In this article, we will list seven great substitutes for basil that you can use to complement your meals.
Basil is arguably irreplaceable. The herb is well-regarded for its unique taste and aroma. So what do you do if your recipe calls for a handful of basil, but you don’t have any?
We’ve come up with a list of the best substitutes for basil that you’re sure to have somewhere in your kitchen.
We’re confident that you can use any of these alternatives to add the extra depth basil would have brought to your dish.
Dry vs Fresh Basil
One important thing to remember when cooking with basil is that it tastes different in its dried and fresh forms. When you cook with fresh basil, it can often be a little bit sweet with a mild anise flavor and a peppery finish.
Fresh basil is much lighter than other herbs. Therefore, you can add lots of it to your dishes without fear of overpowering the other flavors.
The fresh leaves are great for pasta, pizzas, pesto, salads, omelets, and so much more! We suggest adding it to your dish towards the end of cooking so that the leaves don’t wilt and lose their flavor.
Comparatively, dried basil will offer a milder flavor as it loses some potency in the drying process. Dried basil is great for making dry spice mixes with sauces, meat, and chicken or dishes where it has time to marinate and cook.
Best Basil Substitutes
Mint is a herb from the same family as basil with a distinct peppermint taste.
When substituting mint for basil, it is best to use peppermint or spearmint. These types of mint will work well in dressings and sauces without any cooking needed. This will not replace the flavor of basil, but will help bring in freshness and bright flavor.
Parsley, a flowering plant originally from the Mediterranean, also works as a great substitute for basil. Parsley’s flavor profile is mild and bitter.
Although it does not have as strong a taste as basil, it works well with salads, sauces, and soups. You can easily swap parsley for basil in Italian recipes, which tend to use Genovese Basil.
We recommend using slightly more than the required amount of basil to compensate for its weaker flavor. But parsley is a lovely sub for basil.
Oregano is a staple in the Mediterranean area. Another mint family herb, it has a similar flavor to basil but is slightly more floral.
When using oregano as a substitute, you can use the same amount as the recipe calls for. This alternative works particularly well in poultry or pasta dishes.
Cilantro refers to the plant’s leaves, while coriander refers to its stem and seeds. Different parts of the same herb offer a slightly different flavor.
We recommend cilantro leaves as the best substitute for fresh basil. You can chop finely and use in place of basil in fresh recipes like salad. This also works very well for Asian dishes that request Thai basil.
When you want to add a strong peppery taste to your food, use arugula instead of fresh basil.
It has a more intense pepper flavor than basil and can be used either raw or cooked. Cooking arugula will lessen its intensity slightly. This is another herb that works well in a salad or on top of pizza.
Also, if you enjoy the flavor of arugula, then give arugula pesto a try! It’s fabulous and goes well with pasta, sandwiches, or as a dip.
If you want to give your dishes an Italian flair but don’t want to use basil, thyme is perhaps the best alternative.
However, thyme and basil slightly differ in flavor. Thyme is warm and minty, while basil is slightly more herbaceous. Nonetheless, both offer a vibrant, peppery kick to your dish. Just be mindful of how much you add to your dish, as it can have a slightly overpowering flavor. In addition, thyme tends to intensify as it marinates in a dish.
My recommendation is to use it with a gentle hand.
7. Italian Seasoning
7. Italian Seasoning Italian seasoning usually contains basil, pepper, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and oregano. As such, it can be used in place of just basil to add extra herbiness to your dish.
It offers a lot of extra depth to any recipe but is best used in Italian dishes. However, we recommend using less Italian seasoning than you would have used basil, as it can be quite strong.
Replacing Basil with Basil
I grow my basil hydroponically, so I always have fresh basil on hand, but…
What if a recipe calls for Thai basil, but you have Genovese basil or lemon basil? Can I use this as a replacement?
The simple answer is YES! There are tons of different basil varieties and each one has a slightly different and unique flavor. Even though it won’t be exactly what the recipe is requesting, it will be the closest to the flavor you are needing. And you never know, you might find that you love it with that specific basil.
What Is the Best Replacement for Basil?
There is no perfect substitute for basil, as it is such a unique herb. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use any of these alternatives to create a delicious dish that still has the same sweet and herbaceous finish.
If I had to pick one, it would be parsley as it is a flavor that is gentle yet herbaceous, like basil. It lends well to most dishes.
But the best thing to keep in mind is whether your recipe calls for fresh or dried basil, and try to match the alternative you use. Additionally, be mindful of the flavor profile of your recipe.
Try to pick flavors that work well together and look for substitutes that will enhance the existing ingredients in your recipe.