use a 3:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 tablespoon of fresh dill for every 1 teaspoon dried.
- Special Notes: Less resilient than dried dill, so be sure to add toward the end of cook time.
Oregano is a popular herb in cuisine from around the world. It is extremely versatile, which makes it a good substitute for many herbs– and dill is no exception.
Although they do not have the same exact distinct flavor, oregano is a good alternative that will add a sweet and minty dimension to the recipe. It is strong, so start with just ½ the amount called for.
- Tastes Like: Strong, sweet and minty aroma with a peppery bite.
- Substitution: Use a ½:1 ratio. For example, substitute ½ teaspoon oregano for every 1 teaspoon dried dill.
- Special Notes: Good for those who do not necessarily enjoy dill. Adds a sweet and minty aroma to the recipe. Begin with just ½ amount called for, then season to taste.
Bay leaves are a good alternative to dill in any recipe that requires heat. The strong flavor is brought out when it is simmered, making it an especially popular substitute in stews, soups, and sauces.
Potent and complex, bay leaves have a rich and earthy taste that is different to dill. This will change the flavor profile of the recipe, and often it’s for the better.
- Tastes Like: Earthy, minty, somewhat menthol flavor with hints of black pepper and pine.
- Substitution: Difficult to say. Experienced chefs recommend just 1 or 2 bay leaves per recipe. Start modestly, then season to taste.
- Special Notes: Best in hot dishes like stews, soups, and sauces (heat brings out the flavor). Remember to remove the bay leaves prior to serving the dish.
Dill Seed Substitutes
Celery seed is an excellent substitute for dill seed in a variety of recipes. They are similar in shape and texture, although each brings a unique flavor to the recipe. Celery seed is an especially good substitute in salads, dressings, seafood recipes, meat seasonings, and breads.
- Tastes Like: Spicy and peppery, with a savory and slightly bitter twist.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 teaspoon celery seed for every 1 teaspoon dill seed.
- Special Notes: May add extra aroma and intense flavor when heated. If that is undesirable, consider toasting celery seeds prior to use.
Caraway seed belongs to the Umbelliferae family, just like carrots and fennel. So it’s not surprising that caraway seed makes a great substitute for dill seed, just as fennel can easily be substituted for fresh dill (as detailed above).
Both fennel seeds and caraway seeds are a bit stronger and have a hint of anise flavor, but a 1:1 ratio is still advised. Never overpowering, and great in recipes for bread and sauerkraut.
- Tastes Like: Sharp, nutty, and bittersweet. Some may notice a slight citrus or anise flavor as well.
- Substitution: Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, substitute 1 teaspoon caraway seed for every 1 teaspoon dill seed.
- Special Notes: Unique licorice taste, but a good substitute for dill seed nevertheless. Popular in recipes for rye bread, Irish soda bread, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods.
There are plenty of great substitutes for dill weed, dried dill, and dill seed.
After identifying which form of dill you are substituting for, refer to the appropriate section above to determine the best dill substitute that will work for your recipe.
Remember to consider how flavor and cook time affect which choice is best. Happy cooking!
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!