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Savory vs. Thyme — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Updated on May 12, 2024
Savory and thyme are both aromatic herbs used in cooking; savory has a peppery flavor, suitable for beans and meats, while thyme offers a subtle, earthy tone, ideal for Mediterranean dishes.
Savory vs. Thyme — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Savory and Thyme


Key Differences

Savory, a herb known for its peppery and slightly bitter flavor, is commonly used in European and American cooking, particularly with beans and meats. Whereas, thyme, characterized by its minty and subtly earthy flavor, is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and is versatile in soups, stews, and meat preparations.
Savory is available in two varieties: summer savory, which is milder and good for seasoning fresh, green vegetables and poultry; and winter savory, which is stronger and more suited to hearty dishes and game meats. On the other hand, thyme is typically used in its single common variety, known for its compatibility with a wide range of dishes, enhancing flavors without overpowering them.
The culinary applications of savory often focus on its ability to enhance the flavors of beans and meats without the need for much salt, making it popular in diet-conscious meals. Conversely, thyme is often paired with other herbs in blends such as herbes de Provence and is celebrated for its ability to add depth to the flavor profiles of slow-cooked dishes.
In terms of cultivation, savory is an annual or perennial herb that prefers full sun and well-drained soils, thriving in both pots and garden beds. Thyme, also a perennial, is more drought-tolerant and prefers well-drained, sandy soil, often used as a ground cover in garden landscapes due to its hardy nature.
While savory is particularly favored in Eastern European cuisines for dishes like sausages and seasonings, thyme is a cornerstone in French and Italian kitchens, essential for classic recipes like ratatouille and osso buco.

Comparison Chart

Flavor Profile

Peppery, slightly bitter
Minty, subtly earthy

Culinary Uses

Enhances beans and meats
Versatile in soups, stews, meats


Summer savory, winter savory
Common thyme, lemon thyme

Growing Conditions

Prefers full sun, well-drained soils
Drought-tolerant, needs well-drained, sandy soil

Cultural Significance

Popular in Eastern European cuisine
Essential in Mediterranean cuisine

Compare with Definitions


Popular in Eastern European cooking.
Savory is a key ingredient in traditional Eastern European sausages.


Commonly used in Mediterranean dishes.
Fresh thyme is essential in her ratatouille recipe.


Enhances meats without extra salt.
Savory was used in the stew to reduce the salt content.


Known for its minty, earthy flavor.
Thyme was added to the marinade for its subtle earthiness.


Appetizing to the taste or smell
A savory stew.


Part of the herbes de Provence blend.
He uses thyme in his herbes de Provence mixture.


Piquant, pungent, or salty to the taste; not sweet.


Drought-tolerant and used as ground cover.
Thyme covers the rocky parts of his garden, thriving despite the dry conditions.


Morally respectable; inoffensive
A past that was scarcely savory.


Essential in French and Italian cuisines.
Thyme is a staple in both French and Italian kitchens.


A dish of pungent taste, such as anchovies on toast or pickled fruit, sometimes served in Great Britain as an hors d'oeuvre or instead of a sweet dessert.


Thyme () is the herb (dried aerial parts) of some members of the genus Thymus of aromatic perennial evergreen herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae. Thymes are relatives of the oregano genus Origanum.


An annual Mediterranean aromatic herb (Satureja hortensis) of the mint family, having pale lavender to white flowers. Also called summer savory.


Any of several aromatic Eurasian herbs or low shrubs of the genus Thymus of the mint family, especially T. vulgaris, having small white to lilac flowers grouped in clusters.


A related Mediterranean aromatic perennial herb (Satureja montana), having white or pink flowers. Also called winter savory.


The leaves of T. vulgaris used as a seasoning.


The leaves of either of these plants, used as seasoning.


Any plant of the labiate genus Thymus, such as the garden thyme, Thymus vulgaris, a warm, pungent aromatic, that is much used to give a relish to seasoning and soups.


Tasty, attractive to the palate.
The fine restaurant presented an array of savory dishes; each was delicious.


Any plant of the labiate genus Thymus. The garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a warm, pungent aromatic, much used to give a relish to seasoning and soups.
Ankle deep in moss and flowery thyme.
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows.


Salty and/or spicy, but not sweet.
The mushrooms, meat, bread, rice, peanuts and potatoes were all good savory foods.


Any of various mints of the genus Thymus


Umami, modern
The savory rabbit soup contrasted well with the sweet cucumber sandwiches with jam.


Leaves can be used as seasoning for almost any meat and stews and stuffings and vegetables


(figuratively) Morally or ethically acceptable.
Readers are to be warned that quotations in this chapter contain some not so savory language.


(American spelling) A savory snack.


Any of several Mediterranean herbs, of the genus Satureja, grown as culinary flavourings.


The leaves of these plants used as a flavouring.


Pleasing to the organs of taste or smell.
The chewing flocksHad ta'en their supper on the savory herb.


An aromatic labiate plant (Satureia hortensis), much used in cooking; - also called summer savory.


Any of several aromatic herbs or subshrubs of the genus Satureja having spikes of flowers attractive to bees


Dwarf aromatic shrub of Mediterranean regions


Either of two aromatic herbs of the mint family


An aromatic or spicy dish served at the end of dinner or as an hors d'oeuvre


Morally respectable or inoffensive;
A past that was scarcely savory


Having an agreeably pungent taste


Pleasing to the sense of taste


A herb used for its peppery flavor.
She added savory to the bean soup to enhance its taste.


Comes in summer and winter varieties.
He planted summer savory because of its milder flavor.


Thrives in well-drained soil.
Savory grows well in her garden's well-drained section.

Common Curiosities

Why is thyme favored in Mediterranean cooking?

Thyme’s subtle earthiness complements the fresh, aromatic qualities typical of Mediterranean cuisine.

Can savory and thyme be used interchangeably in recipes?

While they can sometimes substitute for each other, their distinct flavors may alter the intended taste of the dish.

What variety of savory is best for light dishes?

Summer savory is milder and better suited for lighter dishes and poultry.

What are the best growing conditions for savory?

Savory thrives in full sun and well-drained soils.

What are the health benefits of using thyme?

Thyme is known for its antibacterial properties and can also aid in digestion.

What is the main flavor difference between savory and thyme?

Savory offers a peppery, slightly bitter taste, while thyme provides a minty, subtly earthy flavor.

Is thyme easy to grow in a home garden?

Yes, thyme is hardy, drought-tolerant, and can grow well in well-drained, sandy soils.

Can winter savory be used in summer recipes?

Winter savory can be used in summer recipes, but its stronger flavor might be overpowering for lighter dishes.

What dishes are best enhanced by savory?

Savory is particularly good with beans, meats, and Eastern European dishes like sausages.

How does thyme enhance slow-cooked dishes?

Thyme releases its flavors slowly, making it perfect for enhancing the depth and complexity of slow-cooked dishes.

Is there a best practice for harvesting thyme from the garden?

Thyme should be harvested just before the plant flowers for the best flavor.

Does savory have any medicinal uses?

Savory has been traditionally used for its digestive and antiseptic properties.

What culinary techniques best bring out the flavor of savory?

Using savory in sautéing and seasoning at the beginning of cooking helps release its full flavor.

How should fresh thyme be stored for maximum freshness?

Fresh thyme should be stored in a slightly damp paper towel inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

What are the essential ingredients in a herbes de Provence blend?

Herbes de Provence typically includes thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, and oregano.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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