No fresh or dried 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, several species of basil have significant differences in the flavor profile. Secondly, the substitute ingredient should very well fit into your recipe.
I have a list of alternatives for both fresh and dry basil. Select the one that can be safely integrated into your dish.
Uses of Basil in Cooking
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is quite a popular herb used in various Asian and Mediterranean dishes, like creamy sauces, spicy curries, and herbaceous salads.
Sweet basil has a fragrant, sweet smell and a peppery flavor.
Adding basil to recipes goes very well with food ingredients like chicken, beef, eggs, tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
Before using, wash the basil and blot it 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.
Types of Basil
Notably, there are more than 60 varieties of basil, some of which are purple, red, green or pink; each has its unique flavor.
Sweet basil is commonly used in cooking, especially in Mediterranean recipes. With its anise-like flavor, Thai basil is also widely used in Asian cuisines.
The sweet variety of basil is a tender, aromatic annual plant that grows 12–18 inches tall. The foliage color can range from green to purple. It tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell.
In this article, substitutes for sweet basil are considered.
Dried vs. Fresh Basil
Basil is available in fresh and dried forms. Fresh basil is typically preferred for culinary uses. Even though dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh ones, they do not have the herbal taste of fresh leaves. When dehydrating the basil leaves, the mint flavor disappears, but the anise flavor stays on.
If you have a recipe for dried basil, you can use fresh basil as a substitute. Generally, use about one-third of the amount when using dried basil instead of the fresh herb. For example, 1 teaspoon of dried basil equals 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil.
7 Best Substitutes for Basil
Basil has a unique flavor that is difficult to duplicate. Yet a few herbs that have anise and mint flavors may help you as a substitution for basil.
Remember, the substitute you choose in place of basil must complement the other ingredients in your dish.
Fresh Thyme or Oregano
Fresh oregano or thyme is an effective fresh basil substitute, perhaps the best option.
They are useful, especially when making beef dishes or tomato-based pasta sauces.
Oregano has a pungent flavor 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. Using them means you won’t miss the spicy aroma of basil that permeates Italian cooking.
Spinach or Kale
Kale or spinach can add a rich green flavor 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 your dishes a green, herbal taste.
The best basil substitutes in pesto are leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, or arugula. These ingredients may not work as substitutes in other dishes.
Parsley or Cilantro
Parsley is often used as a garnish but can also enhance flavor and benefit health. It’s a good 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 add a bit of zip and minty flavor to any dish that calls for them.
Rosemary belongs to the same mint family of herbs as basil. Being highly aromatic, the herb enhances the flavor of the dishes. Besides, rosemary can pair well with most 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 the basil required for your recipe and later increase if necessary.
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 and 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 dried?
Dried basil is used to flavor pizza sauce and season salads and pasta. They are 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 with fresh basil. 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 pieces and use them instead. Add fresh basil to your dishes towards the end of cooking.
Best substitutes for dried basil
Although no two herbs can duplicate each other, some herbs are somewhat similar to dried basil. These substitutes are 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, try substituting it with dried cilantro.
Believe it or not, the Italian seasoning blend is a great 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 your recipe requires. While using Italian seasoning, avoid adding rosemary and oregano if your recipe includes them is better.
Finally, remember that nothing is set in stone when preparing dishes that include herbs and spices. If you have run out of dried basil, don’t let that stop you from trying a recipe. Just experiment with your herbal substitution of basil or any other herb, for that matter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use basil in place of celery leaf and vice versa?
They have distinct flavors and are not exact substitutes for each other. Celery leaves have a subtle, savory taste with notes of bitterness and saltiness. However, you could consider using fresh parsley or chives instead of basil for garnish.
Can I substitute bay leaves for basil?
It is not recommended to substitute bay leaves for basil or vice versa. Both herbs have very different flavors and aromas. Substituting one for the other can significantly alter the taste of the dish. If you must substitute bay leaves for basil or vice versa, use a small amount and adjust the flavor as needed.
Can you substitute Thai basil for regular basil?
Thai basil can be used as a substitute for regular basil when necessary, but its flavor differs slightly. Thai basil has a more licorice-like taste than regular basil, so your dish may not have the same flavor. You could add a small amount of mint to the dish to balance out the licorice flavor.
Can I substitute basil for cilantro and vice versa?
It’s possible to substitute basil for cilantro in a pinch, but the flavor will be slightly different. Note that the flavor of basil is more delicate than the flavor of cilantro, so you may need to use a bit more basil to get the desired flavor. Experiment and adjust the right exchange ratio according to the overall flavor of your recipe.
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