Substitutes for Basil

Basil, with its sweet, peppery flavour and a hint of mint and clove, is a staple in many cuisines, particularly Italian. If you’re looking for substitutes that can match or complement its distinct profile in various dishes, here are some excellent alternatives.

Best: Spinach Leaves with a Pinch of Dried Oregano

For a substitute that closely mimics the texture and appearance of basil in dishes like salads or sandwiches, spinach leaves combined with a pinch of dried oregano is an excellent choice. Spinach provides the leafy component, while oregano adds a hint of the herbal flavour that basil is known for.

How to Use

Use fresh spinach leaves as a one-to-one replacement for basil in recipes where basil is not the primary flavour driver. Add a small pinch of dried oregano to replicate the basil’s aromatic profile.

Cheapest: Dried Basil

Dried basil is the most economical and accessible substitute for fresh basil. While it lacks the fresh herb’s vibrancy, it still offers a similar flavour profile, making it suitable for cooked dishes where basil’s freshness is less pronounced.

How to Use

Use dried basil in cooked dishes like sauces, soups, or stews. The general rule of thumb is to use one-third the amount of dried basil as you would fresh, as its flavour is more concentrated.

Tastiest: Italian Parsley

Italian parsley, with its bright, slightly peppery flavour, is a tasty alternative to basil. It doesn’t have the same sweetness but offers a fresh, herbaceous note to dishes, making it ideal for salads, garnishes, and fresh sauces.

How to Use

Use Italian parsley in similar quantities as basil in fresh applications like salads, garnishes, or to top pastas. It’s particularly effective when used in combination with a squeeze of lemon to brighten up the dish.

Most Accessible: Mint

Mint is a readily available herb that can be used as a substitute for basil in many dishes. It has a more pronounced menthol flavour but can bring a refreshing, aromatic quality to dishes where basil is typically used.

How to Use

Use mint in dishes where a fresh, aromatic quality is desired. It works well in salads, with fruits, or in beverages. Be cautious with quantities, as mint can be more overpowering than basil.

Most Unusual: Thai Basil

For an unusual twist, Thai basil can be a fascinating substitute. It has a more anise-like flavour and a slightly spicier profile compared to sweet basil, bringing a unique twist to familiar dishes.

How to Use

Use Thai basil in dishes where you might use sweet basil, but expect a different flavour profile. It’s particularly effective in Southeast Asian dishes, like stir-fries or curries, and can also be an interesting addition to salads and pasta dishes.