Chervil and parsley both belong to the same family — they are relatives of carrots. When it comes to their culinary applications, you will find that these two herbs have different qualities that they bring to food. In this SPICEography Showdown, we will look at some ways in which they are similar and the ways they differ.
Table of Contents
- How does chervil differ from parsley?
- Can you use chervil as a substitute for parsley (and vice versa?)
- When should you use chervil? And when should you use parsley?
How does chervil differ from parsley?
Chervil and parsley are two different plants, despite being related. Chervil is sometimes called French parsley, and its botanical name is Anthriscus cerefolium. There are two different kinds of parsley: Italian flat-leaf and curly leaf. Parsley’s botanical name is Petroselinum crispum.
Chervil and parsley have different flavor profiles. Parsley has a slightly bitter, intensely grassy flavor; chervil has a delicate anise flavor with a hint of parsley’s grassiness.
Chervil and parsley don’t look the same. They are similar enough that you may be able to tell that they are related, but chervil and parsley are easy to tell apart. Chervil leaves are more feathery and lacy compared to the flat-leaf parsley leaves. Chervil leaves are a paler shade of green compared to the deep green of both flat leaf parsley and curly parsley.
Chervil and parsley are available to different extents. Unless you live in France or nearby parts of Europe, you will find that chervil is not a common herb. When you can find it, it is likely to be more expensive than other members of the Apiaceae family like parsley and cilantro. You may be able to find dried chervil, but it will lack much of the fresh herb’s flavor. Parsley is a relatively easy herb to find in much of the world and is usually inexpensive.
Can you use chervil as a substitute for parsley (and vice versa?)
Chervil can be a good parsley substitute if it is to be a garnish and is not meant to be a part of the dish. Chervil will still make a decent substitute even if it is to be eaten, but its flavor profile is noticeably different from that of parsley, so it won’t be a great alternative in terms of its flavor.
Parsley can work as a chervil substitute, but it’s not ideal on its own. It will provide the grassiness that is a part of chervil’s flavor profile but not the anise/licorice aspect. That said, you can use it to replace chervil in dishes that have several other herbs. The licorice flavor profile is subtle in chervil, so the substitution may go unnoticed among other flavorful ingredients. A better option is to combine the parsley with tarragon for a closer match to the chervil flavor profile; the tarragon will supply the anise note.
When should you use chervil? And when should you use parsley?
Chervil is a delicate spring herb best known for its starring role in many French dishes. Chervil is sometimes used alongside tarragon in classics like Béarnaise sauce. Chervil shows up in the common versions of the two main French herb blends: fines herbes and herbes de Provence. Chervil is a great partner for seafood — including lobster and oysters — and eggs.
Parsley gets used in dishes from the Middle East, North America and Europe. You will often see it accompanying hummus in the Middle East and as a garnish or salad green in North America and Europe.