Substitutes for Basil: The 19 Best Options

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It is important to keep in mind that basil can be hard to replace as far as its appearance and complete flavor are concerned. It is quite unique. So, if at all possible, our number one recommendation is to try find the real thing. But if you can’t get fresh or dried basil, the following can be acceptable substitutes for basil.  

Basil Substitutes – The 19 Best Options

Though there are many options as substitutes for basil, some are herbs and plants are better for specific purposes than others.  

basil

What Can Be Used In Place of Basil?

The following are herbs and other green substitutes for basil.

1. Fresh Basil

If the recipe calls for dried basil, the very best substitute is to use fresh basil. If using fresh basil, you’ll need a larger quantity than the recipe calls for to compensate for the milder flavor of fresh basil. Dry basil has a denser flavor. See our equivalent conversions for dried and fresh basil.

2. Spinach Leaves

Spinach leaves are best used as substitutes for basil in making pesto. It allows the bright green leafy color to be maintained. Some people just plain don’t like the taste of basil and so if that’s the case around your table then you can use fresh spinach leaves in this case where you don’t want the overwhelming flavor of basil.

3. Italian Seasoning

Italian Seasoning is a dried herb mixture that can be bought in the store. As it says, it is great for Italian recipes. The mixture includes rosemary, thyme, parsley, pepper, oregano and even basil. A word of caution though on using Italian Seasoning. If the recipe already calls for thyme, you’ll want to use a bit less so that you don’t have too bold of a thyme flavor.

4. Oregano

Oregano is a frequent seasoning used in Mediterranean cooking. Oregano has a peppery taste. When using it as one of your substitutes for basil, it goes best in dishes such as casseroles, pizza and pasta sauces.

5. Thyme

When using thyme as one of your substitutes for basil, it is important the know that it has a bit of a distinct lemony taste. It works in casseroles and sauces. But remember to go easy on thyme because it can have an unpleasant flavor if it is overused.

6. Celery Leaf

Often times, people look past the use of celery leaves, and they end up in the trash. Believe it or not, using celery leaves can be a good option to use in place of basil for making pesto. It allows the nice, fresh green color to be maintained and the flavor is acceptable.

7. Cilantro

The use of cilantro as one of your substitutes for basil offers a hint of mint, lemon,  and pepper.  It works well in Thai cooking. It is important to know that some people don’t care for the flavor of cilantro at all. It’s either a love it or dislike it kind of taste.

8. Mint

Mint is actually a cousin to basil. Mint has and same minty profile as basil and the same vibrant color. Mint can be a good substitute for basil, especially in dessert recipes.

9. Olive oil-basil scented

Basil infused olive oil can go on your list of substitutes for basil, especially on dishes that don’t require much of it.  Test the flavor though, when using this because it will not be as strong. 

10. Kale

Kale is a good, green leafy vegetable that is bold in color. Its flavor goes well with pesto. It also works well being pureed. The flavor is good with cheese, olive oil and nuts too. The use of kale instead of basil can be a win on some occasions.

11. Loveage

If you aren’t already aware of it, add loverage to your list of substitutes for basil. Loverage is similar in taste to celery. It gives that zingy flavor, is somewhat savory, and easy to grow. Use loverage leaves to make pesto or as a garnish when looking at options.

12. Nettles

Nettles grow wild in the woods and can be readily available if you have access to them. And they’re free. Nettles can be washed and prepared the same way as spinach. But be sure to wear gloves when handling nettles because they sting your skin. Research shows that nettles can be used to make pesto, but we don’t recommend it because of the potential danger in handling them.

13. Fennel

Fennel can be used as one of your substitutes for basil. It has an aniseed flavor and a little bit goes a long way, so it’s better to start off with small amounts and then add to it. Fennel can be paired with nettles or spinach to alter the flavor or make it go farther.

14. Coriander

Coriander can work as one of your substitutes for basil unless you think it tastes like soap. Many people think it does. There is a general feeling that either people love it or hate it. Make sure you give it a try to know where your eaters stand before using this in your dishes.

15. Sorrel

Sorrel works as a replacement for basil because it has a lemony spinach flavor. Like other substitutes for basil, make sure your start with a very small amount and taste test it first. Sorrel can be known for its sharp flavor and large arrowhead shaped leaves.

16. Arugula

Arugula has a similar fresh and peppery flavor to that of basil. It especially works well as a substitute for basil on salads, because arugula is often used as a spring green to make salads anyway.

