Skip to Content

Bay Leaf Substitute: 5 Ingredients To Use Instead Of Bay Leaf

Bay Leaf Substitute: 5 Ingredients To Use Instead Of Bay Leaf

Looking for a bay leaf substitute to use in your cooking? Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place.

Bay leaf is a spice that’s been used to enhance the flavor of culinary dishes since ancient times. 

I love to use bay leaves to add a subtle flavor to my pasta sauces, heavy soups, and decadent stews. 

I also love to infuse rice dishes with its distinctive flavor!

Due to its distinctive flavor, it can be hard to find a spice or herb to replace it. 

However, as they say, cooking is all about experimentation and creativity. 

So, don’t be afraid to try other herbs and spices when you run out of bay leaf.

I’ve listed some aromatic, tried-and-tested bay leaf substitutes below, so keep reading! 

SubstituteFlavor/AromaSuggested Ratio
Dried ThymeBright pungent flavor¼ tsp dried thyme = ¼ tsp or 1 whole bay leaf
Dried OreganoStrong aroma, umami enhancement1:1 ratio with bay leaf
BasilMint-like, sweet¼ tsp basil = ¼ tsp bay leaf
Juniper BerriesIntense, resinous, citrusy2-3 berries = 1 bay leaf
Boldo LeavesSpicy, warm, slightly bitterHALF the amount compared to bay leaves
A pile of dried bay leaves overflowing a white ceramic plate with a dark green rim

5 Amazing Bay Leaf Substitute Idea

Here are some ingredients that you can use instead of bay leaf in your cooking:

1. Dried thyme

It’s true that thyme doesn’t belong to the same plant family as bay leaf and is completely different in appearance as well, however, it can still act as a great substitute for it. 

This is because both have the same bright pungent flavor as dried herbs. You can easily add ¼ t of dried thyme instead of ¼ t of dried, crumbled bay leaves or one whole bay leaf.

  • Bright pungent flavor.
  • Suggested Ratio: ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme for every ¼ teaspoon of dried, crumbled bay leaves or one whole bay leaf.

2. Dried oregano

Just like bay leaf, this perennial herb is also used to enhance the flavor of food.

It has a strong aroma and you can easily use it as a bay leaf replacement for dishes with tomato-based sauces, in particular.

Similar to bay leaf, it helps enhance the flavor of meaty, rich, or umami dishes. 

You can use this bay leaf alternative 1:1:  ¼ t of dried oregano for ¼ t of bay leaf or for one whole bay leaf, for example.

  • Strong aroma, enhances meaty, rich, or umami dishes.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use 1:1 ratio, ¼ teaspoon of dried oregano for every ¼ teaspoon of bay leaf or one whole bay leaf.

3. Basil

Even though basil has a mint-like aromatic profile like bay leaf, it also has a distinct sweetness to it that makes it stand apart. But it does ride the line between elevating both savory AND sweet dishes, so it’s versatile.

It adds an herbal aroma to your dish and is commonly used in Italian recipes with tomato-based sauces. 

Just like oregano and thyme, you can use ¼ t of basil for ¼ t of bay leaf, one to one.

  • Mint-like aromatic profile, distinct sweetness.
  • Suggested Ratio: ¼ teaspoon of basil for every ¼ teaspoon of bay leaf, one to one.

4. Juniper berries

These look like tiny blueberries surrounded by rosemary sprigs. 

They have an intense, resinous flavor, like pine needles or sap. They also have hints of citrus. 

The strong flavor of juniper berries can truly take your dish to the next level when used sparingly. 

When using these berries as a bay leaf substitute, use only two to three berries in place of 1 bay leaf. 

You can use them whole or crush, grind, or chop them to release their flavor. Crushed is going to be more pungent.

  • Intense, resinous flavor with hints of citrus.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use two to three berries in place of 1 bay leaf.

5. Boldo leaves

Boldo leaves are widely used in South America. 

They belong to the Monimiaceae family, which makes them a close relative of bay leaves. This is also why many cooks use these leaves instead of bay leaf in their dishes. 

They are often dried and made into tea, or crushed and made into extract pellets. 

They also taste quite like bay leaves and their aroma is also similar.

However, they are certainly more potent than bay leaves. In certain parts of South America, boldo leaves are combined with yerba mate to balance their strong spicy, warm, and slightly bitter flavor. 

To balance the strong flavor of boldo leaves, use only HALF the amount of boldo leaves when substituting them for bay leaves in a recipe

  • Strong spicy, warm, and slightly bitter flavor.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use only HALF the amount of boldo leaves when substituting for bay leaves.

What is bay leaf?

A bay leaf is simply a leaf of a bay laurel tree, with origins in the Mediterranean region. 

In some cuisines, it’s also referred to as a laurel leaf. It has a distinctive flavor, aroma, and texture. 

Bay leaves are added to stews, soups, broths, and vegetable and meat dishes to enhance their flavor and fragrance.

They add a savory balance, an umami flavor profile that can be difficult to describe. 

You can find whole bay leaves that are submerged and then strained out before serving, or you can find dried and crumbled bay leaves that dissolve. 

When adding whole bay leaves to your recipe, don’t add more than what’s called for. 

This is because too many bay leaves will add a bitter taste to your dish. 

Also, make sure to put the whole bay leaf into your cooking pot and take it out before serving your food.

What Does Bay Leaf Taste Like?

On their own, bay leaves taste a bit bitter and have a tough texture. 

However, when infused with water, soups, broths, gravies or the like, they add a slightly minty balance of flavor to your dish with hints of pine and black pepper.

I think their subtle bitterness also adds a light and refreshing element to heavy stews and soups.

The bottom line

A cook must always be willing to try new things and be creative. 

If you want to be experimental in your cooking, then do try the aforementioned ingredients as a bay leaf substitute in your cooking. It’s just best to start with a small amount to make sure that your flavors don’t clash.

It will help you find the ingredient that you love the most!  

Are you familiar with using bay leaves? Let us know about the time you accidentally left the leaf in your dish and served it to a guest!

Bay Leaf & Lemon Tea

Bay Leaf & Lemon Tea

Yield: 2 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 27 minutes
Total Time: 37 minutes

This balanced and bracing tea has hints of pine from the bay leaf with the brightness of lemon. Drink it hot or make it into iced tea. Inspired by McCormick Gourmet.


  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 2 tea bags, black or green tea
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • Peel from 1 fresh lemon


  1. Bring water to boil in a sauce pan. 
  2. Turn off the heat and add the bay leaves. Steep for 20 minutes. 
  3. Add lemon peel and steep for additional 5 minutes. 
  4. Add tea bags and steep for 2 minutes. 
  5. Remove bay leaves, peel and tea bags and place in compost bin.


For Hot Tea, this should now be at drinking temperature, but if you want it hotter, return the pan with tea to low. Use a ladle or pour directly into large mugs and add sweetener to taste.

For Iced Tea, ladle or pour into tall iced tea glasses with ice. Garnish with wedges of lemon if desired. Store in a glass mason jar or pitcher and refrigerate. Note: We recommend simple syrup to sweeten iced tea, or add sugar while the tea is still hot so it dissolves fully before drinking.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 16Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 21mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

A white ceramic plate filled with dried bay leaves on a light wooden table.

Skip to Recipe