Basil is an aromatic herb that has a subtle, sweet flavor profile. Basil also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and has been used medicinally in many cultures. A member of the mint family, also known as the Lamiaceae family, basil is a popular choice to add a sweet, herbal aroma to your dish. Basil is very delicate and is most pungent when used fresh. In most cases, it should be added to dishes at the end of cooking, so its flavors do no cook away.
Sweet basil (also called Genovese basil) is a key ingredient in many Italian mainstays, from pesto to Neapolitan pizza. Basil is also found in many Mediterranean and Indian dishes as well. Thai basil on the other hand has a stronger anise flavor and is used in many Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
Substitutes for Basil:
Basil substitutes can include its mint cousins: Greek oregano, mint, and thyme. Tarragon and savory are also suitable alternatives to basil. Because basil is included in Italian seasoning, that is also a good alternative for basil when called for in an Italian-style recipe. Check some of other our basil substitute suggestions below:
Thai Basil Substitute
Thai bail has a strong anise flavor profile, so substituting anise for Thai basil is a good option. We recommend using star anise specifically, as it is commonly used in the cuisines that use Thai basil. Sweet basil and holy basil are also good alternatives but do miss the anise note that the recipe is likely calling Thai basil for.
Fresh Basil Substitute
If you have dried basil, it is a great fresh basil substitute. Because dried herbs tend to have a more concentrated flavor we recommend using less dried basil when substituting for fresh. Oregano, thyme and marjoram are also good alternatives to fresh basil if you are looking for something fresh to finish your dish with.
Dried Basil Substitute
Fresh basil is a great dried basil substitute. You may have to add in some additional fresh basil however because dried herbs are more compact and will need more fresh herb to substitute for the same level of flavor. Alternatively, oregano and thyme are good options in a pinch.
Common Basil Questions
What can I use Instead of Basil?
Good basil alternatives include tarragon, oregano, mint. Thai basil is also a good alternative but it does have a strong anise flavor so just consider how that will fit into your dish before substituting.
Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil?
Although there are some similarities between basil and parsley they also have some key differences you should consider if substituting. Basil is a delicate herb that is often added at the end of cooking to add a sweet flavor. Parsley on the other hand is a more rough herb that has a bright, slightly bitter taste. They both add freshness and color to a dish but because the flavor profiles are so different we would recommend other substitutions like mint or oregano.
What Can I Use Instead of Basil in Bruschetta?
Fresh basil is considered a key ingredient in bruschetta, so it is worth seeking out fresh basil to make this classic recipe. If you must use a basil substitute, try some oregano, thyme, or marjoram in your bruschetta recipe.
What Can I Substitute for Basil in Pesto?
Basil is the main ingredient in traditional pesto. There are some things that you can substitute basil for in pesto such as spinach, kale, or arugula. But, these leafy greens will produce a different flavor profile compared to basil.
What is the Equivalent of Dried Basil to Fresh?
One tablespoon of fresh basil is a good substitute for a teaspoon of dried basil.