What Does Tarragon Taste Like?

Used most often in French cooking, tarragon is a fairly versatile herb. In addition, it can also be used in salads and as garnish.

Tarragon has a pungent flavor. It’s somewhat bittersweet with hints of licorice and vanilla. In addition, it’s spicy with a fresh flavor.

Tarragon has a lot in common with fennel. They both have a somewhat spicy flavor to go along with a licorice taste.

Fresh vs Dried Tarragon

Like other herbs, it has somewhat different tastes depending on whether it is fresh or dried.  Unlike other herbs, however, the difference between fresh and dried is less pronounced with tarragon.

Fresh Tarragon

When fresh, tarragon has a stronger flavor. Overall, it has a fresh taste that’s herby, floral, and somewhat minty. It will also taste fairly heavily of licorice, black pepper, and lemon.

Dried Tarragon

Dried tarragon retains all the properties of fresh tarragon. However, it is somewhat less intense than its fresh counterpart. 

Types of Tarragon

While there are three varieties of tarragon, French tarragon is the most common. It’s also the one with the distinctive tarragon taste.

French Tarragon

French tarragon is the one we’ve been discussing. It’s somewhat bittersweet with notes of licorice, black pepper, and vanilla.

This type smells strongly of anise and licorice when crushed. 

Mexican Tarragon

Mexican tarragon is quite similar to French tarragon. The one notable difference though, is that Mexican tarragon has more of an anise flavor. 

That makes the Mexican tarragon a little less bitter and a little less sharp than the French tarragon.

Russian Tarragon

Russian tarragon is much milder than either the French or the Mexican. It’s slightly bitter, with a small hint of licorice. This type also has a somewhat grassy flavor that neither French nor Mexican has.

It also has a coarser texture than the other two.

In addition, it lacks a strong licorice smell. The Russian tarragon will have a sweet grassy smell rather than the sweet licorice smell.

What Can I Substitute For Tarragon

While it’s not uncommon to keep dried tarragon on hand, it might be less likely that you’ll have it fresh. If you’re looking for something that has a similar flavor to tarragon, good options are:

  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Basil

To Conclude

Tarragon is a bittersweet spice that’s heavy on licorice. It also has hints of vanilla, black pepper, and lemon. It has a fairly complex flavor palate.

If you’re concerned about the licorice flavor being overpowering, try to find some Russian tarragon. It has a much milder flavor and the licorice barely comes through.