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What is Chervil? Taste, Uses, and Chervil Substitute

What is chervil? This post covers the taste and uses of the chervil herb as well as a chervil substitute in case you don’t have it.

What is chervil?

Chervil is a culinary herb most associated with French cuisine. Chervil leaves are light and resemble those of carrot tops or parsley. In fact it is in the same family as parsley, and sometimes called French parsley. The structure of the chervil leaf is delicate, as opposed to sturdier leaved herbs like parsley or basil. Chervil is also one of the four herbs in fines herbes, the others being parsley, tarragon, and chives.

What is chervil herb?
Chervil plant

What does chervil taste like?

Chervil contains a mild and delicate flavor. The most predominant flavor is that of anise, the flavor found in licorice, fennel, and tarragon – though in chervil this flavor is milder. Some say that chervil taste like a mixture between parsley and tarragon.

chervil herb, one component of fines herbes
Illustration of Chervil herb

Chervil uses

Chervil is used as a culinary herb to add an herbaceous freshness and light anise flavor to a dish. It is used frequently in French cuisine and one of the components of fines herbs. Because of it’s delicate flavor, it best to use it at the end of the recipe as opposed to cooking it for an extended period of time. Chervil pairs especially well with asparagus, carrots, eggs, and fish. It works very well as a garnish and looks beautiful on top of a dish due to it’s intricately structured leaves.

Fines Herbes

Fines herbes are a classic mixture of fresh herbs in French cooking. This mixture comprises chopped parsley, tarragon, chives, and chervil. The relative proportion of these herbs is flexible and at the discretion of the cook. It should be noted that tarragon is the strongest in flavor of these herbs, an important fact to consider if creating a well balanced herb mixture. These herbs can all be eaten raw and are best utilized with little to no cooking time. This is in contrast to rosemary, thyme, or sage which benefit from a longer cooking time, and in the case of rosemary and sage, can be unpleasant to eat raw.

Chervil Substitute

If you run into a recipe with chervil and don’t have it, you need a chervil substitute. Chervil can be hard to find, and even when you find it, it is more expensive than other more frequently used herbs. Luckily, one chervil substitute is widely available and relatively inexpensive: parsley. Parsley is a good substitute for chervil because its look and taste are similar (remember they are in the same family). Like chervil, parsley is mildly strong in flavor, though parsley does not contain the anise flavor of chervil.

Another chervil substitute is tarragon. Tarragon is a good substitute for chervil because it also contains anise flavor. However, unlike chervil, tarragon is strongly flavored. If you are using tarragon as a substitute for chervil, you will probably want to dial down the amount you use to approximate the mild flavor of chervil.

Some recipes where you could add chervil:

Or make a chervil pesto or a chervil vinaigrette




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