Chervil is a popular herb in French and European cuisines used primarily for its flavor and garnishing. It’s a small delicate plant, and only a small amount of the herb is usually needed to help bring out the right flavors. You would be confused by the pictures because chervil looks highly similar to another herb named parsley. Parsley is used for the same purposes as chervil, so the two are often misquoted or confused. You do not need a keen eye to notice their differences, but the similarities are spectacularly identical. The size, the shape, the leaves, and the flowers all look identical. French cuisines are all about sophistication and presentation, where chervil usually scores.
Besides the looks, chervil and parsley taste similar, which is not surprising considering they are part of the same biological family. Chervil is also seasonal and is usually available only from April to August, after which you will need to look for substitutes. All herbs are usually used fresh for garnishing, so dried chervil is not an option even though it may be available. We are presenting you with a few substitutes for chervil. Let us get started.
Parsley is the best substitution that’s easily available for chervil. The looks, tastes, and everything else is similar. Only a keen eye and taster will notice the difference. Parsley makes an ideal replacement as it’s easily available in all stores and can be used and stored just like chervil. However, chervil has a stronger flavor and is heavier compared to parsley when it comes to taste. Parsley only comes close to replicating the taste and flavor of chervil but not completely, as it lacks the characteristic anise tone in chervil. This signature tone makes chervil popular and special.
When exposed to heat, both herbs lose their flavor so parsley will be an excellent substitute for chervil in dry recipes. You can also do away with chervil for hot or cooking recipes if it is not available. Many cooking recipes use chervil only as garnishing before turning off the heat. Else you can add it at the very end of the cooking process to retain the flavor and the bright green color.
Dill plant is another plant that’s biologically close to chervil and parsley. It has a slight anise flavor making it a close substitution to chervil when used for its flavor. It’s a culinary secret that dill is usually used to remove the strong fishy aroma and taste found in fish and seafood. Unlike other alternatives, dill is far more fragrant or aromatic in the culinary sense. This is why dill is preferred over all other substitutes, as it brings out almost the same flavor and a good aroma. You can season or garnish any recipe with dill and make it taste wonderful. However, use it in moderation, or the taste and aroma will become overpowering. Start with a small portion if you are not sure how it works.
Tarragon is also one of the key ingredients used in French cuisines. It scores over parsley because it perfectly replicates the characteristic anise flavor tones in chervil. It adds the necessary color and nutrients to the preparation apart from the anise tones. This undertone is a crucial element for raw dishes as that’s where the flavor comes out. Tarragon also has a taste like licorice with hints of mint. The rest of the tarragon flavor is mild, and it can be used with any recipe of choice.
Tarragon, when consumed, displays a milder flavor with a hint of bittersweet flavors as well. These bittersweet flavors are masked when used in recipes. Tarragon is always used in a small quantity, so it cannot overpower or even change the flavor of any recipe. When it comes to comparing the flavor of Tarragon, it can be best described as having a soft combination of parsley and chervil.
Chives belong to a completely different plant family and have a slight oniony taste and flavor. The leaves are long and flat, just like the onion plant. Only the soft leaves can be used as the rest of the stem is tough. The leaves are rich in fiber, so they are brittle and easy to crush. You can use them for garnishing any recipe. Their onion tones make them an excellent substitution for chervil during cooking. They can be used in soups, stews, salads, omelets, etc. Use them in moderation to prevent a strong onion flavor in recipes that do not include onions.
While chervil is popular in French cuisines, fennel leaves are frequently used in Italian preparations. You would have noticed the green herb used in pasta and salads, which have a nice crunch. That’s fennel leaves. You can only use the leaves in a fennel plant as the stems are strong and woody, thus wholly inedible. Fennel works excellent in all recipes but works best in seafood and fish recipes where it helps remove a bit of the fishy taste. Unlike chervil or any other alternatives for substitution, we considered using fennel leaves in moderation; otherwise, they can cause stomach upset.
If you use chervil frequently and find it difficult to source, you can grow them in your kitchen garden. Just pluck the leaves off the herbs you last purchased and plant the rest of the plant. The herbs will also look wonderfully green and fresh, thereby improving the décor of your kitchen. The plants will grow, and you will have the freshest supply of the herb in no time.
Chervil has quite a few substitutes available. You can use any of them depending on the flavor and other requirements. All the options are delicate plants with even more delicate leaves. Therefore, the best way to enjoy chervil or its alternatives is to add them before serving the meal. This way, their freshness of flavor and aroma will be the best. When choosing an alternative, ensure the ones you select are fresh with bright green leaves and firm stems. They are all available at all stores and are relatively inexpensive.