The right herbs and spices can be the difference between a culinary masterpiece and a boring dish.
Parsley might only be used as a garnish in most recipes, but it plays a significant role in the overall flavor and presentation.
Aside from flavoring your dish and providing it with bright green color, parsley has numerous health benefits, including a powerful detox action.
Unfortunately, many people don’t keep spices or herbs on hand to cook with and may need a good replacement when making a dish that calls for something specific.
Here are the best parsley substitutes you can use in any dish, including tips for how to use them and when you should avoid cooking with parsley.
- What is Parsley?
- What Is Parsley Good For?
- Is Parsley Keto-Friendly?
- What Can I Substitute For Parsley?
- How To Use Parsley In Your Recipes
What is Parsley?
Parsley is an herb that comes from an upright, branched plant that grows in Europe and Western Asia. It has green leaves with green and yellow flowers that grow in clusters from the main stem.
The parsley plant is a perennial or biennial that reaches about 60 cm in height. Parsley leaves are tough and able to survive harsh winters.
There are several types of parsley available and each type is classified by its leaf type. Common examples include the broad leaf (Hamburg), curled leaf (crispum), and the plain leaf.
The Hamburg leaf is well-known for its large roots. It has a slightly fragrant leaf and a tangy and pleasant taste.
Chemically speaking, parsley is made up of five pairs each of medium-sized metacentric chromosomes and submetacentric chromosomes. It has one pair of acrocentric chromosomes (1).
Parsley contains several bioactive compounds that contribute to its extensive nutrient profile, including large amounts of vitamin C as well as other anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Fresh Parsley vs Dried Parsley
If you were to go to the grocery store and pick out a bottle of parsley in the spice aisle, then you’ll probably be buying dried parsley.
Dried parsley is usually bottled and comes in tiny, flake form whereas fresh parsley is sold in the produce section.
You can tell the difference between dried and fresh parsley by looking at the herb’s color. Fresh parsley has a bright green color while dried parsley tends to have a deep green color.
When swapping fresh parsley for dried parsley, you’ll need to adjust your amount as dried parsley features much smaller flakes.
A one-tablespoon serving of fresh parsley contains the following (2):
- 1.37 calories
- 0.03 grams of fat
- 0.241 grams of carbs
- 0.113 grams of protein
Vitamins and minerals:
- 5.24 mg calcium
- 0.236 mg iron
- 1.9 mg magnesium
- 2.2 mg phosphorus
- 21.1 mg potassium
- 2.13 mg sodium
- 0.041 mg zinc
- 0.006 mg copper
- 0.006 mg manganese
- 0.004 mcg selenium
- 5.05 mg vitamin C
- 0.003 mg thiamin
- 0.004 mg riboflavin
- 0.05 mg niacin
- 0.015 mg pantothenic acid
- 0.003 mg vitamin B6
- 5.78 mcg folate
- 0.486 mg choline
- 320 IU vitamin A
- 192 mcg choline
- 62.3 mcg vitamin K
What Is Parsley Good For?
The following is a list of parsley’s proven health benefits:
- It is a powerful diuretic
Parsley has a powerful diuretic effect on the body that can help you naturally detox. Research shows that parsley seed extract may be able to help you excrete more urine over a 24 hour period than drinking water alone (3).
Because of this, parsley is often added to detox drink recipes. If you’re using parsley as part of a detox plan, then remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, too.
- It contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Parsley contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties with free radical scavenging abilities that have been shown to be effective against Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli (4). This can help keep you healthy and protect against certain illnesses.
- It may contain neuroprotective abilities.
According to one study, parsley may help protect against deleterious changes in the brain. It may also help support behavioral activities, brain neurons, and neurotransmitters due to its impact on oxidative stress (5).
- It’s good for your whole body.
Parsley has numerous health benefits on your entire body. It has been shown to do the following (1):
- Assists in oxygen metabolism
- Supports adrenal and thyroid health
- Contributes to healthy blood vessels (especially the capillaries)
- Supports the genital and urinary organs
- Helps prevent eye disorders
- Prevents premature aging
- Acts as an antiseptic in both the intestines and blood
- It may help reduce the risk of kidney and gallbladder stones.
According to one study, parsley may act contain anti-urolithiasis properties to help prevent the formation of kidney and gallbladder stones. The study found that parsley acts as an anti-urolithiatic drug by increasing urinary pH, decreasing urinary calcium and protein excretion, and supporting the overall health of the kidneys (6, 7).
- It may protect against cancer.
Research shows that parsley contains an antioxidant flavonoid called apigenin that may be able to help protect against cancer (8). Apigenin can also be found in grapes, apples, chamomile tea, and red wine.
- It may be for your digestive system.
Research shows that parsley has a carminative effect that helps reduce colic and gas. It has also been used to treat constipation (1).
- It provides a good source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C assists with the absorption of iron, which can help reduce the risk of iron-deficient anemia. Vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and assists in the production of collagen.
- It may help boost the immune system and protect the liver.
Research shows that parsley helps boost the immune system with its antibiotic and antiviral effects. It is especially beneficial for fighting viruses that attack the liver. Fresh parsley leaf juice can be used to help treat hepatitis A, B, and C (1).
