It’s simply delicious to have some fresh or dried basil added to tomato sauce, pesto, or vinegar.
Basil shares a lot of similarities with other herbs like mint, oregano, thyme, and spinach.
If you don’t have Thai basil or sweet basil at the nick of cooking, then using a substitute for it is the finest option. Find here what you can use instead of Thai basil and sweet basil (Italian basil)
Basil: An Overview
Basil is an annual herb of the mint family (Lamiaceae ) grown for its aromatic leaves. There are several types of basils but the most commonly used ones for culinary purposes are sweet basil (Italian basil), Thai basil, and Chinese basil.
This herb is also used in several traditional medicines across the world. Holy basil is well known for its therapeutic benefits, especially, as an immunity booster.
Basil has immense nutritional value as it contains vitamin K, manganese, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Also, it’s a good natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and calcium.
What does basil taste like?
Sweet basil has dark green leaves and a spicy aroma; a mixture of sweet and pungent taste, clove-like back end.
Thai basil smells like anise and licorice and has a spicy taste bending more towards higher pungency. Chinese basil is similar to Thai basil in appearance and flavor but has an anise-heavy flavor.
Holy basil tastes spicy and bitter than other verities of basils.
Prolonged heat will cause basil’s volatile oils to dissipate, therefore add the fresh basils towards the end of cooking. If you are using dry basil, soak it in water to soften and be ready to infuse it with other ingredients.
How is basil used in cooking?
Basil works as an awesome spice in cooking. You’ll find several Thai, Vietnamese, and Mediterranean recipes that make good use of basils.
It goes well with pesto, tomato sauces, vinaigrettes, and seasonings. Sprinkling a few leaves of fresh basil over salads, soups or sliced tomatoes renders a spicy flavor.
Dried basil leaves with their more intense and concentrated flavor is a delicious ingredient in various spice-blends used for seasoning.
In Mediterranean cooking, Italian basil is a key ingredient in a range of dishes including pasta sauces, pesto, salad dressings, and as a topping on pizzas.
What’s a Good Substitute for Sweet Basil?
I’ve compiled a list of alternatives to use when you don’t have sweet basil at hand for completing your recipe. All of them are similar or complementary to basil. Choose the right replacement according to the flavor profile and texture of your recipe.
1. Use fresh and dry basil interchangeably
When you don’t have fresh basil, your best replacement option is dried basil and vice versa.
Note, one teaspoon of dried basil is equal to 3 teaspoons of fresh basil. Use the fresh basil towards the end of cooking for its flavors can’t withstand the heat of long cooking. However, you can add the dry leaves at any time of cooking preferably after soaking in water for 5 minutes.
2. Italian Seasoning
Italian seasoning is a spice blend made of similar herbs like basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and peppercorns. Moderate use of Italian seasoning in place of basil can produce a somewhat similar taste. It is a great substitute for basil, especially when you’re making pasta sauce.
Note, when you are using this seasoning, you have to balance other spice ingredients in your recipe accordingly.
One teaspoon of Italian seasoning is enough to replace 3 teaspoons of fresh basil.
3. Spinach leaves
Basil is not everyone’s cup of tea for its overwhelming sharp flavor. If you are making pesto, you can comfortably use spinach instead.
Spinach also renders your dishes a vibrant green color that is quite appetizing. For the exact taste and aroma, add a pinch of dried basil leaves to chopped spinach leaves.
The warm and citrusy taste of thyme is a wonderful match for fresh basil. In addition, it’s earthy with floral hints and is a little bit sweet and a little bit peppery. A sure shot replacement for basil, especially in sauces and casseroles.
Feel free to adjust the ratio with thyme according to the demands of your recipe. Note, overuse of thyme can turn the flavors of your recipe unpleasant.
Just as you do with basil, oregano is commonly used in tomato-centric recipes like pasta sauce and pizza, as well as olive oil-based recipes.
Oregano shares a similar flavor profile to basil except for the strong peppery and floral taste it has.
You can certainly think of replacing the basil with oregano for toppings on pizza or bruschetta, as well as in casseroles and pasta sauces.
Basil and mint belong to the same family of plants and they have a similar flavor profile. You can use them interchangeably in any dish that calls for either of these two herbs.
Mint is the perfect choice for sweet dishes. Mint adds a more delicious taste profile to desserts than basils. Mint also works well for salad dressings and sauces. Like fresh basil, it not only gives a fresh flavor but also a vibrant color.
Best Substitutes For Thai Basil
Thai basil is popularly used throughout Southeast Asia, its flavor, described as anise- and licorice-like, and slightly spicy. Its flavors stay stable under high or extended cooking temperatures, unlike sweet basil. There are several Mediterranean dishes and Thai cuisines that heavily depend on it for flavor and aroma. For example, you’ll find it in Thai dishes like pad ki mao, green curry, fish sauce, and kaffir lime leaves.
If you are unable to find Thai basil, you can use one of the substitutes below.
Sweet basil (Italian Basil)
Sweet basil also belongs to the same family as Thai basil. Both of them have a similar flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Without much ado, you can easily incorporate sweet basil in all cuisines that require Thai basil.
Sweet basil does not have the same intensity of flavor, so use it in a little more quantity, and also add it to your dishes towards the end of cooking.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil is a sacred plant in India used as offerings in worship. Thai cooks use it in recipes for adding spiciness to dishes. In fact, it is known as ‘hot basil’ in Thailand.
Of course, holy basil lacks the sweetness of Thai basil, but if required you can use a blend of holy basil and sweet basil to achieve a similar flavor to Thai basil.
While using holy basil as a substitute for Thai Basil, use it in the same amount.
The licorice note of star anise is similar to the flavor of Thai basil. It works as a good alternative to Thai basil, especially if you enjoy the licorice flavor in clusters with hotness and pungency.
Note, star anise has strong flavors than Thai basil, use it moderately when using it as a substitution for Thai basil
It’s the licorice flavor that connects tarragon to Thai basil. It is a popular herbal spice used in French cooking. Use it instead of Thai basil in meat and fish recipes that call for basil. Tarragon has strong flavors than basil, therefore use it moderately, preferably, use just as much as half the amount of basil necessary for your recipe.
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