It’s hard to name all of the cooking uses of mint. We all enjoy its unmatched freshness and bright flavor in your favorite meals, but also refreshing beverages and, of course, cocktails. Mint is also available in many shapes and forms, as you can use it fresh, dried, or as an essential oil extract.
If you’re wondering if there are mint alternatives that could mimic its intoxicating aroma and replace its complex flavor in your meals and beverages, you will find your answer here. We chose some of the best options if you’re out of mint, or you’d simply like to try something new.
The best substitutes for mint
Mint originates from the eastern Mediterranean, and it is a highly aromatic herb from the mint plant (Mentha). The origin of the name is particularly interesting since mint gets its name from Minthe, a nymph from Greek mythology.
The legend has it that she had an affair with Pluto, the god of the underworld, and Persephone punished her out of jealousy by turning her into a mint plant.
Mint can be bought in different forms, and there are also different mint varieties available. For cooking and beverages, many will choose curly mint and spearmint, as they’re aromatic enough, but not overbearing.
Peppermint, on the other hand, is quite dominant and strong, and it usually isn’t grown for culinary purposes, but to be processed into peppermint oil, and ultimately – menthol.
There are also mint varieties that combine interesting flavors and scents. For instance, apple mint has a hint of apple aroma, while orange mint resembles an orange flavor.
If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to get your hands on chocolate mint, which has a touch of chocolate flavor.
Mint has a slightly sweet, yet refreshing taste, and it leaves a cool aftertaste. Out of all mint varieties, peppermint has the strongest fresh flavor, and it’s even more dominant if you’re using fresh leaves.
For a more subtle flavor profile, go for dried mint leaves, which have a slightly reduced scent and are very convenient for cooking.
If you’re looking to replace mint in your cooking or beverages, here’s a convenient list of suitable alternatives that will make it much easier to find the best mint substitute.
1. Peppermint extract
Peppermint extract, also known as peppermint flavoring, is a great substitute for mint in your baked goods and desserts.
The extract is usually available in the form of oil extracted from mint leaves, and it is quite aromatic and strong, so you want to be careful with the dose you’re adding.
Depending on their source and quality, peppermint extracts can be categorized as pure, natural, imitation, or artificial. You can also use a few drops of peppermint extract to get that unique minty flavor in your beverages.
Since basil belongs to the mint family, this makes it an ideal substitute for fresh mint. While it is an absolute staple in Italian cuisine, it is also used all over the world, especially in Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cooking.
It is highly aromatic, slightly sweet just like mint, but can also be a bit peppery, which is something to keep in mind if you’re using it fresh.
Basil is commonly added to pasta sauces, it is the main ingredient in pesto sauce, but it can be used in a wide range of dishes, including roasts, soups, sauces, and dippings.
Yet another herb from the mint family, marjoram has green leaves that resemble knots, which is why some people refer to it as knotted marjoram.
Its flavor could be described as a blend between thyme and oregano, since it is bitter, highly aromatic, and sharp, while also being warm, earthy, and a tad woodsy.
Fresh marjoram is a great substitute for mint leaves if you appreciate complex flavors in your dishes, but you aren’t particularly looking for that fresh, minty flavor. It is commonly added to salads, soups, stews, and sauces, but it also makes for a great garnish or herbal tea.
Parsley is yet another Mediterranean herb, used both for its vibrant green color and distinct herbal flavor. The fresh parsley makes for a great fresh mint substitute in your dishes, as it is bright, aromatic, slightly bitter, and herbaceous.
It is available in a number of variants, including flat-leaf, curly leaf, Hamburg (also known as parsley root), and Japanese parsley.
All of the mentioned parsley variants can be used both to add flavor or to decorate your plate and dish. Fresh parsley works great not only as a vibrant, aromatic garnish, but as a base for your dishes, while dried parsley can be added during the cooking process, or in marinades.
This mint replacement belongs to the parsley family, and it is often referred to as Mexican parsley or Chinese parsley.
