Basil is one of those herbs we all love to use in plenty of dishes. Whether it is fresh or dry, basil can be a great way to add flavor to your meals. But not everyone likes this herb and sometimes finding it can be tricky, so try these substitutes and make your cooking equally delicious.
What Is Basil?
This herb is native to the tropical regions of Central Africa to Southeast Asia. Aside from being traditionally used in Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisines, it is also the main ingredient in pesto. It is green in color and has a strong sweet aroma but a peppery flavor.
There are many varieties of basil, but sweet and Thai basil are the most well-known. Unlike sweet basil, the Thai variety has evident licorice notes. There are other varieties named after the aromas, including lemon basil, cinnamon basil, and spicy bush basil.
Fresh Basil Leaves vs. Dried Basil
Fresh basil is preferred when cooking, as it has more aroma and flavor. You should consider adding basil towards the end of the process, otherwise, it will dry out quickly or get too soggy.
Dry basil can also be used at any point in cooking, but the flavor is a bit different and has more mint notes and less anise.
If you have to substitute one for the other, keep in mind that one teaspoon of dry basil can replace one tablespoon of fresh basil leaves.
Add fresh basil either chopped or whole, as it can be eaten cooked or raw. Dry basil should be part of the cooking process from the start so the flavors develop adequately.
What Can I Replace Basil With?
Whenever you need to use another ingredient or want a new flavor, these substitutes for basil leaves and ground basil are perfect for you:
For Pesto, Bruschetta, and Pasta
This is a member of the mint family, and just like basil, it has a distinct peppery flavor with a strong aroma. Oregano is better when dry, but the fresh kind works too. For replacing fresh basil, use half the amount of fresh oregano, and the same goes for the dry kind.
You can use oregano when you prepare pasta, bruschetta, sauces, and marinades. Consider adding dry oregano at the beginning of the cooking process, but fresh oregano only at the end, to not overpower the dish.
Related: Dried oregano substitute
Thyme is a timeless herb that takes a central part of many cuisines, including the Mediterranean, British, African, Latin American, and the Caribbean.
This herb has a more floral and woody flavor, so it differs from basil a bit, but can work in things like pesto, pasta, bruschetta, meat, and fish. Use about ⅓ of the amount that the recipe indicates when you use dry thyme, but you can use the same amount of fresh thyme.
Take into account that thyme is less sweet and more floral, so it may alter the final flavor of your dish. Lemon thyme is a bit more citrus and can also be used to replace basil.
See More: Thyme Substitutes
This is another herb that brings in a bit of lemon flavor and a strong aroma. When you replace fresh basil, use half the amount of fresh rosemary. If you want to substitute dry basil, use half the amount of dry rosemary as well.
Because rosemary is more pungent, you should always be cautious, but you can always add more as you want. Use rosemary when you prepare pesto, bruschetta, pasta, potatoes, and meat.
See More: Rosemary Alternatives
For Tomato Soup, Salad, and Caprese Salad
Tarragon is a leafy green herb famous for its presence in French cuisine. Unlike the rest of these herbs, tarragon is very subtle and has a mild anise flavor, which makes it great to substitute for basil.
Use tarragon when you prepare tomato soup, Caprese salad, and other tomato-based dishes.
This herb is also great for making chicken, pork, or other white meats, and it can be used as a part of a bouquet garni for soups and sauces. Use double the amount of fresh tarragon that the recipe indicates, and the same goes for the dry kind, as it is milder in flavor.
See More: Tarragon Replacements
#5. Summer Savory
You may not know this herb, but despite its name, it is available year-round. Summer savory has a pungent and pepper flavor, so it works well in replacing basil in certain dishes.
Use fresh summer savory for the same amount as you would basil, but consider that the fresh kind may be harder to obtain.
On the other hand, dry summer savory will be available everywhere, so you can use about half the amount, as this herb is more pungent. You can use summer savory in making tomato soup, salads, and marinades. If you want to prepare fish, this is also a great option.
While it may seem unconventional, using mint can work wonders in replacing basil in many dishes. Try using fresh mint to replace fresh basil, but use about half of the amount. As for dry mint, this herb has a less intense flavor, so you can use the same amount.
Try adding mint when you prepare tomato soup, Caprese salad, dressings, and sauces. You should consider adding mint to the cooking process earlier so it can develop the complex flavors it is meant to.
Even though not many think of cilantro as a herb that could replace basil, the truth is that it can work great when you use it with acid and oil.
Try using cilantro in making tomato soup, salads, and pesto. This herb is also great when you use it with lemon, so consider adding it in any citrus dishes.
Keep in mind that cilantro is more citrus-like and a little pungent, so not everyone likes the taste. You can use it fresh or dry, but always taste before you add more, and start a little at a time.
When you make pesto, you can use other leafy greens, like arugula, spinach, and kale, but also herbs like cilantro, parsley, sage, or tarragon. Consider that each has a different flavor profile and the amounts you should use vary.
Although the classic bruschetta is served with tomato and basil, you can replace this herb with others like oregano, thyme, and tarragon. In a pinch, even cilantro works too when mixed with the citrus of the tomato.
Yes, you can use mint instead of basil in certain dishes. Keep in mind that mint has a very particular aroma and flavor, so it may alter certain dishes. Mint is best used with citrus, salads, and sauces that don’t have any dairy.
Basil is part of many cuisines all around the world, but sometimes it can be hard to find either fresh or dried. If this is the case, then you can consider using one or more of these 7 choices in plenty of your dishes. Each one has a unique aroma and taste, but they all make your dishes better.
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