French tarragon’s distinctive flavor, which is often compared to licorice or anise, can enliven many different recipes. There are many ways to cook with the herb tarragon.
We’ve included six different types of dishes to demonstrate the versatile nature of this herb. Then we’ve rounded up nine great tarragon recipes for you to try.
French tarragon can enhance the flavor of other herbs. Basil, marjoram, parsley, sage, thyme, and lemon thyme are often combined with tarragon. Many meat recipes call for a combination of tarragon and lemon zest. French tarragon is also used on its own to enhance fruit and vegetable salads as well as dishes made with eggs, fish, and poultry.
How to Cook with French Tarragon
Preparing French Tarragon for Cooking
Harvest tips from your tarragon plants, taking about 1/3 of the stem length. Rinse leaves and blot or spin them dry. Many recipes call for freshly chopped leaves, but you can also infuse the flavor of French tarragon into vinegar, butter, or broth for later use in recipes.
1. Using Fresh French Tarragon in Egg Dishes
Tender tarragon leaves, finely chopped, go well with egg dishes. Tarragon, alone or with some of the companion herbs listed above, will add a fresh lively flavor to omelets, frittatas, and quiches, and also to basic scrambled eggs. Some recipes call for beating the tarragon into the eggs, others for sprinkling fresh tarragon over egg dishes after cooking. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.
2. Making French Tarragon Vinegar for Dressings
Tarragon is often used to flavor vinegar which can be used in salad dressings. Here are the steps to make a tarragon-infused vinegar.
- Crush or bruise one cup of loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves and place them in a clean, sterilized jar.
- Heat one quart of white vinegar or wine vinegar on the stove, but do not bring it to a boil. (Use only commercial vinegar with at least 5% acidity.)
- Pour the warm vinegar over the leaves, cover the jar tightly, and let the mixture steep at room temperature, shaking it every couple of days.
- Taste at intervals.
- When the tarragon’s flavor has permeated the vinegar, strain it into clean sterilized jars, and cover tightly. This will keep for six weeks.
3. Flavoring Dishes with French Tarragon Butter
Some recipes call for a combination of butter and French tarragon. You can rub this on and pour it inside roast fowl, drizzle it over baked fish, fry eggs or vegetables in it, etc.. Mix 2-6 T of fresh tarragon leaves, ½ t of lemon juice, and pepper to taste into one stick of butter.
4. Flavoring Stock with French Tarragon
Tarragon can also be used in making flavorful stock or broth for meat, poultry, or seafood. Some recipes call for boiling whole sprigs of tarragon like this shrimp dish from the LA Times – Grouper, Shrimp And Artichokes In Tarragon Cream.
Others suggest boiling the stems of tarragon while reserving the fresh leaves to chop into other parts of the dish like this Whole Grain Mustard Tarragon Chicken recipe from the Washington Post.
5. Stirfrying French Tarragon with Vegetables
Tarragon releases its flavor quickly when fried in butter or oil. In her book The Pleasure of Herbs, Phyllis Shaudys recommends quickly stir-frying grated carrots and parsnips along with tarragon in butter or salad oil. The Washington Post suggests an easy stirfry of salmon, cannellini, and assorted summer vegetables flavored with tarragon and lemon zest. Try different vegetables and see what you think pairs best with tarragon.
6. Cooking Fish with French Tarragon, Butter, and Lemon
Tarragon in butter, sometimes with lemon zest or lemon juice added, perks up very simple fish recipes. The Christian Science Monitor gives cooking directions so simple that they hesitate to call them a recipe. Pat walleye fillets dry, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, press tarragon gently in, and pan-fry them briefly in butter.
The North Carolina Extension recommends pan-fried sea bass in a lemon tarragon sauce. The fish is coated with flour, salt, and pepper then lightly fried until golden brown. The simple sauce is made from melted butter, lemon juice, and zest, salt, white pepper, and chopped tarragon leaves. Ready in about 20 minutes, this easy to make dish is very satisfying.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension suggests broiling cod fillets with a tarragon-infused lemon-butter sauce. In this recipe, the fillets are topped with chopped tarragon leaves, lemon, salt, and pepper. Sesame seeds are sprinkled on top before baking for a slightly crunchy outer crust.
Related Reading: Growing French Tarragon
French Tarragon Recipes
Here are nine recipes that demonstrate the versatility when cooking with french tarragon.
This simple dressing for a green salad, from a Hawaii master gardener, starts with the herbal vinegar described in the section above and adds fresh thyme, garlic, and salad oil.
This basic recipe from the Texas Cooperative Extension adds a distinctive flavor to classic roast chicken. Scroll down the page to reach the recipe. You could add lemon and/or some of the other herbs which often accompany tarragon.
This cool summer pâté from the Missouri Extension calls for ½ cup of fresh herb leaves blended into 6 cups of poultry meat. You could use tarragon alone or combine it with sage, thyme, marjoram, and basil.
This richly flavored quick vegetarian meal calls for fresh tarragon and lemon zest topping a mixture of chard, leeks, and cream.
This recipe from the Toronto Star makes a rich tarragon-flavored sauce which combines well with vegetables, beef, or fish. The Star says this was a favorite of Julia Child’s.
Fish Recipes with French Tarragon
Bearnaise sauce and the simple lemon-butter sauces mentioned above aren’t the only ways to enjoy the flavor of tarragon and fish.
This Australian recipe features a sauce made with tarragon, cream, and wine poured over firm-fleshed fish, potatoes, and asparagus.
The Washington Post offers a cold poached salmon recipe with an elaborate tarragon dressing. The dressing includes creme fresh, dijon mustard, lemon, and of course a healthy amount of fresh tarragon leaves.
Fruit Salads, Sweet and Savory
While tarragon is most often used with vegetables and meats, its anise flavor can also pair well with fruits.
Sweetened Whipped Ricotta with Berries and Tarragon
This tempting recipe from the website – A Thought for Food, calls for fresh tarragon leaves chopped over berries and sweetened ricotta cheese with lemon zest. Perfect on a summer day.
Peach and Tarragon Salad
This savory recipe from the Washington Post calls for topping peaches with a tart dressing featuring tarragon, lemon juice, and hot pepper.
Tarragon’s distinctive taste goes with a surprisingly wide variety of recipes. Experiment and find out which dishes suit you best and which other herbs you like along with tarragon. Remember, a recipe is only a starting point. Once you know the basics of what works, you can change ingredients to suit your taste or the contents of your pantry.