Fresh Tarragon vs. Dried Tarragon

Lastest Updated April 21, 2024
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As with other herbs, fresh tarragon vs dried tarragon is a delicate matter. It may seem trivial, but if you don’t know how to use the two varieties, you may end up ruining your food. The reason is that each type has its own dosage and properties.

In this post, I’m going to attempt to navigate you through this unfamiliar terrain. In the end, you will have a better grasp of how to use tarragon in cooking effectively. Let’s embark on this journey to the fragrant world of tarragon!

Fresh Tarragon Vs Drieds

What Do I Need To Know About Tarragon?

Before delving into fresh and dried tarragon, let’s start learning about the herb in general. Tarragon is no stranger to you, but there are many things you will find exciting.

History Of Tarragon

History Of Tarragon
It is thought that the Mongols used tarragon as a breath refresher and sleep aid.

Familiar as tarragon is today, it is a relatively new thing, being cultivated for only around 600 years. People believe that when the Mongol hordes invaded Europe, they didn’t only bring horror; they also came with tarragon.

The plant is native to Siberia (1) and was brought to Europe in the 13th century. Thus began a tale of “the student has become the master”. I will shortly explain how the European descendant is superior to the Siberian precursor in every aspect.

The French became particularly enamored with tarragon. They grew the herb widely and devised a lot of sauces and dishes with tarragon at the center. As a result, when French cuisine grew in fame and polarity, so did tarragon.

The Taste Of Tarragon

The Taste Of Tarragon
Use tarragon sparingly in cooking, you don’t want to overwhelm your food with its pungent flavor.

Tarragon has a floral and powerful scent. It is so strong that the herb may fall into the category that certain people love it dearly while others detest it. However, the aroma also has pleasant undertones of mint and vanilla.

When describing tarragon’s flavor, one can say it’s generally sweet and rather bitter. It is like a combination of licorice, fennel, and anise but more intense than any of the three. Actually, you may make your food rather bitter if you sprinkle too much tarragon over it.

Tarragon Lifespan And Harvesting

Tarragon Lifespan And Harvesting
Tarragon produces no edible leaves in late fall and winter.

Tarragon is a perennial herb. It can grow in the wild or be cultivated in your garden. A plant can stay productive for 3 to 4 years before having to be replaced.

The best time to harvest is spring, summer, and early fall. You should use a sharp garden scissor to trim the stems or sprigs. Make sure that you spare enough leaves for the plant to survive.

Fine tarragon can only be grown from cut stems or roots. The plant’s twisting, snake-like root system gives it the name. Tarragon is derived from a Latin word meaning “little dragon”.

Check out the correct way to harvest French tarragon here.

Watch this video: Harvesting French Tarragon

Fresh Tarragon Vs Dried Tarragon

With enough information about tarragon at your fingertip, let’s get to the crux of the problem. Which one is better, fresh tarragon or dried tarragon? Can dried tarragon be a swap-in ingredient for fresh tarragon? Well, it depends on your needs.

CharacteristicsFresh tarragonDried tarragon
ColorBright greenPale green to brownish green
TextureSlender and a little coarseCoarse and crisp, possibly powdered
FlavorStrong, sweet, and diverseEven stronger and sharper but less delicate, with a smoky undertone
DurabilityNot good at withstanding heatGood at withstanding heat
When to useAt the end of cooking or after cookingIn the beginning or middle of cooking
AvailabilitySpring to early autumnYear-round
Shelf life10 to 14 days at most1 to 3 years
Storage requirementNeeds refrigerationDoesn’t need refrigeration
Suitable foods to go withGarnishes, salads, sauces, and anything that doesn't need much cookingBraised dishes, stews, seasonings

Texture, Color, And Flavor

Dried Tarragon Has A Spicier
Dried tarragon has a spicier and more concentrated flavor than fresh tarragon.

Fresh tarragon leaves are long, slender, perky, and bright green. Meanwhile, depending on how it is dehydrated, dried tarragon can range from pale green to a brownish shade in color. It is also crisp, coarse, or even ground into powder.

As for the smell, both fresh and dried varieties are highly aromatic. But you can expect dried tarragon to have a weaker scent that is a little burned and smoky.

Like other herbs, tarragon owes its fragrance to the essential oil inside it. A significant portion of this oil is lost in the drying process. So it’s no surprise that fresh tarragon has a livelier, more diverse, and delicate flavor than when it is moistureless.

