Food Guide

7 Surprising Thyme-Based Substitutes for Beef That Will Blow Your Mind!

Beef is a versatile and delicious kind of meat that is used in many cuisines.

Thyme is widely used in a variety of beef dishes to enhance the flavor.

But what if there is no thyme in your kitchen or local grocery store, what can you use instead? Our article will list out the best herbs and spices that can act as thyme substitutes in your next beef recipe.

What is thyme?

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Thyme is a herb that has been used as far back as ancient Greece to make medicines for common ailments such as the common cold or coughs.

It also has many culinary uses as a fragrant herb to marinate or season different kinds of food.

The aroma of fresh thyme leaves is invigorating and refreshing.

This scent comes from its volatile oils which are released when the plant is crushed or chopped up.

Thyme can be used in fresh, dried, or powder forms.

If you grow your own thyme plant, you can use fresh thyme in your cooking.

However, normally, people opt for store-bought dried or powdered thyme that lasts longer and gives a stronger flavor.

Thyme has an earthy, lemony, and minty flavor that works well in soup, stew, grilling, or baking recipes.

It also pairs well with other spices and herbs like parsley, rosemary, or oregano.

Can you substitute thyme in beef recipes?

Thyme is one of the favorite herbs to cook with beef.

Its citrus, refreshing, and earthy flavor is a nice addition to various beef dishes, from pan-fried steak to beef stew.

However, if you don’t have thyme, don’t panic because this herb can be easily substituted with other spices or herb options.

What can you substitute for thyme in beef recipes?

Now, let’s figure out what spices or herbs can be used to alternate for thyme in your beef recipes:

1. Rosemary

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Rosemary is the first thing we would like to recommend as a great thyme substitute.

It is a classic herb with a complex flavor that gathers pine, citrus, floral, a little bitter, and earthy flavors.

Rosemary can be bought fresh, but the most common version is dried rosemary that is sold in any grocery store or supermarket across the world.

 Rosemary is best for adding to the skillet of pan-fried steak, or other slow-cooking recipes like roasting or stewing.

2. Bay leaf

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Bay leaves are ideal for making soups, stews, or curries from beef.

This herb has a minty flavor with a hint of black pepper and pine to create another layer of flavor to your saucy beef dishes.

Keep in mind that dried herbs are always more pungent than their fresh counterpart, so when using fresh bay leaves or dried bay leaves, the amount of herb will vary.

It is also recommended to remove bay leaves from your dish because it smells good but is not ideal for chewing.

3. Cumin

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Cumin is considered a spice that is made from the seeds of a plant belonging to the parsley family.

It can be ground into a smooth blend to easily rub and marinate the beef.

Cumin has a warm and earthy taste, making it suitable to combine with curry powder and used in curries.

However, be careful when using this mixture to season your stew or curry dishes because it might be overpowering.

4. Tarragon

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Tarragon is a plant in the daisy family.

Due to the soft texture, both leaves and stems of tarragon can be used in cooking.

Tarragon has a pungent taste with a note of licorice.

It exists in different forms, including fresh or dried.

Tarragon is perfect for beef roasting or other slow-cooking recipes.

5. Oregano

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Oregano is another popular herb that can substitute for thyme in beef recipes.

It is especially used in Italian cuisine, so if you are a fan of Italian food, this will be an option that you cannot ignore.

Oregano is slightly bitter, earthy, and pungent.

When you use the dried form of oregano, it tends to be more flavorful with a hint of mint.

6. Pepper

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Black pepper has been a classic spice in any cooking recipe.

Some salt and pepper never get old in marinating and seasoning various kinds of food, from poultry, red meat, to vegetables, and seafood.

Pepper is pungent and spicy, but not too hot.

You can use ground pepper or crushed peppercorn to add a fragrant and pungent flavor to your beef dish, no matter if it is a stew or a roast.

The bottom line

Cooking beef without thyme is not a trick because now you know plenty of options for other herbs and spices that can be used in your next beef dish.

With this list of the best thyme substitutes for beef recipes, making a delicious and aromatic dish has never been easier than that.

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Emily W.

Emily Wong is an Asian-American food writer the founder of With nearly 8 years of experience, she has a passion for making cooking accessible to everyone and sharing her personal experiences with food. Emily's vision for is to create a community of food lovers who are passionate about cooking, eating, and sharing their experiences with others. Read my story
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