It’s good to have a list of basil substitutes on hand when cooking your favorite recipe, and we have 10 here for you.
Basil is a powerhouse herb, known for its easy availability, low cost, bright flavor, and fragrance. The herb holds a special place in kitchens around the world due to its ability to elevate home cooking.
From Italian classics to Asian delicacies, basil’s fragrant leaves add a burst of freshness that can transform the food you’re making. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just starting out in the kitchen, understanding the significance of basil can greatly enhance your culinary repertoire.
But that doesn’t mean this is the only one you can use; there are lots of substitutes for basil that you can use to take your cooking skills to the next level!
The Flavor of Basil
Basil has a very distinct and aromatic flavor profile, characterized by its peppery undertones with a subtle sweetness and a hint of clove-like spiciness. This unique combination makes it a versatile herb that you can include in a variety of cuisines.
For a deeper dive into the exquisite flavor of basil, check out the full article here to explore how this herb can take your dishes to new heights.
But what do you do when you have no basil on hand? You look for alternatives that bring that same kick to your dishes!
Dried Basil Substitutes
Whether you’re exploring new flavor profiles or your pantry is running low on it, having suitable alternatives is a valuable kitchen skill. Here are some excellent substitutes for dried basil, and why they work so perfectly:
This herb is a close botanical cousin to basil and shares a similar peppery, slightly earthy taste. It’s a fantastic option, especially for Italian and Mediterranean recipes. The pungent and sharp flavor of oregano can infuse your recipes with a rich profile similar to dried basil.
Use the same amount of dried oregano as dried basil called for in your recipe.
Known for its subtle, earthy flavor, thyme is a fresh, distinctively woodsy herb. It pairs particularly well with meats, soups, and stews and with potato dishes like this one. Its aromatic nature brings a unique depth that can stand in for basil in many recipes, even cocktails. Dried thyme leaves is different from ground thyme, which is more potent and concentrated than dried thyme.
Use ¾ the amount of dried thyme as dried basil called for in your recipe.
Italian Seasoning Blend
This pre-mixed blend often includes oregano, thyme, basil, and other herbs. It’s a convenient one-to-one replacement for dried basil and is excellent for Italian and even Latin recipes. Since it’s got dried basil in it, you can count on a similar flavor profile.
Use the same amount of Italian Seasoning Blend.
A relative of basil, marjoram offers a milder, sweeter flavor. It’s a great addition to sauces, dressings, and marinades. Its gentle profile can substitute for basil, providing a similar aromatic quality with a touch of sweetness.
Use the same amount of marjoram.
Herbes de Provence
This French herb blend typically incorporates thyme, rosemary, oregano, and other fragrant herbs. It adds a fragrant, floral note to dishes, making it a delightful alternative to dried basil, particularly in Mediterranean-inspired recipes.
Use the same amount of herbes de provence.
With a slightly anise-like flavor, tarragon brings a unique element to recipes. It pairs wonderfully with chicken, fish, and salads. While different from basil, its distinct taste can add a refreshing and unexpected element to your dishes.
Use half the amount of tarragon as you would basil in your recipe.
When using these substitutes, start with a small amount and then adjust to taste. Remember, it’s easier to add more than to tone down an overpowering flavor. With that, make sure you also consider the cooking time; some substitutes may require more or less time to infuse their flavor into the dish. This way, you can maintain the essence of your recipes even without dried basil!
Fresh Basil Substitutes
While dried basil and its alternatives work really well, there are instances when you might find yourself in need of a fresh basil substitute. The following are a 1:1 substitution ratio. Here are some excellent replacements for fresh basil:
Mint carries a slightly bitter, menthol taste that complements a variety of dishes. Use it as a stand-in for fresh basil in salads, sauces, or even to garnish desserts for a cool and refreshing twist.
Spinach + Pesto
A combination of spinach leaves and prepared pesto sauce can mimic the flavor of fresh basil. The earthiness of spinach combined with the herbaceous notes of pesto creates a flavor close to basil. Blend them together for an interesting mixture to use in your favorite recipes.
Known for its spicy and slightly nutty taste, arugula can provide a unique flavor similar to fresh basil. It works well in salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes, adding a vibrant kick to your recipe. It is less an ingredient and more of a garnish or sandwich topping, but it adds its own special peppery flavor and colorful green appearance and lightweight texture.
While distinct in flavor, cilantro’s bright and citrusy notes can complement dishes in a way akin to fresh basil. It’s a great addition to salsas, dressings, and Asian-inspired recipes. Its lively profile can bring a refreshing twist to your meals. Cilantro is often a love-it-or-hate-it herb. If you already know you love it, it may be the basil substitute you love even more. You may know how important basil is in pesto; try this Cilantro Pesto too!
These herbs offer a fresh, clean taste but are fairly mild, making them suitable basil substitutes. They work well as garnishes of course (you may see curly parsley on restaurant plates or used in bulk for this extra-verdant Tabbouleh recipe), including salads, soups, and sauces, adding a vibrant burst of flavor. But flat leaf is often sold in twist-tied bunches that look a lot like cilantro. It’s mild, but the flavor is definitely there.
When using these substitutes, start with a similar quantity to the amount of fresh basil required in the recipe. Adjust to taste, keeping in mind the potency of the substitute. Plus, don’t hesitate to combine or mix-match these alternatives to create a flavor profile close to basil.
For example, blending mint and cilantro can offer a complex and aromatic substitute. Experimenting with different combinations can lead to discovering amazing flavors that you might’ve never expected!
The bottom line
Now that we’ve explored the world of basil and its versatile substitutes, both dried and fresh, you’re armed with the knowledge you need to get creative with your recipes. Don’t be hesitant to experiment with new flavors with these easy basil substitutes; who knows, you might stumble upon your new favorite flavor combination!
More About Basil
- Basil Cocktails
- Recipes Using Fresh Basil
- How To Dry Basil
- What Does Basil Taste Like?
- Spinach Basil Pesto Recipe
- Ways To Preserve Basil
Here’s a quick summary of readily available substitutes for basil you can use that closely mimic the flavor of basil:
- Italian Seasoning Blend
- Herbs de provence
- Flat-leaf parsley
- Bonus: Dried basil is a great substitute for fresh basil, also.
- See the above list of basil substitutes and find one you have on hand or readily available at the store.
- Use your substitutes in an equal amount as your recipe would call for basil.
- Follow the measurements and use a light hand while taste-testing (if possible and safe to do so) to ensure you don’t use too much.
- Mix and match your substitutes to see what works best for your recipe.