17. Marjoram

Marjoram is known for its strong flavor with subtle sweetness. It can be used in place of basil in dishes like salads, sauces, cheese plates, and to season meat.

18. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm can be a perfect substitute for basil. It works especially well for dishes that include lemons or other similar citrusy flavor like fish dishes. It also works well in salads and poultry.

19. Tarragon

Tarragon can be used in place of basil if you’re putting it in a dish that has the goal of a peppery flavor. Tarragon is known for its unique flavor.

Substitutes for Basil:

Thai Basil Substitute

Thai basil works as a substitute for basil. Thai basil is known for its anise flavor profile.

Fresh Basil Substitute

If you’re looking for some options that would be good substitutes for fresh basil, the best options are oregano, spinach, mint and cilantro.

Dried Basil Substitute

If you’re using a recipe that calls for dried basil and you need to find a substitute, the best option is always to use fresh basil. If you don’t have fresh basil then, oregano, Italian seasoning, and tarragon are alternate options.

FAQs, Top Tips and Common Basil Questions

Following are some frequently asked questions about substitutes for basil. And if you have more questions, feel free to drop us a message.

What Can I Use Instead of Basil?

There are many options that can be used instead of basil. But it’s important to note that basil has a very unique flavor that cannot be replicated exactly. It is a combination of peppery, lemony and minty all in the same bite.

Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil?

Yes, parsley can be used instead of basil especially as a garnish or in dishes that don’t require such a bold flavor. Parsley is similar to basil in that it has nice large green leaves. Parsley, however, has a much milder flavor than basil.

What Can I Use Instead of Basil in Bruschetta?

To replace basil when making bruschetta, we recommend using oregano, thyme, tarragon or a combination of the three.

What Can I Substitute for Basil in Pesto?

When making pesto the goal is to use something that lends itself to the beautiful green color that we think of when we think of pesto. Also, the flavors of peppery, lemony and minty are important. Leafy greens or other herbs can accommodate, and greens such as arugula and spinach seem to work well.

What is the Equivalent of Dried Basil to Fresh?

When converting dried basil to fresh basil it is valuable to know the equivalent. We recommend that 1 tsp of dried basil is comparable to 1 tbsp of fresh basil. In essence, it takes about three times as much fresh basil to equal the flavor of a single amount of dried basil.

What Recipes Use Basil?

There are many recipes that use basil. Some ideas are as follows:

Pesto
Pizza
Tomato Sauces Pasta Sauces
Tomato Soup
Lasagna
Tomato Basil and Feta Salad
Caprese Salad
Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Sandwiches
Salmon with Ginger and Basil
Basil Shrimp
Lemon Basil Granita

Can I Use Tulsi Instead of Basil in Pasta?

A frequent question is whether Tulsi can be used instead of basil in Thai pasta. It is a good question. And actually Tulsi and Basil are from the same species, so what better thing to substitute basil with than itself. Tulsi is a good solution when you need basil to make Thai pasta.

What Is The Best Substitute?

The very best option is to use basil. Because of its unique flavor there is nothing that is quite like it all in one bite. But if you don’t have basil, the best thing to do when deciding the substitute is to take into consideration what kind of dish it will be used for and determine each substitute accordingly on a case-by-case basis.

What Is Basil Exactly?

Basil is an herb. It can be grown from seeds or cuttings. The leaves of basil can be used for culinary dishes to season them.

The tase of basil will depend on the variety. Sweet basil is one of the most common kinds and has a fresh aroma with a hint of mint and subtle peppery flavor.  Other varieties of basil can have a spicier black licorice flavor or citrusy aspect.

Fresh Basil Leaves Vs. Dried Basil

When cooking, fresh basil and dried basil are generally interchangeable without consequence. If using fresh basil in place of dried, the quantity will need to be increased, as the flavor is not as condensed in fresh basil.

Fried Basil Substitution

The best fried basil substitutions are fresh basil, Italian seasoning, thyme, rosemary and sage.

Fresh Basil Replacement

The best fresh basil replacements are spinach, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro, arugula, celery leaf, lemon balm and tarragon.