However, since it comes from coriander leaves, they’re also known as fresh coriander leaves. The herb resembles parsley, but you’ll notice that cilantro has longer, thinner stems, and flatter leaves.
Cilantro offers an array of complex flavors, as it is peppery, bright, lemony, and pungent – all at once. Keep in mind that dried cilantro has much less flavor and aroma than fresh leaves, but it can be a dried mint substitute if you prefer a toned-down flavor.
Rosemary is a great mint leaf substitute since it is highly aromatic and quite dominant when it comes to flavor.
You’ll recognize rosemary by its pale green color, pile-like needles, and woody stems. It also belongs to the same botanical family as mint and sage, and it is known as an extremely resilient plant.
Contrary to other herbs we’ve mentioned, dried rosemary doesn’t lose any of its flavor and aroma. The flavor can be described as peppery, lemony, and woodsy, yet astringent.
Rosemary has an extremely complex flavor profile, featuring hints of mint, citrus, and lavender.
Tarragon is one of the most popular herbs in French cuisine – so popular that they even refer to its as the “king of herbs”.
It has a distinctive delicate flavor and a strong aroma that pairs well with a number of dishes, including fish, seafood, sauces, and chicken dishes. It is also one of the four herbs in the popular French mixture fines herbes, alongside chives, chervil, and parsley.
Dried tarragon loses much of its flavor and aroma, so if you’re using it to replace fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon of dried herb can replace a teaspoon of fresh tarragon.
Oregano may lack that freshness and refreshing aftertaste you get when consuming fresh mint, but when it comes to aroma and flavor – it is packed with both of them.
Oregano is also a part of the mint family, which makes it a rather good replacement for mint – especially in cooked savory dishes and baked goods. Just like the vast majority of herbs, you’ll get a lot more flavor and aroma from fresh oregano than for the dried variant.
9. Herbal mint tea
Even if you’re not a fan of tea, don’t disregard herbal mint tea just yet. If you don’t want to consume it on its own, you can always mix it with other drinks, or even use it in your cocktails to get that aromatic, unique minty flavor.
It is also a great choice for ice tea on a hot summer day – especially with the addition of freshly cut fruit. Herbal mint tea, depending on how strong you make it, can even be used as a substitute for mint extract in cooking.
Dill is an annual plant resembling celery when it comes to the intensity of the aroma and flavor. When using dill in cooking, make sure to add a little bit at a time, since it can easily take over the entire dish.
It is certainly one of the most aromatic herbs and it pairs perfectly with eggs and salads.
Dill is commonly used in pickled salads and it is a key ingredient of a potato salad. It has a unique licorice flavor, with a hint of grassiness, and the taste reminds of mild caraway.
Sage is an extremely fragrant, aromatic herb, and its enchanting smell can fill any room.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to use sage in your cooking, you should definitely give it a shot, since it has a strong herbal aroma, and it also belongs to the mint family, so there are many similarities in flavor.
When shopping for sage, you may be confused by the many different terms used for it. You’ll usually come across the label culinary sage, but there’s also kitchen sage, true sage, garden sage, and dalmatian sage.
Sage complements sauces, butter, marinades, and even bread and pastries.
How to choose a mint substitute
Since mint has a rather strong aroma and flavor, we’ve mostly included options that can replace this intensity and enrich your dish.
Herbs from the mint family, including basil, marjoram, oregano, and sage are all extremely fragrant and aromatic – especially in fresh form. You can use both fresh and dry herbs in your beverages and cocktails.
If you choose peppermint extract, remember that a little bit goes a long way, and use only a drop or two to get that minty flavor. On the other hand, herbal mint tea is a milder option.
Parsley, cilantro, rosemary, tarragon, and dill may not belong to the mint family, but they’re still decent mint alternatives since they’re highly aromatic and flavorful.
With each of these options, except for the rosemary, you want to choose the fresh version for a stronger flavor, and the dried herb for a milder taste.