Sage is best known for its role in Thanksgiving dinner, where it is used to flavor the turkey and sometimes the stuffing as well. The fact that it works well with turkey does not mean that its use is limited to that one role. Its rich flavor is an excellent complement for fatty foods, which means that it can be used in a broad variety of dishes.
If you like to make German-style sausages or Italian osso bucco, you might want to keep some sage around as it is traditionally used in both of those dishes. If you run out or it is not available in the spice section of your grocery store, there are a few workable alternatives.
Your best bet: Marjoram
Marjoram is a member of the mint family, like sage. As they are related to each other, both have similar flavor profiles that share a lot with other herbs in the mint family including thyme and sweet basil. Like those herbs, sage and marjoram can be used fresh or dried. It should be noted that marjoram’s flavor does not hold up to long cooking as well as sage’s flavor does. In other words, marjoram is best used as a sage substitute in recipes that require it to be added near the end or as a garnish. Use the same amount of marjoram that your recipe requires for sage.
A decent second choice: Savory
This herb is not a part of the mint family and is not as widely known as the others on this list. However, savory is popular in Canada and Canadian cooks use it for poultry in much the same way that sage is used in the United States and elsewhere. It is also one of the herbs in herbes de Provence.
Savory comes in the varieties: summer savory and winter savory. The former is the better known and more widely used of the two. The latter has a slightly bitter flavor but tastes similar in most other respects. Savory’s flavor is relatively mild and delicate; it is similar to that of marjoram and thyme. When using savory to replace sage, use it in the same amount that the recipe requires for sage.
In a pinch: Thyme
Thyme is another aromatic herb in the mint family. It is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine and can be used to flavor a range of meats and vegetables. It is also versatile enough to be used in Italian tomato-based pasta sauces.
Another important fact is that thyme can stand up to long cooking times, which means that it is perfect for dishes that must be braised for several hours. Thyme can be used in fresh or dried form but when using it as a sage replacement, fresh is better. You will use thyme in the same amounts as you would use sage.
Poultry seasoning is a good option. This spice blend is popular for use on turkey and chicken. It is an excellent substitute for sage because it actually includes sage as one of the ingredients. Among the other ingredients are marjoram and thyme. When you use poultry seasoning in place of sage, use it in exactly the same quantity that your recipe requires for sage.
Rosemary is another Mediterranean herb that is popular around the world. It has a pungent and distinctive fragrance that can easily overpower the flavor of other herbs and spices. Use a third of the amount that your recipe requires for sage.