14 Nice Basil Substitutes You Should Try!

Dried Basil Substitution

1. Fresh Basil
2. Italian Seasoning
3. Thyme
4. Rosemary
5. Sage

Fresh Basil Alternatives

1. Spinach
2. Mint
3. Oregano
4. Parsley
5. Cilantro
6. Arugula
7. Celery Leaf
8. Lemon Balm
9. Tarragon

Basil Substitute: Herbs That Can Replace Basil for Your Dishes

While there are so many substitutes, the best thing when trying to determine your substitutes for basil is to start small and to use the replacement based on the dish you are making. This will help you to be successful in the outcome.

Here’s What You Can Substitute For Dried Basil

In using a replacement for dried basil, use fresh if it is available. Otherwise, read through the lists and charts in this post to make the best determination.

Fresh Basil Can Be Used To Replace Dry

Yes, fresh basil can be used to replace dry basil and it is the very best, number one solution in our opinion. You will want to use about two to three times as much fresh basil to replace dry basil, depending on the recipe and desired boldness of the flavor.

Other Herbs or Herb Blends Can Also Replace Dried Basil

Other herbs and other herb blends can also be used to replace dried basil. Just read the ingredients to find out if basil is one of the elements and if so, then that’s likely a good candidate for a substitute. For example, Italian Seasoning is an herb blend that includes basil and it works well in tomato soup, tomato sauces and pasta sauces.

Talking About Basil

We love to talk about basil. We use basil cooking in our home and we even grow basil. We’ve grown it from seeds in our home and have propagated it from plant cuttings. Basil is a fun plant to work with.

How To Choose A Basil Substitute

To look at how to choose one of the best substitutes for basil, we’ll take a look at the information from a different angle.  If you know what dish you want to make, but aren’t sure of which substitute to use, here’s the information:

Pesto

For pesto, use spinach, celery leaves or arugula.

Sauces

For sauces you can use most any of the 19 substitutes listed, but for pasta sauces that have tomato use oregano, parsley, tarragon, sage and Italian seasoning.

Cooking

For cooking, use substitutes along with lemon balm, rosemary, and marjoram for meat. Rosemary is great for sides like potatoes and mushrooms.

Salads

For salads, use arugula, parsley, or tarragon.

Desserts

For desserts, the best options are lemon balm, mint, and thyme.

Garnish

To use a substitute for basil that needs to be a garnish, remember that basil has large and vibrant leaves so plants like parsley, spinach, celery leaves, and lemon balm leaves work well.

How to Substitute Herbs While Cooking

In the culinary world, many fresh and dried herbs can be interchangeable or used because they have flavors in common.

Dried Herbs for Fresh

Dried herbs can often be found more readily available at grocery stores in the spice aisle. And the great thing about using the dried version as a substitute for fresh is that it will already have the same flavors incorporated since it is the same herb.

Herb Substitutions

A good rule of thumb to follow when using dried herbs in place of fresh or when substituting in general is to begin with a quantity of half the recipe amount. This way the flavor won’t be overdone.

Though it is possible that many herbs can be used as substitutes for other herbs, below is a chart that gives best thinking and shows the top possibilities.

HerbBest Substitutes
Basiloregano or thyme
Thymebasil, oregano, marjoram or savory
Rosemarythyme, tarragon or savory
Mintbasil, rosemary or marjoram
Chivesgreen onions, onion or leek
Cilantroparsley
Italian Seasoningany blend of basil, oregano, rosemary and ground red pepper
Marjorambasil, thyme, or savory
Oreganothyme or basil
Parsleycilantro or chervil
Sagepoultry seasoning, savory, rosemary or marjoram
Poultry Seasoningsage and a blend of thyme, savory, black pepper, rosemary or marjoram
Tarragonfennel seed, aniseed, chervil
Savorythyme, marjoram, or sage
Chervilparsley or tarragon
Dill Weedtarragon
Bay Leafdried thyme

Spotlight On Basil

There are so many ways that basil can be used. Basil has become one of the most popular herbs in dishes like basil ice cream, Thai basil fried rice, sweet potato fries, basil salt, basil hummus, pad Thai with basil, zucchini and basil soup, flatbread caprese, caprese skewers, tomato and basil quiche and basil garlic bread.

Basil Substitutes – The 19 Best Options

Basil can be hard to substitute because of its complex flavor. Here are the best options for substitutes for basil.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Keyword: substitutes for basil

Ingredients

  • Fresh Basil
  • Spinach Leaves
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Celery Leaf
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Olive oil-basil scented
  • Kale
  • Loveage
  • Nettles
  • Fennel
  • Coriander
  • Sorrel
  • Arugula
  • Marjoram
  • Lemon Balm
  • Tarragon
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