However, dried tarragon makes up for the lack of diversity with its intensity. Dried tarragon is much more potent than the fresh one. Therefore, while the two can be used interchangeably, you should be careful with the dosage.

The Golden Ratio

If you want to switch dried tarragon for the fresh variety, follow this rule of thumb. One part of dried tarragon is as strong as three parts of fresh tarragon. This equation extends to many kinds of herbs as well.

Here is another way to illustrate it. You can replace a teaspoon of dried tarragon with a tablespoon of the fresh stuff.

Understand the science of how much to substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs, including tarragon.

Watch this video: How to Substitute Dried Herbs


Due To Its Poor Durability
Due to its poor durability, fresh tarragon should only be added at the end of cooking.

Dried tarragon is indeed inferior to the fresh one in terms of flavor. At the same time, it is much better at keeping its taste in harsh conditions. That means dried tarragon will taste the same even after you’ve stored it for months or cooked it slowly for hours.

By contrast, don’t expect such constancy from fresh tarragon. It loses flavor as quickly as it loses moisture. And long exposure to heat will turn its sweet taste into a bitter, biting, pungent sourness.


Tender Tarragon Is Rather Expensive
Tender tarragon is rather expensive and not always in stock.

A trip to your local market will tell you that fresh tarragon isn’t always around, and its price isn’t cheap. Without the luxury of a garden to grow your own, you can’t have a reliable supply of fresh tarragon. But dried tarragon is much easier to get your hands on all the time.

Shelf Life And Storage Condition

Shelf Life And Storage Condition
Heat and light are the enemies of dried tarragon.

Fresh tarragon isn’t something that will last a long time. You must keep it in a refrigerator, preferably in a damp paper towel or in a plastic bag. The maximum time is 10 to 14 days, but you should expect some loss of flavor before that.

On the contrary, dried tarragon has a long shelf life of up to 1 or 3 years. It doesn’t need refrigeration; you only need to store it somewhere dark and cool such as your cupboard. Don’t forget to close the lid tightly on the tarragon container after use.

Suitable Dishes For Each Variety

Some Fresh Sprigs Of Tarragon
Your salad will become yummier with some fresh sprigs of tarragon.

In many recipes, the two varieties can substitute for each other. The only thing you need to remember is that if the dish asks for one spoonful of dried tarragon, replace it with three spoonfuls of tender tarragon.

However, due to the flavor and durability disparities, some recipes should go with fresh tarragon while others are better with the dried form.

Generally speaking, you should add fresh tarragon to dishes that involve little cooking or no use of heat at all. Good choices include preparing meals with salads, bearnaise sauce, pickles, etc.

However, if you use fresh tarragon as a garnish to decorate a finished dish, that is also acceptable. But you have to serve it right away.

On the other hand, dried tarragon is excellent for foods that have to be cooked for a long time. Braised dishes and stews are some obvious examples. You can also use dried tarragon to season meat, fish, poultry, and so on before cooking it.

Popular Methods To Dry Tarragon

Suppose that you are so good at gardening that you grow more fresh tarragon than you can use, what should you do? Overwhelming your dish with excessive tarragon isn’t an option. Instead, let’s make some dried tarragon.

As you can see, dried tarragon can last for a long time. In some situations, it is even superior to the fresh form in taste.

First, you need to discard any dead or damaged leaves and stems. Then wash your tarragon with water to remove dirt and chemicals, and let it dry thoroughly. Now, let’s choose one of the drying methods that I’m going to introduce.

Hanging Dry

This method is safe and easy and can apply to a large quantity of tarragon. But it is a little time-consuming and not suitable for humid places with little dry air around.

Step 1: Tie Your Herb Into Bunches

Tie the stems of your tarragon with a string. Arrange them into small bundles (about the size of your wrist). Keep the bundles far apart enough for the air to flow.

If possible, you can cover the bundles with a big non-plastic bag to protect them from dust. But make sure that the herb doesn’t touch the inside of the bag. Poke holes in the bag.

Step 2: Let The Herb Hang Dry

Let The Herb Hang Dry
Other types of herbs can be hanged in the same way as tarragon.

Hang the bundles upside down in a well-ventilated place that is out of direct sunlight. Hanging downward causes the essential oil to move from the stems to the leaves.

Leave the bundles there for 1 to 2 weeks or until the leaves become crisp and brown.

When your tarragon is completely dehydrated, remove the leaves from the stems and put them in an airtight container.

Dive into this easy way to dry herbs without having to use fancy machines.

