Basil is a leafy herb from the mint family native to Asia and Africa. It has a sweet and savory taste with hints of mint and pepper widely used in Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, and Mediterranean cuisine. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
However, basil may not always be available. The following are some of the best basil substitutes for cooking:
- Spinach Leaves
- Celery Leaf
Don’t panic if you still cannot find any alternatives from the above, we have a long list of basil substitutes below that you can test out for your cooking recipe.
20 Best Substitute for Basil
Basil is known to be originated from India and is commonly grown globally as a kitchen herb.
The leaves are commonly used fresh or dried to flavour meats, fish, salads, and sauces. Basil tea are also being used as a stimulant[Source]
Some of the best basil substitutes with similar mint and peppery tastes have origins in the Mediterranean region like oregano and thyme
The first on our best substitutes for basil list is oregano. It is a herb from the mint family. The herb is originally from the Mediterranean region hence it is also typically used in their cuisine.
Fresh oregano has bright olive-green leaves and purple flowers. Some varieties have fuzzy leaves and stems. It has an earthy, peppery, slightly bitter taste and minty smell.
When using oregano to substitute for basil, use equal amounts of fresh oregano to replace fresh basil. Oregano is a good basil substitute, especially in Italian dishes like pizza, pasta, and casseroles.
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable from the amaranth family. Fresh, raw spinach has a very light and sweet taste. But when cooked, spinach becomes more robust and acidic.
Spinach has been dubbed a superfood because of its many health benefits. Among these many benefits are as follows: (1) It reduces sugar, (2) prevents cancer, (3) protects bones, (4) promotes weight loss, (5) reduces the possibility of hypertension, (6) reduces inflammation, (7) good for the eyes, (8) boosts immunity, (9) prevents atherosclerosis and heart attacks, and (10) prevents anemia.
When used as a substitute for basil in cooking, spinach leaves are best used in pesto for pasta dishes.
Mint is a plant from the Lamiaceae family, best known for its fresh and cool taste. It has green toothed leaves and white, pink or purple flowers.
Mint leaves have high calcium, phosphorous and vitamin A, C, D, and E content. Mint is also typically used to relieve indigestion. Aside from that, mint is also used to calm stress and promote good sleep.
Studies have also shown that mint helps relieve nasal irritation, thereby relieving respiratory complaints. Mint is also typically used in dental products such as toothpaste, dental floss, and mouthwash.
There are two popular kinds of mint – peppermint and spearmint. It is recommended to use peppermint, and not spearmint, as a substitute for basil.
The next entry in our best substitutes for basil in the cooking list is tarragon. It is an herb from the sunflower, endemic in North America and Eurasia.
Tarragon has green, long, slender leaves with pointed tops. Tarragon has a nice odor, which reminds most people of licorice. As to taste, it has a bittersweet flavor also reminiscent of licorice,fennel, and anise
Tarragon has a lot of health benefits. It is commonly used to promote sleep, treat stomach problems, start menstruation, improve appetite, and reduce inflammation.
When using tarragon as a basil substitute, use one measure of tarragon for every one measure of basil. Tarragon is excellent for Italian and other European dishes.
Thyme is also an herb from the mint family. Like most of the herbs discussed in this list, thyme traces its origins from the Mediterranean. It has an earthy, minty, and savory taste and minty smell.
Thyme is prized for its many uses – culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses.
Almost all parts of thyme are useful – the leaves, flowers, and oil are used in various ways.
Studies have found that thyme oil has antibacterial properties [Source]. It has been found to be effective against Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas bacteria.
Aside from its antibacterial properties, thyme has also been found to have antifungal properties. It was found to be effective in killing Candida albicans.
When using thyme as a substitute for basil, use equal parts of thyme for basil. Thyme adds incredible flavor to roasted vegetables, meat, soups, stews, and beans.
Rosemary is an herb known for its needle-like leaves and flowers that usually come in pink, white, or blue. Like thyme, almost all of the parts of rosemary are useful.
Its leaves and stem are commonly used in cooking as a seasoning for soups, pasta, and other dishes. It is also used as a marinade for meats. Meanwhile, its flowers are used to make teas and salads. Some add rosemary flowers to their bouquets because of their aromatic smell.
Studies have shown that rosemary blossoms aid digestion, improve circulation, relieve headaches, reduce hair loss, and relieve muscle pain.
A study conducted by Keith Singletary published in Nutrition Today has shown that the Rosemary essential oil does wonders when inhaled. It was shown that rosemary essential oil improves memory and livens up mood. [Source]
Fresh rosemary is a great seasoning for stews, soups, casseroles, and salads. It is often used together with potatoes, peas, mushrooms, and spinach. On the other hand, dried rosemary can be used as a dry rub. It is also used to make teas and bread.
Sage is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family endemic to the Mediterranean region. Sage has oblong-shaped leaves. Its color can either be green, red, gold, cream, or purple.
