Tarragon, also known as estragon, is a species of perennial herb in the sunflower family. It is widespread in the wild across much of Eurasia and North America, and is cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Tarragon is widely used in classic French cooking, particularly as part of the “fine herbes” blend, in béarnaise sauce, as well as with chicken, fish, and vegetables. Since the leaves are so tender, they can be mixed in with other greens for salads or sprinkled over a finished dish much like parsley.
3 Varieties of Tarragon
Given its powerful flavor, fresh tarragon is best used in moderation in the kitchen, as this aromatic herb can quickly overpower a dish when used in excess. Dried tarragon has a more concentrated flavor, and therefore should be used more sparingly than the fresh leaves.
- French tarragon. This standard variety of tarragon is the one most commonly used in cooking, as it is the most flavorful form of the herb. French tarragon is also the most difficult and time-consuming to grow, as the flowers of this variety are sterile and do not produce seeds.
- Russian tarragon. With an extremely mild flavor, Russian tarragon is used less commonly for culinary purposes. This variety of tarragon is the easiest to grow, and is therefore the most affordable form of the herb.
- Mexican tarragon. The lesser-known variety of this fragrant herb, Mexican tarragon (also known as Spanish tarragon, Texas tarragon, and Mexican mint marigold) has a more anise-rich flavor that is closer to the French variety than Russian tarragon.
Recipe Ideas Using Tarragon
- Tarragon Vinegar – Fresh tarragon leaves gently bruised and seeped in white wine vinegar for three weeks before getting strained and stored for up to six months.
- Béarnaise Sauce – A classic butter-based sauce made with white wine vinegar, egg yolks, lemon juice, minced shallots, and chopped fresh tarragon. A great sauce to pair with roast chicken breasts.
- Herb Salad Dressing – A light, herbaceous dressing make of tarragon, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh tarragon.
- Omelette with Fresh Tarragon – A traditional French omelette filled with goat cheese and chopped fresh tarragon. Find the perfect omelette recipe here.
- Chicken Tarragon – Boneless chicken thighs cooked with shallots in butter, dry white wine, tarragon, and broth in a Dutch oven, and topped with fresh tarragon leaves.
- Tarragon Aioli – Mayonnaise combined with minced garlic, minced tarragon leaves, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Serve slathered on crusty bread with fresh tomato, lettuce, and bacon for the ultimate herbaceous BLT. (Learn how Alice Waters makes aioli here.)
- Warm Potato Salad with Tarragon – Boiled, cubed potatoes coated in a mixture of dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, chopped tarragon, and minced garlic. Seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with more fresh tarragon.
- Crab Cakes with Tarragon – Classic crab cakes made with crab meat, bread crumbs, egg, mayonnaise, scallions, lemon juice, tarragon, and seasonings.
- Tomato, Mozzarella, and Tarragon Salad – A riff on a traditional Caprese salad, swapping fresh tarragon leaves for basil.