One study found that parsley and its antioxidant flavonoids can be used as an alternative to allopurinol or in combination with the drug to help manage hyperuricemia and oxidative stress diseases, such as gout (9).
- It may help reduce blood sugar levels.
Side Effects and Dosage
Despite its many proven health benefits, parsley may be dangerous when taken in excessive amounts. Parsley contains a compound called myristicin that has been shown to produce possible neurotoxic and hallucinogenic effects (12). Other herbs that contain myristicin include nutmeg, mace, dill, and fennel, and anise.
According to one study, parsley leaf ethanol extract was hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic at continued doses of 1000mg/kg. No toxic side effects were reported at lower doses. The authors of the study recommended that parsley should not be given to pets and domestic animals. They also suggested that parsley leaf ethanol extract be taken cautiously to avoid overdosing (13).
Possible side effects of parsley may include the following (14):
- Renal damage
- Loss of balance
We recommend using parsley in small amounts in your favorite recipes. Taking parsley in supplement form is not recommended unless prescribed by a doctor due to its possible neurotoxic effects. Talk to your doctor before taking parsley if you are pregnant.
Is Parsley Keto-Friendly?
Parsley is a great keto-friendly herb to add to your favorite low-carb foods. It’s low in both calories and carbs, as long as you keep your portions small.
Parsley can help enhance the flavor profile of your food while also giving it a nutritional boost. Most recipes do not call for more than a few teaspoons or so of parsley. We recommend using it as a garnish on eggs, meat, and smoothies.
Parsley will give your food fresh and healthy light appearance. You can add it to your favorite low-carb casseroles, chicken salad, zucchini pasta, or cauliflower pizza crust.
What Can I Substitute For Parsley?
Besides swapping dried parsley for fresh and the other way around, the following parsley alternatives can be used in almost any dish that you would normally use parsley in. We encourage you to try different spices and watch as the flavor of your food changes.
You may also want to try a combination of different spices to bring out the flavors in your food. Here are some good parsley replacements you can try.
Cilantro has the same antibacterial and antioxidant properties as parsley (15). It also has a similar flavor profile, which probably makes it the best substitute for parsley.
Fresh coriander looks similar to fresh parsley. Both herbs have bright leaves and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Dill has a similar carminative effect on your digestive system, just like parsley does. You can use dill as a garnish for just about any food.
Fennel contains similar carminative properties as parsley that helps reduce gas and bloating. Use fennel as a marinade or sprinkle on meat before grilling.
Basil has a pleasant and mild taste that is similar to parsley. It also has the same bright appearance. Use some to flavor your favorite salad dressings.
The next time you buy celery, don’t throw away the leaves! Chop them up and use them in your favorite recipes in place of parsley. They work great as a garnish.
Oregano is used in many Middle Eastern dishes. It belongs to the mint family and can be sprinkled on meat or plant-based dishes.
Thyme has a dry, minty flavor that can be used in place of parsley if you’re in a pinch. It works well as a marinade for meat or sprinkled over salads.
Sage part of the mint family and can be taken if you have an upset stomach. Some people say it has underlying hints of citrus and eucalyptus.
Rosemary has Earthy undertones with a lemon and pint flavor. You can add it to tea or barbeque dishes.
Many people say that marjoram tastes like a blend of lemon and pine. Pair it with garlic and lemon to flavor your favorite low-carb vegetables.
Mint is great for treating nausea, an upset stomach, or bad breath. It has a more distinct flavor than parsley. We recommend using it in sweet dishes.
Lemon balm is another green, leafy herb that belongs to the mint family. This herb would work well with other savory herbs.
Tarragon is a perennial herb that pairs well with meat, fish, eggs, and stew. Some people say that it tastes similar to anise.
Pesto is a sauce made from basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and grated cheese. You can use pesto to flavor just about any meat-based dish in place of parsley.
Bay leaves are added to soups and stews in the whole form. You can also add it to stir-fries. Just be sure to take the bay leaf out before serving.
Chervil leaves are otherwise known as French parsley. They make an excellent substitute for parsley due to their mild and pleasant flavor that goes well with any dish, including smoothies.
How To Use Parsley In Your Recipes
Try using the above-mentioned parsley substitutes in the following recipes either as a garnish or as part of a spice blend:
- Parsley Walnut Pesto Sauce
- Omelette Rolls with Ricotta Cheese and Parsley
- Scrambled Egg Chicken Avocado Bowl
- Mediterranean Pesto Chicken Casserole
- Jalapeno Beef Rouladen with Pickles
- Focaccia Bread with Garlic and Herbs
- Grilled Salmon Steak with Olive Oil and Herbs
Parsley is a bright, nutritious herb that you can use as a garnish for your favorite recipes. Most recipes do not call for more than a pinch or so. Use it in a marinade or sprinkle it over freshly prepared meat, eggs, and casserole dishes.
Research shows that parsley has a wide variety of proven health benefits. It contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. It also protects the liver, prevents kidney stones, and has a powerful diuretic action to naturally detoxify the body.
Consuming too much parsley may be linked to negative side effects, such as hallucinations. If you don’t have parsley on hand, then try one of our parsley substitutes, such as oregano, dill, basil, and more. Try using your parsley substitute in one of our keto recipes.