Clary sage and sage are two of hundreds of different sage varieties. Because they are related, they share many properties even though they are not perfectly alike. Which one should you use? Does one have certain properties that you will not get from the other? Let’s take a look at how clary sage compares to sage in the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does clary sage differ from sage?
Clary sage is a sage variety that is usually used for its medicinal benefits while sage is the herb that you might recognize from German sausage or from Italy’s osso bucco. Sage has a mild peppery quality to its taste along with notes of rosemary and camphor; some people taste citrus and eucalyptus. Clary sage has a similar flavor profile but not as pungent.
Sage is the easier of the two herbs to find as you will likely be able to find its dried form in the spice aisles of most grocery stores and the fresh herb can often be found in the produce sections. Clary sage is not as well-known nor is it as easy to find, though it is available online and you may be able to get it from a local herbalist.
The two sage varieties are noticeably different from each other as each has a distinctive appearance. Clary sage leaves are large and roundish with a rough texture and fine hairs; sage leaves are oblong and smaller than those of the clary sage but also have a rough, hairy texture.
Can you use clary sage in place of sage and vice versa?
Clary sage has essentially the same flavor but weaker, which means that it could be used as a sage substitute; however, you would have to use more of it. If a recipe specifies dried sage, you may be able to use the clary variety as a 1:1 substitute. Like clary sage, dried sage is also much weaker than fresh sage.
Sage is too pungent to be used as a 1:1 substitute for clary sage. It does have some of the same health benefits, which means that you can use it in place of clary sage if you are trying to treat certain health problems. For example, both herbs may be used as digestive aids. Note that sage is not referenced as often when it comes to herbal treatments for female-specific health problems. While sage may provide some estrogenic benefits, you may want to stick with clary sage for treating menstrual pain and symptoms of menopause.
When should you use clary sage and when should you use sage?
The fact that clary sage has a milder flavor is why you can consume it raw. It is a common addition to salads. While you can use both sages to make tea, clary sage is the variety most often used for this purpose and the tea is usually consumed mainly for its medicinal benefits.
Sage is a more pungent herb, which means that it is better to use it in dishes that cook for a long time such as stews and soups. Long cooking helps to mellow the flavor. You can also deep fry sage leaves and use them for garnishing. Sage is a popular herb in Northern Italian cooking, you can use it with gnocchi as well as in bean soups. The herb is also associated with the American Thanksgiving Day food since it is a traditional addition to turkey stuffing.