I simply can’t imagine a world in which I don’t sprinkle fresh or dried tarragon on top of my hearty breakfast omelet or use it in my mayo dip or hollandaise sauce.
After all, wouldn’t dishes taste far less flavorful if it weren’t for this amazingly tasty herb? I sure think so!
However, the importance of tarragon as a flavor enhancer in a dish does make one ask, “What does tarragon taste like?”
So, if you want to learn what tarragon tastes like as is, then read on to find out!
What Is Tarragon?
Tarragon, also known as dragon herb or estragon, is a native herb of Siberia and Mongolia. Its cultivation started more than 600 years ago for medical and cooking purposes.
Today, in addition to being grown in its native lands, this aromatic herb is grown in South Europe, North America, and certain parts of Asia such as China and India.
This flavorful herb thrives in late spring to early summer. Tarragon has slender stems that branch and end with lance-shaped smooth and glossy green leaves. It also produces clusters of greenish-yellow flowers that are arranged on stems.
Types of Tarragon
Here are the three varieties of tarragon that you should know about:
Inarguably the most commonly used variety of tarragon, French tarragon is bursting with flavor. However, it’s pretty time-consuming and tough to grow thanks to its sterile, seedless flowers. This makes it more expensive than the other tarragon varieties.
This variety is used less commonly in cooking as it has a mild flavor. However, it’s the easiest to grow among the three types of tarragon and hence, is the most affordable one.
Also known as Texas or Spanish tarragon, Mexican tarragon is the lesser-known type of tarragon and has a strong anise-like taste, which is closer to its French counterpart.
What Does Tarragon Taste Like?
Tarragon has a strong and unique flavor; it has a smidge of bitterness and sweetness to it. It has a slight flavor of vanilla and licorice.
When you chew on it, the herb has hints of black pepper, anise, and mild lemon blended into one. However, what makes it a bit different from fennel or anise is its unique minty flavor. This blend of unique tastes makes up the signature tarragon flavor.
What Is Tarragon Used for?
You can use both fresh and dried tarragon in your dishes. It’s usually a signature ingredient in sauces, such as hollandaise, Béarnaise, béchamel, and added to them at the last minute.
It’s also readily paired with poultry (hello, tarragon chicken!), fish such as salmon, shellfish, eggs, and fresh veggies. It’s also used in making certain soups and bread.
You can make tarragon butter as well to drizzle on freshly prepared seafood such as lobster and scallops. You can also sprinkle it on top of your omelet or make a tarragon vinaigrette to drizzle on top of cooked veggies.
My most favorite use of tarragon apart from the delicious hollandaise sauce is to add it in mayo and slather the condiment on a sandwich or burger.
Fresh Tarragon vs. Dried Tarragon
When comparing fresh tarragon with dried tarragon, the first thing that pops up is the difference in their flavor; dried tarragon has a more intense and concentrated flavor than fresh tarragon. This is why I don’t use them interchangeably in my dishes.
Furthermore, dried tarragon is more readily available than its fresh counterpart. Dried tarragon also has a longer shelf life than fresh tarragon.
If you want to preserve fresh tarragon, you’ll have to freeze it, while you can store dried tarragon at room temperature in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.
Tips on Cooking With Tarragon
Here are some tips that you can use when cooking with tarragon:
- When cooking with tarragon, make sure to use it in moderation as its distinct flavor can quickly overpower a dish.
- To preserve the delicate and fresh flavor of tarragon, make sure to add it toward the end of the cooking process.
- If you want a strong tarragon flavor in your dish, then use the French tarragon, which is the most flavorful out of the three varieties.
- When you don’t have fresh tarragon on hand, then you can use a small amount of dried tarragon instead (just remember than 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon is equal to 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon.)
How to Buy Tarragon
When buying tarragon, look for bright green, perky leaves. Stay away from yellowing, black, or wilted leaves. As for the types of tarragon you want to buy, it’s a bit difficult to differentiate between the French and Russian variety by looking at them since they look pretty much the same.
However, when you’re buying an unlabeled batch of tarragon and want to figure out which type it is, just crush a leaf between your fingers and sniff it. The French variety will have a dist
How to Store Tarragon
You can put tarragon stems in a small vase of water and store it on your counter, which will keep the herb fresh for a week or longer. Alternatively, you can freeze fresh tarragon to extend its shelf life. Simply divide a bunch of fresh tarragon into small portions, wrap each portion with plastic film, and freeze it.
When you need to use tarragon in a recipe, just take the frozen portion out and use it directly! As for dried tarragon, just store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry place.
The Bottom Line
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on “what does tarragon taste like?”. The herb has a unique and complex flavor with hints of anise, mint, and black pepper. Due to its strong flavor, make sure to use it in your dishes moderately. You can add it to sauces, soups, dressings, butter, and more.
Always buy bright green, perky tarragon leaves as they are the freshest. To extend the shelf life of fresh tarragon, store it in the freezer.