Mint is a useful herb to keep on hand. It is excellent for flavoring smoothies and other drinks; you can use it to complement savory flavors in a variety of dishes as well. You can add mint leaves to your spaghetti sauce, use it to make a pesto for chicken or even add it to a salad. It is also used to make the mint sauce sometimes served with lamb in the U.K. It has a distinctive taste that can make many commonplace dishes more interesting.
If you need a quick emergency substitute for mint leaves, you have several options. These options are easy to find; in fact, you may already have some of them in your spice cabinet or refrigerator.
Your best bet: Basil
The mint flavor is pungent but also refreshing and cooling. Basil offers these same qualities. Its flavor is slightly peppery but it has a strong, sweet aroma backed by the menthol coolness for which mint is known.
Basil is a part of the mint family and the leaves can pass for those of mint, especially when finely chopped. Furthermore, you can use basil in many of the savory dishes that require mint and it can be effective in some of the sweeter ones as well. Basil leaves can even be used in drinks and have numerous health benefits.
You can use basil leaves as a one-to-one replacement for mint leaves.
A decent second choice: Peppermint extract
Mostly known for flavoring candies and frosting, peppermint extract is easy to find and can provide a minty flavor in some dishes. Peppermint extracts may be labeled as pure, natural or artificial. The pure and natural peppermint extracts are made from peppermint leaves but artificial or imitation extracts are made from various other ingredients combined to create a flavor similar to that of peppermint. You can make your own peppermint extract at home by soaking peppermint leaves in vodka.
Peppermint oil is another type of extract that is used in candies. It is a more concentrated form of peppermint but is made from peppermint leaves as well. You can make your own peppermint oil by soaking leaves in a carrier oil. The carrier oil can be any edible oil including olive or almond oil.
For each tablespoon of chopped mint leaves in your recipe, use 4 drops of peppermint extract or a single drop of peppermint oil.
In a pinch: Marjoram
This herb is another member of the mint family and is widely used in Italian dishes. Marjoram has a delicate flavor along with the menthol qualities associated with mint. It can be used in almost all of the savory dishes that call for mint and is widely used for pasta dishes, soups and vegetables.
When using marjoram as a mint substitute, start out by using half of the amount that the recipe dictates for mint. If necessary, you can add more until the recipe achieves the desired flavor.
Tarragon is another option that you can use to replace mint. It has a taste that is similar to anise and you can use it as a stand-in for mint in some drinks. Rosemary is another member of the mint family. It is perfect for all of mint’s savory applications and is a particularly effective complement for meats.