Do you want to add basil-like flavor to your recipe, but don’t have any on hand? You’re not alone.
Fortunately, there are plenty of herbs and spices that can be used as substitutes for basil.
In this article, explore five of the best options for substituting basil in cooking.
Basil is a fragrant herb commonly used in many dishes.
For those unfamiliar with this plant, it has pointy-tipped leaves and comes in different varieties such as sweet basil, holy basil, or Thai basil.
It is often used as a garnish or seasoning to offset the fat and salt of a dish without overpowering its flavor.
The herb can be added freshly cut or dried for various uses.
Freshly cut basil offers an earthy aroma and piquant taste with undertones of menthol from the essential oils.
Dried basil does however have a slightly weaker flavor than its fresh counterpart but it still holds up great when used for seasoning pastas, soups, or even pizzas.
To use the fresh herb simply add freshly chopped leaves to salads, pesto mixes, crusts, sauces – wherever your creativity takes you.
A tip when using basil is to add small amounts progressively while tasting to make sure the desired depth of flavor is reached.
Which ever way you use it, adding basil will instantly liven up any dish.
5 Best Basil Substitutes in Cooking
If you’re in a pinch, there are many great substitutes for basil that can add the same flavor and aroma to your cooking.
Here’s a look at five of the best replacements for basil that have their own unique flavor profiles:
1 – Oregano
Oregano is very similar in flavor to basil and is a common alternative.
It also has a fruity character, but a much more earthy and pungent flavor.
Oregano can be used for pesto, salads, sauces, soups, and even as an herb for grilling meats or fish.
Oregano is great if you need an Italian-inspired substitute for basil.
Just remember to reduce the amount called for in the recipe to avoid overpowering your dish.
Since it’s a more pungent herb, oregano pairs well with tomatoes and other strong flavoring agents like garlic and red pepper flakes.
If using it as a substitution in recipes that call for basil pesto, add some olive oil or lemon juice to intensify the flavors.
Keep in mind that dried oregano will be more potent than fresh when using it as a substitute for basil.
2 – Parsley
Parsley is an excellent option when it comes to finding a replacement for basil.
This classic herb has a slightly bitter and peppery taste, but the flavor is more palatable than most of the other substitutes on this list.
Parsley can be used in many dishes as both a fresh and dried herb, but it is especially good when it comes to pasta, sauces, salads and soups.
However, if you are using it as a replacement for basil in an Italian dish like pesto or tomato sauce, take caution not to overuse it as the flavor can become too strong.
3 – Mint
Mint is another popular herb that is similar to basil and can be used in many of the same dishes.
There are two main varieties of mint: spearmint and peppermint.
Spearmint has a mild, pleasantly sweet flavor, while peppermint has a strong, almost menthol-like flavor.
Unlike basil, mint does not need to be cooked long to draw out its flavors — it is best when added at the end of cooking for maximum flavor impact.
Be sure to add only a small amount since the flavor can become overwhelming quickly.
Mint pairs well with salads, sauces, soups, meat dishes and desserts.
4 – Thyme
Thyme is a popular aromatic herb that can be used as a substitute for basil in many recipes.
It has the same woody, pungent flavor as basil but it is much more pungent and strong.
When substituting thyme for basil, use about double the amount since thyme packs more flavor.
Be careful not to let your dish become too overpowering with its strong thyme taste.
Thyme also works better with savory dishes such as stews or soups rather than sweeter dishes like pesto.
5 – Cilantro
When it comes to finding a good substitute for basil, cilantro is a great option.
This herb offers a similar flavor to basil with its pungent, mildly citrusy and slightly peppery taste.
Cilantro also boasts nutritional benefits — it’s high in vitamins A and C, as well as manganese and potassium.
Using fresh cilantro leaves will give you the best flavor, but it can be substituted for dried cilantro in some recipes.
Fresh cilantro should be added at the end of cooking to preserve its flavor and texture, while lightly cooked or dried leaves are often used at the beginning of cooking processes to infuse their flavors through the dish.
Keep in mind that because of its strong herbal taste, you’ll probably want to use less cilantro than the amount of basil called for in your recipe.
Basil is a flavorful herb that has many different uses in the kitchen.
From Thai and Indian dishes to Italian favorites like spaghetti and lasagna, basil adds complexity and depth to any dish.
However, not everyone can find fresh basil when they need it due to seasonality or difficulty sourcing it.
Fortunately, there are plenty of substitutes that can provide similar results in a pinch.
At the end of the day, experimentation with each substitute will vary based on what you prefer and what flavors suit your dish best.
Everyone has their own preferences; try different combinations until you find one that works best for your taste buds.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!