Have you ever asked the question, “what does basil taste like?” I’m sure you have! But basil is way beyond its noted taste. Read on to find out more about this annual herb!
Can you imagine a tasteful pesto or a savory tomato sauce without basil? Such cruelty for a basil lover like me!
Basil is an essential ingredient in many well-loved Italian dishes such as pasta and pizza. Its refreshing taste, which helps enhance the dish's flavor that it’s added to, is quite unique.
To learn more about basil, keep reading!
What is basil?
Basil is an annual herb that belongs to the mint family. It’s an essential ingredient in Italian cuisine, but it is also used in Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines.
Basil is the star ingredient in traditional pesto sauce and is also readily used in tomato-based pasta sauces. It has a sweet, fragrant smell and a unique peppery taste.
The leaves of the basil plant are large, delicate, and have a silky, smooth texture.
Is sweet basil the same as regular basil?
Even though basil has more than 60 varieties, the term sweet basil is used to define the regular basil available in your local stores.
If you come across an unmarked bag of basil with green leaves, then it’s probably the common sweet basil.
There are several varieties of sweet basil available across the US.
Apart from sweet basil, there are many other types of basil that have distinct purple or red stems and leaves.
For one, Thai basil has purple stems and leaves that are quite sturdy. It has stronger anise and licorice flavors than sweet basil.
Meanwhile, lemon basil has a citrusy flavor.
Other varieties of basil include spicy bush basil and cinnamon basil. Since all of the basil varieties taste similarly with only subtle changes in their flavor profile, you can use them in your dishes interchangeably.
How is basil used?
Basil is used as a prominent ingredient in pasta sauces and Caprese salads.
I also love using it in soups, curries, stir-fries, and pesto sauces. Occasionally, I also add it to spinach basil pesto!
You can also throw whole basil leaves on top of a simple margarita pizza for a delightfully refreshing flavor.
Another great way to use basil is to add it to vegan ice creams and sorbets! Basil is also used for flavoring infused oil.
Before using basil in your cooking, make sure to wash the leaves thoroughly and pat them dry.
Remove the leaves from the stems and use them whole, tear them, cut them, or chop them finely.
If you want an intense basil flavor in your dish, wait till the cooking process to add fresh basil.
For dried basil, add it at the start of a recipe so that the herb gets enough time to infuse properly with the other ingredients.
When substituting dried basil for fresh basil, use one-third of the amount called for in the dish. For instance, if the recipe requires 1T of fresh chopped basil, use a 1t of dried basil.
How to tell when basil is bad
When basil goes bad, it will discolor and produce a rotten smell; a moist texture is also evident.
First, fresh basil will become limp. Then, the green leaves will slowly develop brown spots. If there are only a few brown spots, you can still use the basil by snipping out the brown parts.
However, when the spots turn black, then you need to throw out the basil. Moreover, if the basil leaves have a slimy, wet appearance, and foul smell, then you should discard them.
As for fried basil, once the dried leaves change their hue from dark green to brown, it’s better to throw them.
How to keep basil fresh
There are many ways to preserve basil.
To keep basil as fresh as possible, you need to trim its stems and put it in a jar of clean water.
Use a plastic bag to cover the jar and leave it at room temperature loosely. Alternatively, you can keep your basil fresh for up to a week by refrigerating the leaves.
Layer them in wet paper towels and place the towels in a plastic bag. You can also put the basil jar in the refrigerator and change the water daily.
Another way of extending the life of fresh basil is by freezing it for later use. Wash, blanch, and flash-freeze the basil leaves. Put the frozen leaves in heavy-duty freezer bags and store them in your freezer.
Just remember that freezing the basil leaves will diminish their flavor in the long run. Make sure to use more leaves than the recipe calls for.
What does basil taste like?
So, now that we have discussed everything about basil, let’s look into the main question: What does basil taste like?
Basil is quite a strong, sharp herb with an indistinguishable flavor. It has a peppery flavor profile with hints of anise.
Its overall taste depends on the type of variety that you have. Sweet basil tends to have a subtle peppery taste with a minty edge.
Meanwhile, Thai basil tastes savory due to its licorice flavor. Some other varieties of basil have a citrusy flavor profile.
As for the flavor of dried basil, it doesn’t taste exactly as flavorful as fresh basil. It has a stronger minty flavor and a hint of anise.
Dried basil tastes good in soup and sauces, while fresh basil is best in salads and when used as a topping.
The bottom line
Basil is truly one of the most sought-after herbs used in cooking, and for good reason! Its unique taste and flexibility are quite a combination you simply cannot miss. Also, basil is easy to grow.
I hope this guide has answered your question, “what does basil taste like?” So, what are you waiting for? Now that you know what basil tastes like and how to use it, go ahead and have fun adding it to your recipes!