Hyssop is not yet a household name as far as Western culinary herbs are concerned, but it does show up in a few Middle Eastern dishes. It is used in some za’atar blends and can be a valuable addition to some desserts. If you are having trouble finding this herb and you need its flavor for a dish, consider one of the following hyssop substitutes.
Your best bet: Lavender
Like hyssop, lavender is a member of the mint family. The two share that connection along with some of the mint undertone. Another important similarity is the floral nature of their flavor profiles. Hyssop’s aroma is said to be comparable to the paired scents of lemon and lavender. Because the floral quality, you can use these herbs in both sweet and savory preparations. They also work well as infusions and can be used to make tea. The nutritional benefits are similar as well.
Last on the list of shared characteristics is the fact that these herbs resemble each other. The color of lavender flowers is the light purple color while the blooms of hyssop are a bright blue but aside from that, the appearance of the inflorescences are strikingly similar. The two herbs are close enough in most respects that you can use lavender in place of hyssop in most applications. While lavender is not exactly the most widely used culinary herb, you will probably have an easier time finding it when compared to the more exotic hyssop.
Use dried lavender as a 1:1 substitute for dried hyssop and fresh lavender as a 1:1 substitute for fresh hyssop.
A decent second choice: Sage
Next to lavender, sage is the herb with which hyssop is most often likened. It is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which makes it a mint. While it does not share lavender’s resemblance to hyssop, it does share some of the flavor profile. For starters, it has a pungent minty character that should work in many hyssop applications. Note that sage is typically reserved for savory dishes; in particular, dishes that feature a fatty meat.
You may be able to find fresh sage in your grocery store’s produce section as well as dried, ground sage in the spice aisle. You will also want to use it only in cooked dishes as its flavor is too intense for it to be consumed raw. Along with the flavor issue, uncooked sage leaves have a somewhat cottony texture that can be unpleasant. It can be used with certain vegetables but is traditionally an ingredient in sausages as well as recipes that feature beans.
Unlike hyssop, you will want to add sage early in the cooking process. Use about half of what the recipe requires for hyssop.
In a pinch: Mint
Mint is the relative that all of the hyssop alternatives on this list have in common. The flavor note that hyssop has in common with these substitutes is also one that it shares with mint. That flavor note is a milder version of mint’s distinctive herbal freshness and eucalyptus-like cooling effect. Mint has the benefit of being able to work in desserts as well as meat and vegetable dishes. Mint is also well known as a tea herb and will be a lot easier to find than hyssop. The downside of mint is that it lacks the complexity of hyssop’s flavor, including the floral notes. It is also less pungent when compared to hyssop.
Use twice as much mint when adding it as a substitute for hyssop.
Oregano is another pungent herb in the mint family and one that can be used in most of hyssop’s savory applications.