Italian seasoning is an American blend of Mediterranean seasonings, meant to simplify the process of making Italian dishes. You don’t need Italian seasoning to make authentic Italian dishes, but it can be beneficial if you want to make some of the American versions of those dishes. It is also versatile and can be used in a large number of savory preparations from places other than Italy. If you want an all-purpose blend of herbs and spices, opt for Italian seasoning; if you can’t find any in your spice cabinet, try one of the Italian seasoning substitutes below.
Your best bet: Make your Own Italian seasoning
Italian seasoning consists mostly of herbs that have all become commonplace in American cookery, which means that assembling your own blend is easier than it may seem. Oregano, basil, and thyme can be found in most grocery stores. Other ingredients like fennel seeds are less common, but still relatively easy to find. Keep in mind that there is no official recipe that everyone follows, so the main guide in formulating an Italian seasoning blend will be your own taste buds. You can add herbs and spices or omit them if you prefer.
Note that Italian cooks rarely use all of the herbs in Italian seasoning blends in one dish. Feel free to make the blend simpler by using fewer herbs than the six or more that you might find in prepackaged Italian seasoning.
A decent second choice: Herbes de Provence
Herbes de Provence is a French spice blend that encompasses a variety of flavors used in Provencal cooking in much the same way that Italian seasoning is supposed to encompass the flavors of Italian cuisine. What’s more is that herbes de Provence contains several of the same herbs that you find in Italian seasoning, including thyme and marjoram. It can also include fennel seeds; a blend containing fennel seeds will be an even closer approximation. To ensure that you get as close a flavor as possible to that of Italian seasoning, opt for a blend without lavender flowers when using herbes de Provence as a substitute.
Use herbes de Provence as a 1:1 substitute for Italian seasoning.
In a pinch: Herbes de la garrigue
Herbes de la garrigue is another herb and spice blend from France, this time from the southwestern part of the country. It is a bolder and more savory spice blend that has more in common with Italian seasoning than with Herbes de Provence. Unlike herbes de Provence, it lacks the floral quality that comes from lavender flowers. Herbes de la garrigue blends typically include rosemary and thyme. These are all found in many Italian seasoning blends as well. Other herbs in herbs de la garrigue that are not typically used in Italian seasoning include mint and bay leaves, but these will work well in most dishes that require Italian seasoning.
Use herbes de la garrigue as a 1:1 substitute for Italian seasoning.
Basil and oregano are arguably the most commonly used herbs in Italian cuisine. They are also the most pungent of the Italian seasoning ingredients and tend to push the other components to the background. Using a combination of these two spices will give you most of the flavor that you want from Italian seasoning. The flavor will also be more authentic as far as Italian flavors go since basil and oregano are typically used together and show up in a large number of Italian recipes as the main herbs.