substitute for bay leaf

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Are you making a recipe that calls for bay leaves? If you are and you’ve just noticed that you have none in your kitchen, then this list of easy ways to substitute for bay leaf is sure to come in handy for you! It outlines 5 easy bay leaf substitute options that are fairly easy to find! Some you may even have in your kitchen right now!

substitute for bay leaf

Bay leaf is a hardy herb that is essentially the dried  leaves of the Laurus nobilis or the bay laurel tree. The laurel tree is an evergreen of the Lauraceae family and is native to Asia.

Bay leaf also goes by the names laurel leaf, Roman laurel, sweet bay or leaf of the sweet bay tree and it is used to add its wonderfully aromatic properties to long cook dishes including soups, meatloaf, pot roasts, seafood boils, braises, court bouillon, brine, pickles, sauces, rice and so many other recipes.

This herb has a delicate, warm scent and can also be described as having minty, peppery and bitter notes, as well as pine notes, clove notes and flowery notes. Some people even say that this herb also has herbal like notes that makes it like oregano and thyme.

Bay leaves do not have a taste, in fact, it is the smell of bay leaves that actually impacts your dish, but it can transform a dish!

Bay leaves can come in both fresh and dried from, although the dried bay leaves are more popular. This is so because in its fresh green form, this herb has a very mild and subtle aromatic quality. Only after it has been left to dry for weeks, does its real aromatic properties become more noticeable. 

Therefore, when attempting to replace this hardy herb, one wants to ensure that the replacements have at least some of the characteristics of bay leaves. We’ve shared what we believe to be the best bay leaf substitutes below. Today we will only be focusing on the best subs for dried whole bay leaves.

Bay leaf substitute options

Bay leaf powder

ground bay leaves

If you cannot find bay leaf, the other best option to use is bay leaf powder or ground bay leaves. It is made from grinding dry bay leaves until they turn to a fine powder.

Ground bay leaves are said to be more aromatic that the dry leaves because their flavors are released during the grinding process and also because they’re able to stay inside of the dish, while the whole leaves are often removed once the recipe is done.

Use the ground bay leaves in everything from soups, to braises, to vegetables, to teas and more.

Substitution: 1 teaspoon of dried whole bay leaves = ½ teaspoon of ground dried bay leaves

Fresh bay beaf

fresh bay leaves

You won’t get the same aromatic experience with fresh bay leaves as it is mild in its fresh form. So it is best to try drying the fish bay leaves in the oven so they release some more of their flavor compounds.


dried oregano

Oregano is hardy herb that can be used in place of bay leaves. Oregano is easily accessible and has a flavor that can be described as pungent, peppery, and bold with bitter and slightly sweet notes.

Use oregano in dishes like soups, stews, marinades and more to help round out the flavors of those dishes.

Substitution: 1 whole bay leaf = ½ teaspoon of dried oregano


dried thyme

Thyme can also be used to substitute for bay leaves. This is so because thyme has an earthy, minty slightly bitter, slightly lemony flavor which has some  similarities to bay leaves. Also, feel free to checkout the best substitute for thyme here.

Substitution: 1 whole bay leaf = ½ teaspoon of dried thyme


dried Rosemary

If you happen to have rosemary, this herb can also be used to replace bay leaves. Rosemary is a warm herb with bitter notes, pine notes, peppery notes and minty notes. It is also hardy and can thus work well in long cooked dishes like soups, roasts, braises, stews, as well as sauces, teas and spice and herb blends.

Rosemary does not have all the aromatic properties of bay leaves, but in the event this is all you have available, give it a try. Read more about alternatives for rosemary here.

Substitution: 1 whole bay leaf = ½ teaspoon of dried rosemary

Leave it out

Bay leaves will not break the flavor a dish if it is not added. It does however help to amplify the aromatic properties of most dishes so if a recipe calls for it, try your best to find it. Otherwise, if getting your hands on some bay leaf is proving difficult just leave it out and continue on with your cooking! 

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