Basil is a beautiful summertime ingredient, but occasionally you want to use fresh or dried basil in a dish, and well, you just don't have it. See below for the best basil substitutes (both fresh and dried).
Quick note: basil, especially fresh basil, is hard to replace, especially if you're trying to make a beautiful Caprese salad, or fresh pesto. And it's much easier to replace the texture than the flavor for this herb. That said, here are the best substitutes if you do need to replace.
Italian basil has a soft texture, and a mild peppery flavor along with hints of sweet, minty notes. The best fresh basil substitutes are herbs and greens that can mimic some of those flavors with a similar soft texture.
- Fresh oregano. This is the closest substitute when it comes to texture, flavor, and color. However, similar to basil, they could easily overpower the dish, so adjust to taste. Great for almost anything basil is used for!
- Spinach. Spinach is an easy substitute for texture and color, but has much milder flavors than fresh basil. It's great to use for pesto (when combined with garlic) or in stir fries.
- Mint. Mint offers a good substitute for color, texture, and flavor - but it's more bitter and minty (duh!) than fresh basil. It's great for some sauces and desserts that use basil (either in the dessert or in a topping).
- Cilantro. Cilantro is a hotly debated herb - if it tastes like soap to you, probably best not to use it. But if you like the strong flavors, it's great for ensuring vibrant colors and flavors, especially in sauces. It's also great for Asian-inspired dishes with basil (e.g., Thai-inspired soups or curries)
There are a lot of great substitutes for dried basil, the first of which is actually fresh basil! Plus, it's super easy to go from fresh to dried basil (check out this post on how to dry basil leaves).
- Oregano. Similar to the fresh version, this is the closest substitute when it comes to texture, flavor, and color.
- Italian Seasoning. Okay I'm cheating a bit since Italian seasoning is actually a combination of dried basil, oregano and some other spices, but that's exactly why it's a great substitute!
- Tarragon. Tarragon has a somewhat similar flavor profile, so it's not going to necessarily mimic the basil flavor, but it's good in most dishes where you might choose to use basil.
FAQs and Top Tips
One of the most common questions! You can use a ton of different herbs and leafy greens instead of basil to make pesto. For instance, check out this vegan kale pesto, broccoli pesto, or even pea shoot pesto. You can also use other, like parsley, cilantro, mint, and greens like spinach, and arugula or a combination!
One tablespoon of fresh herbs roughly equals one teaspoon of dried herbs. For example, if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh basil, you need only one teaspoon of dried basil (or other herbs!)
Classic bruschetta is served with fresh tomatoes and basil. But if you don't have basil, the best substitute is oregano or mint!
There are many varieties of basil but you can use sweet or Genovese basil in most dishes that require Thai basil! I'd suggest increasing the amount of sweet basil to compensate for the intensity of Thai basil.
What are your favorite substitutes for basil? Let us know in the comments if we've missed any!