If you admire preparing traditional delicacies, then you surely would know the importance of adding bay leaves to your dishes. For these dried, glossy green leaves infuse a distinctive bitter yet aromatic flavor and fragrance to almost all kinds of foods they are added to. Whether you are making stews, soups, bakes, meat dishes, or even pickles, bay leaves act as a perfect taste blender. The bay leaf belongs to the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) plant originating in the Mediterranean area of Asia Minor, with Turkey being the major exporter. However, it is grown in other countries as well, such as France, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Colombia, Central America, North America, and India. Until fresh, bay leaves exude a fresh smell and develop the full sharp, bitter, and pungent flavor only after complete drying. Nevertheless, there are people who are allergic to bay leaves and simply cannot stand their flavor and taste. Though there is no perfect substitute for this herb, it surely has some alternatives to its credit. Check them out in the following text.
Substituting Bay Leaves
Undoubtedly, thyme stands as one of the most versatile and common substitutes for bay leaves. Due to its dry aroma and a little minty flavor, thyme can easily be replaced with bay leaves in almost all kinds of preparations. Especially with meats, such as pork loin, lamb, veal, and beef roasts, thyme adds a savory flavor. But unlike bay leaf that provides a tangy flavor, thyme lends a slightly sweet taste. Use it in the preparation of fish, poultry, soups, sauces, chowders, eggs, custards, croquettes, and spaghetti to enhance the overall flavor of the dish. To add a little sharp zing to your food, try using lemon-scented thyme.
Yet another popular alternative for bay leaf, boldo leaf comes from the Peumus boldus plant, originating in Chile. Similar to bay leaves, boldo leaves exude a slightly bitter flavor and strong, warm, and spicy aroma. They can be used in all kinds of recipes, though they provide a stronger flavor than bay leaves. So, whether you are preparing Indian foods, fish, mushrooms, sauces, or gravies, you can easily replace bay leaves with boldo leaves without sacrificing on the taste and flavor.
Just like thyme, basil gives off a mint flavor and has a sweet, herbal scent. For this quality, you can easily replace bay leaves with equal amount of basil. It is popularly used in the preparation of Asian and Italian cooking, especially with tomato gravies, vegetable dishes, chicken, lamb, and fish.
If you do not like the aroma of bay leaves while making chicken, lamb, or beef dishes but at the same time, do not wish to compromise on the flavor and taste, substitute it with oregano. With a strong aroma, oregano works great with tomatoes and as an additive to chili powder. And if you want to further enhance the entire flavor and savor a great dish, use Mexican oregano instead of the regular version. Use the same amount of oregano as bay leaves.
Add that extra zing and essence to your meat preparations by adding juniper berries, if you dislike using bay leaves in your cooking. Particularly the pungent varieties offer a better flavor to game meats (deer, rabbit, and duck), beef, and pork. Talking about vegetables, juniper berries add an equivalent amount of taste and zing to sauerkraut, carrots, and hearty vegetables. Use them with black pepper, garlic, and rosemary for the best taste. However, pregnant women, children under 12 years, and people with heart and kidney diseases should not consume juniper berries.
Hope, you have got the answer to your question of substitute for bay leaves. Though they cannot match the zing and aroma of bay leaf, they will certainly enhance the flavor of your dishes. Happy cooking!