Why you should be using Tarragon!




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a bottle of diy tarragon vinegar with fresh tarragon sprigs

Do you cook with Tarragon? If not you’re missing out on one of the loveliest flavors ~ join me as I explore this under-used herb and share some great tarragon recipes to get you started.

It occurred to me the other day that some of my favorite recipes feature tarragon, and I thought it would be fun to explore this herb together. Tarragon is terribly underutilized in American cooking, which is a shame because it has such a lovely flavor that pairs well with so many foods. If you don’t use tarragon much in your cooking, I hope you’ll read on and be convinced to give it a try. Pick it up next time you’re shopping, or maybe make a little space for it in your herb garden.

 


tarragon sprig

What is tarragon?

Tarragon is an herb native to Siberia (!) but grows all over the world. It’s a tall leggy herb with pointed leaves that’s one of the four fines herbes prized in French cooking (chervil, parley, and chives are the others.)  There are 3 common types:

  • French tarragon ~ this is the one we cook with
  • Russian tarragon ~ this one’s not use for cooking
  • Mexican tarragon ~ not a true tarragon, but has a similar flavor and is used as a substitute

My simple salad with eggs (below) has a creamy tarragon dressing that takes it over the top.

Spring Salad with Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette on a white marble surface


 

What does tarragon taste like?

Tarragon has a distinctive anise or licorice flavor, with a hint of mint. But don’t worry if you aren’t a licorice fan, the flavor is delicate. I find it instantly elevates so many foods and gives them a Continental flair. If you’ve ever had Bérnaise sauce on steak or asparagus, you know the flavor.

lemony tarragon dressing

 

Where to find tarragon

Like most herbs, you’ll find both the fresh and dried version in your supermarket, although it’s sometimes hard to find it fresh in smaller markets and grocery stores. Look for it with the packaged herbs in the produce section. I highly recommend using it fresh, that’s the way I almost always use it.

You can grow tarragon in a pot in the kitchen, or in your garden, in zones 4 and warmer. It’s a summer perennial that likes full sun. Look for seedlings at your local nursery, and you can also buy them online.

tarragon

How to use tarragon

Hold the herb stem in one hand and run your fingers down the stem, starting at the top, to gently strip off the leaves. (Discard the stem.)  The leaves can be chopped or used whole, added to soups, sauces, dressings, etc. just like you would use any fresh herb. Tarragon does best when you use it raw, or add it at the end of cooking a recipe to retain its flavor; it isn’t meant for long cooking because it can become bitter.

You might blend chopped tarragon into quiches, omelettes or frittatas, like my sheet pan frittata (below.) You can usually add or substitute tarragon for other herbs in recipes like this, even if they don’t call for it specifically.

sheet pan frittata with spring greens and goat cheese

What foods pair well with tarragon?

Tarragon has a unique but a delicate flavor, so keep that in mind when you’re pairing it with other ingredients that might overwhelm it. The lightly anise-y aroma is goes particularly well with chicken and cream sauces, and I love it in salad dressings and in simple pastas. You can pair tarragon with other mild herbs like parsley, too, for a fresh green flavor. It’s commonly used in egg dishes, I use it in my eggs Florentine (below.)

eggs florentine in a casserole

The French adore tarragon, so many of the recipes that feature it have a French connection. Tarragon pairs well with chicken, and I use it to great advantage in my roasted chicken breasts in creamy tarragon and mustard sauce (below) ~ it has such an elegant vibe because of that luscious tarragon sauce. But try it in chicken salad, as well, I think it would work great in these chicken salad summer rolls.

Roast Chicken with Tarragon

What’s the best way to store fresh tarragon? ~

Like most fresh herbs, tarragon will keep well wrapped in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.  But, also like most other herbs, the flavor will be best the fresher it is, so snip it from your garden or buy it at the store as close to when you need it as possible.

If you blitz it up in a dressing like I did for my classic French salad Niçoise, below, it will last a week or longer. This type of dressing can be used in all kinds of mediterranean salads, even beans salads!

 

Tossed Niçoise Salad in a white bowl

To preserve tarragon

When you find fresh tarragon, don’t waste a bit of it.  If you can’t use it all, preserve it!

  • For short term storage, wrap fresh tarragon in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the fridge.  It will last about a week or so.
  • You can also dry tarragon by hanging it in a cool spot out of sunlight. When it’s dried, remove the leaves and package them in an airtight jar or plastic bag.  Use a dehydrator if you’ve got one.
  • Tarragon freezes well, just remove the leaves and lay them out on a baking sheet.  Put it in the freezer until the leaves are frozen solid, then transfer to a heavy duty zip lock bag.

