Basil Substitute – 7 Herbs Or Spice Blends You Can Use

basil substitute

No basil in stock? Never mind! There are a good number of basil substitutes that can almost duplicate its flavor and texture.

Picking the right substitute for spice like basil is challenging. First of all, there are several verities of basil with significant differences in the flavor profile. Secondly, the substitute ingredient should very well fit into your recipe.

I have got a list of alternatives for both fresh and dry basil. Select the right one that can be safely integrated into your dish.

Use Of Basil In Cooking

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is quite a popular spice used in a variety of Asian and Mediterranean dishes like creamy sauces, spicy curries, and herbaceous salads.

Sweet basil has a fragrant, sweet smell and peppery taste.

The addition of basil in recipes goes very well with food ingredients like chicken, beef, eggs, tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano.

Before using, wash basil and blot dry with paper towels. Adding thinly sliced fresh leaves, without the stem, to dishes works best. They can also be used whole and added as a pizza topping or garnish.

In Italian cooking, basil is a key ingredient in traditional pesto. This is also a favorite seasoning in tomato-based pasta sauces.

Varieties of Basil

Notably, there are more than 60 varieties of basil, some of which are purple or red, green or pink; each has its unique flavor.

Sweet basil is commonly used in cookery, especially in Mediterranean recipes. Thai basil with its anise-like flavor is also widely used in Asian cuisines. 

Sweet basil is a tender annual, aromatic plant that grows 12-18 inches tall. The foliage color can range from green to purple. Tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell.

In this article, substitutes for sweet basil are considered.

Fresh vs. Dried

Basil is available in fresh and dried form. Fresh basil is typically preferred for culinary uses. Even though the dried is more concentrated than fresh, yet it does not have the herbal taste of the fresh leaves. In the process of dehydrating the basil leaves, the mint flavor disappears but the anise flavor stays on.

As a general rule, you can use about one-third the amount of dried basil when substituting for fresh leaves. In other words, 1 teaspoon of dried basil equals one tablespoon of fresh chopped basil.

Basil Substitute – 7 Options For You

Basil has a unique flavor that is difficult to duplicate. Yet few herbs that have anise and mint flavor may help you as a substitution for basil.

Remember, the substitute you choose in place of basil must complement other ingredients in your dish.

Fresh Thyme or Oregano

Fresh oregano or thyme is an effective basil substitute you can use. They are useful, especially when making beef dishes or tomato-based pasta sauces.

Oregano has a pungent flavor composed of earthy/musty, green, hay, and minty notes. Similarly, thyme has a subtle, dry aroma and a mild minty flavor.

Either you can use them in combination or any one of them in the same measure as basil. By using them you won’t miss the spicy aroma of basil that permeates in Italian cooking.

Spinach or Kale

Kale or spinach can provide a rich green presto to your dishes. Spinach has a light green taste. Kale has a slightly more bitter taste than spinach.

In place of basil, you may use spinach or kale to give a green herbal taste to your dishes.

The best substitutes for basil in pesto are either leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, or arugula. These ingredients may not work as a substitute in other dishes.

Parsley or Cilantro

Parsley is often used as a garnish, but it can also enhance flavor and benefit health. It’s a fine replacement for basil in Italian dishes, especially in pesto sausage, pasta salad, or green salad.  Use either dried or fresh parsley in the same measurement. 

Cilantro, also known as parsley’s cousin, is widely used in several Latin and Asian dishes. The strong tangy flavor of cilantro is a close match for basil. Though basil is sweeter than cilantro, they both add a bit of zip and minty flavor to any dish that calls for them.

Rosemary

Rosemary belongs to the same mint family of herbs as the basil. Being highly aromatic, the herb enhances the flavor of the dishes. Besides, rosemary can pair well with most of the other flavors that go into dishes requiring sweet basil.

While using rosemary to replace basil, use it in less quantity than basil, as this herb is much more pungent than the one substituted. Start with about a quarter of basil required your recipe and later on increase if necessary.

Fennel

Fennel is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. Not a mint!

As a substitute, the mild licorice flavor of this plant makes it a suitable replacement for basil. In addition, this plant has a delicate and mild anise flavor somewhat similar to basil. 

Fennel is both a vegetable as well as a flavoring ingredient in dishes. This herb works best in place of basil when used in stir-fries.

Can fresh basil be used to replace dry?

Dried basil is used to flavor pizza sauce and seasoning for salads and pasta. Popularly used as a flavoring ingredient in marinades. Add it to herbal teas for health benefits.

It’s amazingly simple and easy to make dry basil if you have fresh basil at your disposal. Just microwave fresh basil leaves until they’re dry and crumbly. This entire process won’t take more than two minutes.

Here is a second option. If you’re out of dried basil, simply chop the fresh basil leaves into tiny sizes and use it instead. Add fresh basil into your dishes towards the end of cooking.

Which herbs or spice blends are good substitutes for dried basil?

Albeit no two herbs can duplicate each other, some herbs are somewhat similar to dried basil. These substitutes just enough to save your recipe. In place of dried basil try dried oregano, thyme, tarragon, or cilantro.

In most Asian cuisines that call for dried basil, you try substituting it with dried cilantro.

Believe it or not, the Italian seasoning blend is a super replacement for dried basil. After all, it contains dried basil and other herbs that share a similar flavor profile. Use it in slightly more quantity than the amount of dried basil that your recipe requires. While using Italian seasoning, better to avoid adding rosemary and oregano if your recipe includes them.

Finally, remember that while preparing dishes that include herbs and spices, nothing is set in stone. If you have run out of dried basil, don’t let that stop you from trying out a recipe. Just go on experimenting with your own herbal substitution of basil or any other herbs for that matter.

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