Lovage is a member of the parsley family with a long history in European cooking. It provides an intense flavor that is perfect for potato dishes but that is versatile enough to be used in soups and stews. If you plan to cook authentic-tasting German or Eastern European dishes, you should do your best to get your hands on this herb. If there is no lovage in your grocery store’s produce section, you can still create a good dish with any one of the alternatives below.
Your best bet: Celery
Not only are lovage and celery related, they look a lot like each other. Celery could be considered a paler version of lovage with thicker stalks. If the appearance of lovage is one of the main factors in your dish, you will not find a better replacement than celery. In addition, celery provides almost exactly the same flavor. It is important to note that while the flavors are very close, lovage is noticeably more pungent than celery. In other words, you will need to use more celery to get the same effect. When using celery in place of lovage, use roughly 1.5 times the amount that your recipe specifies for lovage.
A decent second choice: Lovage seeds
Lovage seeds can provide dishes with much of the flavor that you want from lovage or from celery. In fact, celery salt and the celery seed spice are actually made with lovage seeds. They have the benefit of providing the flavor without the bulk that comes with using the leaves and stalks. This means that they are perfect for use in all kinds of dishes for which lovage stalks and leaves would not be appropriate.
In a pinch: Fennel
Fennel can be an effective lovage substitute. Fennel and lovage stalks are similar in appearance, which means that it is an excellent option if the looks are what you want. It also has a similar texture; in fact, not many herbs (aside from celery and fennel) have a similar texture to that of lovage. In addition, fennel’s flavor should fit well in most dishes that require lovage.
Flat leaf parsley belongs to the same family as both lovage and celery. It has some of the same flavor notes as celery along with leaves that have a similar serrated shape to those of lovage.
To get a milder version of lovage, you can use canned cream of celery soup. This will not be appropriate for all dishes, but may provide some of the flavor that you need in a soup or stew.
Like celery seeds, celeriac is a good option for providing celery flavor. Celeriac is in the lovage and celery family, but is grown for its roots rather than the stalk. When peeled and sliced, it can provide a delicate celery flavor in soups and stews.
Maggi stock cubes are another way that you can replicate the lovage flavor. The flavor is similar enough to lovage that Germans refer to the herb as maggikraut.