Basil is a leafy herb that belongs to the mint family. It has an intense flavor that spices up any dish you add it to. Additionally, basil has a distinct aroma.
If you run out of basil or don’t want to use it in your dish for whatever reason, you may need to substitute it with something else. Luckily there are several ingredients you can use in place of basil.
You can substitute fresh basil with mint, spinach, parsley, oregano, arugula, cilantro, celery leaf, tarragon, and lemon balm. Use fresh basil, rosemary, Italian seasoning, sage, or thyme to substitute dried basil.
This article discusses the above substitutes in detail. Let’s dive in.
Fresh basil substitutes
Here are some ideal substitutes for fresh basil. Most of them have a flavor similar to that of fresh basil.
Mint and basil belong to the same family. Therefore, they have a similar minty flavor.
The two mint varieties that make for ideal substitutes are spearmint and peppermint. Both of them have peppery notes identical to those of basil.
I highly recommend using basil in sauces, dressings, and desserts.
You can use spinach as a basil substitute in various dishes, including pesto. I particularly like using it in pesto because it complements other pesto ingredients.
Spinach has a mild flavor, so it goes well with most herbs, including potent herbs like cilantro and mint. Additionally, spinach does not overpower dishes it is added to. Therefore, you get to enjoy the full flavor of your food.
Spinach is an ideal substitute for those who find the flavor of basil overwhelming.
Parsley is a good basil alternative. It has bright green leaves, and most people use it as a culinary herb.
You can use parsley while it is fresh or dried. Its flavor is mild with bitter notes. Therefore, it is an excellent addition to sauces, soups, and salads.
You can also use it as a topping on pasta and pizza. The bright green color will make your dish look fresh and attractive.
Oregano and basil have a similar flavor. Therefore, you can use them interchangeably. However, you should know that oregano has a more robust peppery and floral flavor.
I recommend using this substitute in pasta sauces, pizza, casseroles, and bruschetta.
Arugula is a leafy vegetable that has a tender texture and unique flavor. You can easily use it as a basil substitute because it complements most ingredients.
I highly recommend using arugula in place of basil when making pesto because it goes well with fresh cilantro and spinach you will use in your recipe.
You can also use it as an alternative in salads. Its peppery flavor goes well with other salad ingredients.
Cilantro is a good substitute for basil because it has a peppery and minty flavor. For this reason, you can comfortably substitute basil with cilantro in various dishes.
Although most people confuse cilantro with coriander, they are not the same.
Cilantro refers to the plant’s stem and leaves, while coriander refers to dried seeds. Don’t use coriander as a basil substitute.
Celery leaf and basil have different flavors. However, it makes a good basil substitute for those who find basil flavor overwhelming.
I recommend using this substitute in sauces. You can also use it in pizza and tomato dishes.
Substitute fresh basil with celery leaf in equal amounts. It is flavorful and works well in most savory dishes.
You can use tarragon in recipes that call for basil. Although it is primarily famous in French cuisine, you can use it in chicken, fish, and creamy sauces.
Lemon balm and basil have several similarities. Lemon balm has a pleasant lemony, and minty flavor. Therefore, it works well in most recipes that call for basil, including poultry, salads, fish stew, and omelets.
Substitute basil with lemon balm in equal amounts.
Dried Basil Substitutes
To substitute dried basil, use any of the following substitutes;
Fresh basil is arguably the best substitute for dried basil. It is a popular herb that grows easily and is readily available. Additionally, storing basil isn’t hard, and it can remain fresh for a relatively long time.
Dried basil and fresh basil have a similar flavor. However, fresh basil is milder in comparison. For this reason, you will need to use a larger amount of leaves to get the same taste that dried basil gives you.
For every teaspoon of dried basil that a recipe requires, use 1 ½ teaspoon of fresh basil.
Note that you should add fresh basil towards the end of your cooking. If you add them early on, they will overcook and become bitter. Additionally, they will lose their pungency.
Rosemary is my go-to alternative for savory dishes. It is aromatic with a strong pleasant flavor. I highly recommend using it as a basil substitute in tomato sauce recipes.
This substitute consists of various ingredients, including; pepper, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. It is an ideal alternative to basil in Italian dishes.
Note that if your recipe already has any of the spices listed above, you should reduce the amount of Italian seasoning in your recipe. Using too much of it will result in a sharp, unpleasant flavor.
Like dried basil, sage has a strong flavor and is super aromatic. I highly recommend using it as an alternative in stews, soups, and pesto. Sage also perfectly complements fish and meat ingredients.
Thyme makes for an ideal basil alternative. Although its flavor is much warmer than that of basil, it has a minty, peppery flavor profile that is sharper than that of basil. Therefore, you should use it sparingly.
Basil is an excellent, flavorful ingredient that enhances the dishes you add it to. If you don’t have it on hand, you can use any alternative discussed above.
The substitutes may not give you the exact basil flavor, but they come pretty close. You can try the substitutes one by one until you find one that works for you.
Let me know your ideal substitute for basil in the comments below.