Poultry seasoning is most often used to make Thanksgiving turkey, but it consists of versatile herbs that get used in many applications. When you need a poultry seasoning substitute, try one of the options below.
Your best bet: Make your own poultry seasoning
Like many spice blends, there is no single authoritative recipe for poultry seasoning. What goes into it is basically up to your preferences, though there are certain ingredients that show up in most blends.
Poultry seasoning rarely includes exotic spices, so you should be able to find everything you need to make your own version in your spice cabinet. Poultry seasoning is almost always heavy on the herbs, particularly the classic ones like rosemary along with thyme and marjoram.
For this herb and spice mix, the most important herb of all is sage. Traditional poultry seasonings like McCormick’s or Bell’s are usually heavy on the sage to where it dominates the flavor profile with the other ingredients playing back up. Your homemade poultry seasoning will not have the classic taste without sage.
While adding a variety of herbs and spices will make your poultry seasoning more complex and nuanced, you can get by with a simple version. Sage is still the most important ingredient, but you only need a couple of other ingredients to get the essence of the poultry seasoning flavor. You can make a simple poultry seasoning with only sage, thyme, and black pepper.
A decent second choice: Herbs de Provence
The herbs in herbes de Provence are those that grow in the Provence region of France and which show up in many Provencal recipes. While the list differs from the traditional American poultry seasoning blend, it is not as different as you might think. A traditional blend will include herbs that get used in most poultry seasoning blends like thyme, marjoram, and rosemary.
A word of warning: herbes de Provence blends often include lavender; in fact, many of the most popular blends have this floral herb at the forefront of their flavor profile. While lavender can certainly work with poultry, it is not what you want in a poultry seasoning substitute.
Also, keep in mind that herbes de Provence does not contain sage. Herbes de Provence will work as a poultry seasoning substitute without it, but adding some will definitely make the flavor profile more like the classic version.
In a pinch: Italian seasoning
Because it is a blend of European herbs, Italian seasoning will provide many of the same flavor notes as poultry seasoning. Italian seasoning is actually an American seasoning blend despite the name. It was invented to make it easy for immigrants in America to find and use the herbs common in dishes from the Mediterranean.
The herbs in most Italian seasoning blends include marjoram, thyme, and rosemary. As with herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning blends do not contain sage but you can make it a closer match to classic poultry seasoning by adding sage.
Za’atar is a staple of Arab cooking that relies heavily on the same herbs that you see used in European cooking. Marjoram and thyme are among its ingredients. It is important to note that za’atar also includes sumac, so it has a somewhat different flavor profile from poultry seasoning; however, it should still work in the same recipes.