Fines herbes is one of the iconic Provencal herb blends and one that is essential to a variety of French dishes. Best known for its use in egg dishes, the fines herbes blend consists of a handful of Mediterranean herbs that are each popular on their own but which also pair well together to create a distinctive flavor profile. If you can’t find the requisite herbs sold together, you can try to make your dish using one of the fines herbes substitutes below.
Your best bet: Assemble your own fines herbes
The fines herbes are a simple blend of herbs that you may be able to find in the produce section of your local grocery store. Alternatively, you have some of them in your herb garden. The herbs in question are:
Marjoram is sometimes included but is not considered one of the core herbs. You use the fine herbes simply by chopping the herbs and sprinkling them onto the dish at the end of the cooking time. Adding them at the end is important since none of these herbes stand up all that well to long cooking.
A decent second choice: Tarragon by itself
The main flavor in the fines herbes blend is that of tarragon, one of the most popular herbs in French cooking. Tarragon has a similar flavor to anise and licorice. While the other fines herbes components do each play important roles, they are there to support tarragon. In other words, tarragon on its own gives you most of the flavor profile that you would get from the blend.
Tarragon is essential for the classic bearnaise sauce and to flavor chicken, fish, and vegetable dishes. It will work well in any recipe that calls for the fines herbes including egg dishes; both tarragon by itself and the fines herbes are renowned for their ability to enhance omelets and quiches. It even works well as a salad green. Chop the leaves and sprinkle them over a summer salad for a flavorful touch.
Like the fines herbes blend, you will want to add your chopped fresh tarragon right before serving the dish. You should avoid adding it earlier in the cooking process since it will lose some of its flavor.
The downside of using tarragon by itself is that you will lose some complexity since you won’t be getting the flavors from the other herbs.
In a pinch: Herbes de Provence
As the name indicates, herbes de Provence is another blend of Provencal herbs that is used in a variety of savory dishes. Herbes de Provence consists of different (and usually dried) herbs from those in fines herbes except for marjoram, which can sometimes show up in both blends. The other herbs include rosemary, thyme, and savory.
Although both blends have different flavor profiles and are used differently, herbes de Provence will complement many of the ingredients that require fines herbes. You will need to add herbes de Provence closer to the start of the cooking time since many of the herbs do better with a long cooking time; however, they will still provide foods with an enjoyable flavor profile.
Fennel fronds offer a version of the distinctive licorice notes from the tarragon. It is not a perfect match but may be able to do a reasonable job of replicating some aspects of the flavor profile. You can use fennel fronds in place of the chervil as well.