While sage may not be a difficult herb to find in the grocery store, not having it in the kitchen once a meal is underway can be a setback. Several substitutes can provide a similar seasoning to any dish.
Sage is often used as a savory herb for pork and poultry. Because of sage’s pungency, it is often used sparingly.
Both the annual summer savory (Satureja hortensis) and the perennial winter savory (Satureja montana) can be used as a substitute for sage. They are particularly good for use in bean dishes and for sausages and stuffings. The flavor is similar to thyme, although slightly stronger and a bit peppery.
For dishes that require fresh sage as a garnish, topping or mixed in, marjoram can be used as a substitute. With a flavor that comes somewhere between thyme and oregano, it is slightly sweet. The flavor does not hold up as well when cooked.
Rosemary is a strongly flavored herb that should be used sparingly. It is best substituted for sage in soups and stews. It can also be used in pork and poultry dishes, particularly those flavored with wine.
Seasoning mixes like those sold by most spice companies or that can be found in the grocery store often contain sage as well as a mix of other herbs and spices. They can be used as a substitute for sage just about anywhere sage is called for.
References and ResourcesHerbs, Spices and Flavorings; Tom Stobart; 2000
A Grower's Guide to Herbs; Geoffrey Burnie and John Fenton-Smith; 1997