Inside the Spice Cabinet: Tarragon

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Emily Han)

Tarragon is one of those herbs that you may not think of using until you come across a recipe that specifically calls for it. But you’ll want to keep this robustly flavored, aromatic herb around when you see how versatile it can be.

What Is Tarragon?

Taste: Sweet
Most Popular Use: Sauces, meat, fish, vegetables

Tarragon is a low shrub native to Asia with flat, narrow, glossy-green leaves. It’s actually a member of the lettuce family, and its tender leaves are quite tasty when raw. You can also find it as a dry spice, though the flavor is much diminished.

There are two main types of tarragon: French and Russian. We generally prefer to use French tarragon for its delicate, balanced flavor. Russian tarragon can be harsh-tasting and is significantly less aromatic.

How To Use Tarragon

Tarragon is widely used in classic French cooking, particularly as part of the “

fine herbes

béarnaise sauce, as well as with chicken, fish, and vegetables.

Since the leaves are so tender, they can be mixed in with other greens for salads or sprinkled over a finished dish much like parsley. The anise flavor goes well in tomato dishes, so we can see using it in panzanella and caprese salads, in tomato-based soups, or in tomato sauces for pasta. Tarragon can also be muddled or infused into simple syrup for to use in cocktails and summer coolers.

Recipes for Cooking with Tarragon