Watch this video: Never Use an Oven to Dry Herbs

Rack Drying

This still uses dry air to dehydrate tarragon, but it is much faster.

Step 1: Prepare The Drying Rack

Make a drying rack by stretching a piece of cheesecloth or kitchen towel over a wooden frame, or buy a tray. Arrange your tarragon on the rack.

Step 2: Let The Herb Rack Dry

A Bamboo Drying Rack
A bamboo drying rack is an eco-friendly choice.

Put the tray in a warm, airy place with no sunlight. Frequently stir the stems and leaves. After 2 to 3 days, remove the dried leaves and store them in an airtight container.

Oven Drying

Just like how there are several ways to dry basil in ovens, you can speed up the drying process of your tarragon with an oven as well. But it can accidentally scorch your herb if you aren’t careful enough, so always stay alert when using it.

Step 1: Prepare The Baking Tray

Remove the leaves from the stems and space them out on a cookie sheet or a cooling rack.

Step 2: Dry The Herb In The Oven

Oven Drying
You have to remove the leaves from the stems before dehydrating them in the oven.

Set the oven at the lowest available temperatures, at 180 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Dry the leaves in the oven for 1 hour. Check and turn the leaves over every 30 minutes.

When the leaves are deprived of moisture, let them cool before getting them out and storing in a container. Be careful not to let them burn out.

Microwave Drying

This method is even faster than oven drying. But the risks are also bigger. You should also remember that you can only dry a small amount of tarragon at a time with this method.

Step 1: Prepare The Microwave Tray

Place a thin layer of tarragon leaves on a ceramic, glass, metal, or silicon plate. You should wrap the herb in two sheets of towel paper before putting it on the plate.

Step 2: Dry The Herbs With The Microwave

A Microwave Can Dry Tarragon
A microwave can dry tarragon in minutes, but it isn’t easy to use.

Turn on the microwave and set it on high. Check and turn over the tarragon every 30 seconds.

Stop when the leaves are crisp enough. Remember, it is easy to burn tarragon if you exceed the time.

Using A Dehydrator

This machine is built for drying stuff, so there is no doubt about the result. If you have a dehydrator, just follow the manual, and everything will be smooth sailing.

Check out those awesome tips about how to use a dehydrator to dry herbs.

Watch this video: Drying Herbs On the Dehydrator

Rehydrating Dried Tarragon Is Easy

Rehydrating Dried Tarragon Is Easy
People usually reactivate dried tarragon with water, but other liquids can also be used, such as olive oil.

There are many reasons why you want to moisturize your dried tarragon. You may want to make it softer to eat or to reclaim a portion of the original fresh flavor. But remember that you can’t recover all the nuances of tender tarragon.

All you need to do is to immerse dried tarragon in warm water in a bowl for 10 minutes. Strain the herb and use it in cooking right away. If you want to make a salad or sauce, you can drench dried tarragon in oil or vinegar for a stronger flavor.

If you activate dried tarragon with water, you can improve its flavor by adding slices of orange, lemon, or lime peel to the water. The essential oil in the peel will flow to the herb and make it more flavorful.

Types Of Tarragon That You Should Know

If you are interested in the fresh tarragon vs. dried tarragon question, it’s just as important to know about types of tarragon. There are many interesting things to learn.

French Tarragon

French Tarragon
The fantastic Fresh tarragon actually originates from Asia.

When displaced from frosty Siberia to the mild regions of Europe, tarragon thrived. French tarragon is the best tarragon variety for cooking and a favorite with chefs and foodies worldwide. If a recipe mentions “tarragon” as an ingredient, it means the French variety 99% of the cases.

French tarragon has a very strong and exciting flavor. Its fragrance bestows a delicious aroma on any dish it touches. The herb is also fairly good at retaining its flavor.

However, the plant is temperature-sensitive and requires good care. So it is no easy task to grow it in your garden. It also produces no fertile seeds, so you may have difficulties propagating the herb.

Beware that French tarragon is substantially similar to the inferior Russian variety in appearance. Therefore, you should choose a reliable herb trader and check your purchase carefully.

Russian Tarragon

Many people refer to Russian tarragon as “fake” while it is actually the ancestor of the fine French type. The herb can be found in Siberia and Central Asia and is part of local cuisines.

But Russian tarragon doesn’t have a nice flavor. It is much more feeble in aroma and bitter in taste than French tarragon. Even worse, it is prone to losing flavor quickly to heat.

