Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region and is a staple of French cooking. English lavender is the variety most commonly used as a culinary herb. Its floral sweetness and citrus notes can complement a wide range of foods ranging from meats to desserts. While popular in many parts of the world, there are places where it may be difficult to find. If you are unable to get your hands on this herb, try one of the lavender substitutes below.
Your best bet: Rosemary
Lavender is a member of the mint family and is closely related to rosemary. Both are fragrant and have assertive, pungent flavors. With rosemary, the flavor is reminiscent of sweet mint and pine needles with notes of tea and of ginger. Both of these herbs are pungent in both dried and fresh forms. In other words, you should exercise moderation when using rosemary as a lavender substitute. Rosemary is best used as a lavender substitute in savory dishes and will pair well with most of the other herbs and spices that typically accompany lavender in a recipe. Add about half as much rosemary as your recipe requires for lavender, taste it and add more if necessary.
A decent second choice: Herbs de Provence
Herbes de Provence as we know it is a relatively new invention that showed up in the 1970s. It is a blend of herbs that are common in the Provence region of France. Those herbs have played a key role in Provençal cuisine for a long time. Lavender is an important component of the herbs de Provence blends that you will find in the US. The flavor is pronounced enough to make it an effective lavender substitute.
Note that not all herbs de Provence blends will contain lavender, so you will have to find one that does. Blends typically vary depending on the maker’s unique blend or on the dish to which the herbs will be added. Use approximately the same amount of herbs de Provence that the recipe requires for lavender and adjust to taste.
In a pinch: Parfait d’Amour
Parfait d’Amour is a liqueur made with a curacao base, vanilla and flower petals. Lavender blossoms are among the flowers used in some versions. This liqueur has the sweet and floral notes that you would expect from lavender, which makes it perfect for some of the herb’s dessert applications. Parfait d’Amour can be used to provide a floral note to cakes, custards and other sweet concoctions.
Lemon thyme is in the mint family, which means that it is related to lavender. It has the same woody notes that you get from thyme along with a strong lemon fragrance that can take the place of lavender’s floral notes.
Mint is also similar to lavender and is equally versatile as it is used to flavor a range of savory and sweet dishes. Note that while lavender can withstand long cooking times, fresh mint cannot. It is therefore best to add it closer to the end of the cooking process.
Ras el hanout is another herb and spice blend that can include lavender flowers. While the ingredients in this mix are diverse, you may be able to find premixed blends with a pronounced lavender flavor.