Sage has an earthy and peppery taste. Sage is most prized for its aromatics. It has a strong earthy aroma with hints of mint and lemon.
Sage is rich in vitamins like vitamins A, C, and K.
In a study conducted by Mohsen Hamidpour et.al published in the National Library of Medicine of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it was found that sage essential oil improves memory and mood when inhaled.[Source]
In the same study, it was also found that sage lowers blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, gives relief for hot flashes, prevents bacterial growth, and cures diarrhea.
Sage is a great addition to salads. In British and Italian cuisines, it is often used as a seasoning in sausage stuffing. It can also be used to spice up desserts like bread and jelly.
Parsley is an herb endemic to the central and eastern Mediterranean. It is widely used in Mediterranean, European, and American cuisine.
Parsley is greatly prized for its many health benefits. It is particularly rich in vitamin K. One tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley has more than 70% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. Aside from this, it is also an excellent source of vitamin A and antioxidants.
As previously mentioned, parsley is commonly used as a garnish. However, it is also great for pesto, sauces, and dips. It is also added for additional flavor in salads.
Celery is a herbaceous plant that comes from the same family as parsley. Typically, celery is grown for its stalk. Its leaves are a bit fibrous and tough for some, so it is commonly just discarded.
However, unknown to most, its leaves also have great flavor and aroma. Celery leaves have a taste reminiscent of anise and fennel.
When used as a basil substitute for cooking, celery is great for pesto because of its similar color and flavor profile. It is also used in salads, stews, and soups. Aside from that, celery leaves are also added to kosher salt to make seasoning salt.
The next entry in the list is cilantro. It is an herb also coming from the same family as parsley. Also known as Chinese parsley and dhania, cilantro is best known for its tangy flavor and citrusy smell.
Cilantro is an excellent source of antioxidants. It is also rich in vitamin K. A quarter cup of raw cilantro leaves contains 16% of the recommended daily intake. It is also traditionally used as a treatment for diarrhea and inflammation.
Cilantro is typically used raw. It can be used as a garnish, just like parsley. Its unique flavor is also the secret to making great-tasting salsa. As a basil substitute, cilantro is perfect for pesto.
Also known as leaf cabbage, kale is a vegetable coming from the same family as cabbage. There are many varieties of kale used in varied ways. Kale is cultivated for its culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes.
Kale has a strong aroma and flavor profile. It is a great source of vitamins A, B6, C, E, K, folate, and manganese
Kale is widely used in a lot of cuisines – from Asian to American to European. It can be used in pesto as a substitute for basil. Aside from this, it also adds a great twist to pasta, salads, and other side dishes. It can also be made into chips as a substitute for potato chips.
Stinging nettle is an herb with pointed leaves and yellow and white flowers. It is endemic in Canada, the United States, and Europe.
In traditional medicine, nettles have been used to treat anemia, muscle pains, arthritis, gout, eczema, and urinary tract infection.
In cooking, nettle is often used in teas, soups, salads, and mixed vegetables. When used as a substitute for basil, nettle is typically used to make pesto.
Another entry on the best substitutes list is fennel. It is an herb from the carrot family native to the Mediterranean region.
It has been found to promote weight loss, cure anemia, reduce inflammation, and relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Fennel is a good substitute for basil when making pesto.
Lovage is a perennial plant cultivated in Europe for its multiple uses. The taste of lovage is a mixture of celery, anise, and parsley. Its leaves are commonly used as an herb, the roots are cooked as a vegetable, and the seeds used as a spice.
Lovage is a great substitute of basil when making pesto. Lovage goes well with walnut and other nuts.
Coriander comes from the same plant as cilantro. Cilantro pertains to the leaves and stems of the plant. While coriander is a spice derived from the seeds of the plant.
Coriander is a good substitute for basil in rice dishes, soups, and stews.
Arugula is a green leafy vegetable commonly used for dieting. It has a distinct peppery and slightly tarty taste. Baby arugulas are milder in taste as compared to the mature ones.
It is rich in vitamins and minerals like Calcium, Potassium, Vitamins C and K, and Folate.
When used as a basil substitute, arugula is perfect for salads and soups. It can also be made into pesto.
Sorrel is a green, leafy plant form the same family as rhubarb and buckwheat. Its leaves have an intense tangy flavor comparable to that of lemons.
Studies have shown that Sorrel reduces skin infections, improves digestion, slows down aging, and strengthens the immune system. It is often used in sauces, purees, and soups.
Lemon Balm is an herb native to North and South America, and the Mediterranean. It has a mild lemon smell and minty taste, making it a good substitute for basil.
It has many health benefits such as easing a bad stomach, improving cold and cough symptoms, and reducing stress.
Lemon Balm is a good flavoring for spritz and other cocktails. It can also be used to make pesto.