So herb lovers unsurprisingly scorn it. That being said, Russian tarragon is good at flavoring beverages and vinegar, especially in the areas where it comes from. Besides, the plant is very easy to grow and can be cultivated from seeds.

You can confuse Russian tarragon with the identical-looking premium French one. But there is a sure way to avoid that mistake: bruise the leaves. French tarragon will release a powerful scent while the Russian stuff won’t.

Mexican Tarragon

Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon has both fragrant leaves and beautiful flowers.

If you are suffering from a lack of French tarragon, there is a viable alternative to try. It is called Mexican tarragon, or Spanish tarragon, originally from Central America.

Mexican tarragon has the same pungent and powerful smell and taste as the French variety. It is also excellent at retaining its flavor when exposed to heat. All in all, you can find a wonderful substitution in Mexican tarragon.

Still, it isn’t as popular as its European cousin. One reason is that it’s not really tarragon; the plant is more related to marigolds. Besides, it lacks the connection with superb French cooking.

Anyway, Mexican tarragon is still an interesting herb you should use. The herb isn’t as fussy as French tarragon, and it has brilliant gold flowers that will be a nice decoration to your garden.

You can grow this plant from seeds but take care not to buy those of Russian tarragon. They look very much alike. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell them apart visually.


Let’s take a look at the following questions that people usually ask about the fresh and dried varieties of tarragon.

Can I freeze fresh tarragon to prolong its shelf life?

Yes, but beware that doing so will affect the quality of your herb. You need to wash, chop, and let it dry completely before putting it in a freezer bag and stowing it in the freezer. Frozen tarragon can last for 6 months before noticeably deteriorating.

How can I keep tarragon fresh without a refrigerator?

That is tricky but possible. You can keep fresh herbs the same way you do with flowers: clip off the stems and put the herbs in a jar filled with water. Put the jar in a dark, cool place, refill the water regularly, and you can keep fresh tarragon for weeks.

What will happen when dried tarragon expires?

Dried tarragon doesn’t exactly have the same “expiration date” as other products. It will look relatively unchanged though, in some cases, discolored. The most noticeable is the loss of smell and flavor, which makes it useless.

Why shouldn’t I use plastic bags when hang-drying tarragon?

Because plastic bags don’t allow air to articulate, making it difficult for the tarragon to dry. They can even cause mold to develop and spoil your herb.

Why do I see people use fresh tarragon for dishes supposed to go with dried tarragon and vice versa?

Because unlike some herbs, such as basil, both fresh and dried varieties of tarragon have largely the same aromatic qualities. Therefore, they can be used interchangeably in many situations. The most important rule to remember is never to cook fresh tarragon for a long time.

What can I substitute for tarragon?

If tarragon isn’t available, you can use the following strong herbs to greatly improve the flavor of your food: aniseed, basil, chervil, chives, basil, dill, fennel, parsley, etc.

Where can I buy tarragon?

Dried tarragon is available in the spice section of most supermarkets. However, you can only find fresh tarragon at some select grocery stores, gourmet stores, or farmer’s markets. Buying fresh tarragon online is possible, but you can’t inspect your purchase beforehand.

Fresh Or Dried: What Is It Going To Be?

For all their differences, fresh tarragon and dried tarragon are like yin and yang. They are opposite to each other, but they are also one and the same. So don’t be afraid to experiment with them in your cooking.

I hope this post has provided you with useful information about all forms of tarragon. If you think so, too, please do me the honor of sharing this post with your friends. Also, it would be great if you could share your thoughts and opinions. Thank you very much!

Fresh Tarragon Vs Dried Tarragon


  1. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2022. tarragon | herb.
  2. 2022.
Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Editor in Chief, Senior Content Writer


Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Western Food Evaluation Expert


Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Gained foundational knowledge in French and European culinary techniques. Participated in workshops and hands-on training sessions under the guidance of seasoned chefs.

Local Community College, New York, NY

  • Program: Associate’s Degree in Nutrition
  • Focus: Acquired basic understanding of nutrition principles, dietary needs, and the importance of balanced diets in daily life.

Jamie Scott is a skilled culinary expert and content creator specializing in Western cuisine. With over 15 years in the culinary field and formal training from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Jamie deeply understands how to blend nutrition with delicious flavors. His passion for cooking matches his commitment to making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable.

On, Jamie brings a fresh perspective to classic dishes and beverages, offering readers insightful recipes, cooking tips, and a fresh view on meal planning that emphasizes taste, health, and simplicity.

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