I make an easy tarragon vinegar with a few sprigs every summer.  It gives my salads an instant upgrade, and makes a nice gift, too.

A bottle of diy tarragon vinegar with cork

The next time you reach for a bunch of basil, consider grabbing some tarragon instead.

 

 

tarragon recipes pin

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20 Comments

    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Alex
    August 22, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Hi, here’s a tip from Australia! For years I’ve been making a great carrot side dish to have with any meat. Finely slice carrots on a mandolin, rinse in water and drain. Cook in a microwave, drain, and toss with butter and dried tarragon. So delicate, delicious and they look good piled up on the plate. I’ve never tried it with fresh tarragon but, now I have some growing, I will.

  • Reply
    Darci
    August 6, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    Love tarragon, Sue, but I find the local fresh offerings a tad undesirable because it’s always wilted. I have found a great dried shallot and tarragon spice mix at Savory Spice shops. Great in eggs, soups, chicken dishes, and dressings for those who have a hard timing finding it fresh as I do. Can’t wait to try some of these recipes. Really makes me want to seek out a seed source and grow my own!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    August 3, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Sue,
    I discovered Tarragon several years ago and love the aroma and flavor. I have been trying it in different dishes ( and have found I love it in a light creamy potato soup) but am looking forward to some of your recipes, especially the salad dressing. Thanks, I so enjoy your site.

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 3, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      The creamy potato soup sounds amazing!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Johnides
    August 3, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I too am a tarragon lover. My favorite meal on the first cool day is roasted chicken basted with lemon, butter and tarragon. Makes the house smell like fall! I made a chicken pot pie yesterday and substituted the thyme called for in the recipe with tarragon. It was a hit! Thank you for the article, Sue.

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 3, 2020 at 12:26 pm

      Everybody has such great ideas, the pot pie is on my list for sure 🙂

  • Reply
    Susan Passino
    August 2, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    I’m glad I took the time to read this. Thanks for writing it! I’ve grown taragon so many times and then don’t really use it. That will soon change!

  • Reply
    Rhonda Leep
    August 2, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    Love tarragon!
    It is awesome on boiled new or smashed potatoes,
    a lemony dressing, and chicken.
    Have fresh in the garden and dried is stored in the freezer.
    M
    Need to make up some flavored vinegar.
    Thanks

  • Reply
    Sandra
    August 2, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    I like tarragon very much but it is very hard to find it fresh on the coast of GA, and it doesn’t grow well here. Dried tarragon isn’t good at all, so I don’t use it unless I can find it fresh. Didn’t know it could be frozen, but will definitely buy several next time I find it fresh. Can’t make Béarnaise Sauce without it, so that’s something to look forward to.

  • Reply
    Barr White
    August 2, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for the beautiful article – I want to try everything on here! Your photography is amazing. I can’t believe you’ve never had it with Salmon!! – it’s such a wonderful pairing.

    • Reply
      Barry White
      August 2, 2020 at 11:47 am

      Just like Sheila, I somehow can’t spell my own name today!

      • Reply
        Sue
        August 2, 2020 at 11:53 am

        lol, it’s Sunday, you have an excuse 🙂

  • Reply
    MrsSW
    August 2, 2020 at 9:23 am

    I love tarragon – unfortunately, tarragon doesn’t love Georgia humidity.
    Glad to know it can be frozen; I’ll pick up some of the packaged in the produce department, use what I need and freeze the rest.
    Thanks, Sue,
    Sheil

    • Reply
      MrsSW
      August 2, 2020 at 9:25 am

      LOL – you’d think after 75 years I’d be able to spell my name.
      Sheila

  • Reply
    Candace
    August 2, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Silver Palate’s Tarragon Chicken Salad recipe with equal portions of creme fraiche, mayo, and sour cream turned me on to tarragon for life! This a great post. Thanks Sue.

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 2, 2020 at 10:09 am

      I accept the challenge, I’ll make it and post it!

  • Reply
    Jean
    August 2, 2020 at 8:13 am

    A friend has gotten me started on using tarragon butter atop baked salmon. Delicious!

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 2, 2020 at 8:16 am

      You know I haven’t used tarragon with salmon yet, love the idea!

  • Reply
    Shelia
    August 2, 2020 at 7:44 am

    I grow tarragon every year and do use it in a few recipes but you’ve given a few ideas I look forward to trying – especially the roasted chicken in the cream sauce. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 2, 2020 at 7:54 am

      You won’t be disappointed in the chicken, I’ve gotten raves about it over the years 🙂