Sure they’re paired in a famous Simon and Garfunkel album…
And rosemary and thyme are both very popular in the spice rack, but how much do you know about their similarities and differences? How different do they taste? Do they provide similar health benefits? Can one even substitute for the other in a pinch? You’ll learn all this and more in another SPICEography Showdown.
Do rosemary and thyme have the same flavor?
While both of these herbs are members of the mint family, each has its own unique and complex flavor. In fact, there are more differences in the way they taste than there are similarities!
Rosemary is woodsy with aromas of lemon and pine. It’s a very powerful herb, pungent and slightly bitter. Rosemary can be overpowering in some dishes if it’s paired with the wrong flavors or if you use an excessive amount.
Thyme has a lovely and gentle flavor that blends beautifully with just about anything. Its taste is a bit earthy with lemony and minty tones.
The element of flavor these two herbs do have in common is a small amount of warmth as well as peppery undertones.
Ultimately, these two herbs do share a family, yet have flavor profiles that are quite different.
Do rosemary and thyme look alike?
In both crushed and ground form, these two herbs tend to look very similar. When you’re looking at crushed rosemary or thyme, either one of these might appear green or brown. The leaves are similar enough in appearance that once they’ve been dried and crushed, there just isn’t typically much distinction. The ground herbs are even more similar. Both rosemary and thyme will be a brown-colored powder, and each can range in shade from medium-light to fairly dark.
Even if you can easily tell these two herbs apart when you first procure them, age can change their appearance. You might start with both of these crushed herbs differing very obviously in color only to find that after a little bit of shelf time, you’ve got two virtually indistinguishable brown herbs on your spice rack!
If you opt for a stylish spice rack that creatively displays your herbs, spices, and seasonings without labeling of any kind, be sure to keep them in a specific order that will allow you to tell what’s what. You might even keep a cheat sheet for this type of kitchen display—like the insert in a variety box of chocolates—so that you’ll always be absolutely sure which herb you’re adding to your dish.
Is one of these herbs more readily available than the other?
As two of the most common and basic of seasonings, both rosemary and thyme are easily found in just about any grocery store or online.
If you’ve got a green thumb, you might even like to try your hand at a home herb garden! Rosemary and thyme are reasonably hardy and easy to grow. As basic herbs that are typically used regularly in a variety of dishes, both of these are perfect for growing fresh.
Either way, rosemary and thyme are two herbs you’ll surely have no trouble getting your hands on!
Can rosemary be used as a substitute for thyme? Can thyme substitute for rosemary?
While thyme can often be a good substitute for rosemary—particularly when used along with other herbs such as tarragon or savory—rosemary is not the best choice as a substitution for thyme.
Rosemary is a pretty assertive herb with a very distinct astringent flavor. Thyme is a much gentler herb that blends incredibly well with other flavors.
Thyme is an herb that ‘plays well with others’, so to speak; rosemary demands attention! For this reason, thyme is almost always a nice substitute for rosemary, but the opposite is typically not the case.
Is rosemary as healthy as thyme?
In regards to health benefits, both of these herbs have histories that include long lists of various illnesses and ailments for which they’ve served as a treatment for centuries. Out of all of the possible herbs you might consider in terms of health, these two are definitely close competitors that leave most other contenders in the dust.
That being said, thyme ultimately comes out in the lead. Rosemary has many, many uses and benefits to human health, but thyme contains a higher content of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are essential to human health.
Are rosemary and thyme used in the same types of cuisine?
Both of these herbs are often used in a wide variety of both spicy and savory dishes and are often used together along with other earthy herbs and spices.
However, they do have some particular distinctions. For example, rosemary is a favorite seasoning for potatoes, pork, shellfish, and even rabbit. Thyme is a staple ingredient in Italian cuisine, soups, stews, and in chili. Thyme also has a special place in traditional holiday foods most Americans enjoy on a couple of choice occasions each year. Poultry stuffing is certainly a favorite dish that simply wouldn’t be the same without a lovely seasoning with thyme.
Rosemary and thyme are two of the most-used herbs in any cook’s kitchen. As you can see, they have plenty of similarities; ultimately, however, the subtle differences between these two herbs make them each unique and useful in their own specific ways.
The more practiced you become in the use of herbs and spices in your kitchen, the more refined your palette will become and you’ll find yourself gaining a true appreciation for just what each of these particular herbs has to offer.