Basil is such a versatile herb. It is used in a wide variety of recipes because of how versatile it is. Fresh basil has a potent aroma that adds that little extra something to a great variety of dishes.
In terms of flavor, basil is more subtle than other herbs, and fresh basil needs to be added towards the end of the cooking process to get the best results, to maintain that strong flavor.
It can also be used to garnish certain dishes or added for a flavorful bite to salads.
Interestingly, basil is also known to have certain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory purposes, which makes it great for certain medicinal uses.
But if you’ve already started cooking your favorite dishes to find that you’ve run out of basil, this can put you in a pinch. There’s no need to panic though!
We’ve put together a list of the best 13 alternatives for basil that you likely have in your store cupboard at home, so you can get back to cooking.
Let’s take a look at the best substitutes for basil!
Using Dried Basil In Place Of Fresh Basil
Don’t have any fresh basil to hand, or the grocery store didn’t have any in stock? Then the best alternative that you can opt for will be the dried basil variant.
This rule of thumb can also work if you need dried basil but only have fresh to hand.
The only thing to bear in mind is that your fresh basil leaves will have a noticeably vibrant flavor, whereas the dried basil will be a lot more potent.
So you will need to alter the quantity that you use when you substitute one for the other.
For every 1 and a half teaspoons of fresh basil that the recipe calls for, you should reduce this to 1 teaspoon of dried basil.
This is a good rule of thumb to stick with when it comes to other dried and fresh herbs, too. You can then adjust the flavor of your dish as needed.
The Best Alternatives For Basil
Don’t have any dried basil to hand? Then there’s no need to worry. Luckily for you, there are at least 13 other suitable alternatives that you can use to replace the basil required in your recipe.
The only thing to note is that with a lot of these substitutions, they won’t be able to mimic the exact flavor of the basil that you need to replace.
So if you’re making a specific dish where the basil is the star ingredient, such as a caprese salad, a Margherita pizza, or a pesto made using basil, then you may wish to wait until your favorite herb becomes available.
For other types of dishes, we would recommend any of the below alternatives to get you cooking.
First up of course is dried oregano! This is another potent herb that hails from the Mediterranean, and was only made popular over here in the US after the second world war.
It is typically used on pizzas, but can also be used in a whole range of other recipes such as pasta dishes.
Although you can use both fresh oregano and dried oregano, you will be better off sticking with the dried variant as a substitute for basil. Because dried oregano is very potent, you will need to halve the amount required.
So if you need 1 teaspoon of basil for your recipe, you should aim to use 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. If you do wish to use fresh oregano, this won’t be as potent as its dried variety.
Make sure to sample your dish before you finish cooking just to make sure you’ve got the quantity right, as it can be very easy for oregano to overpower a dish.
Also bear in mind that oregano is very different to Mexican oregano, which is a different herb entirely.
A fantastic substitution to use in place of basil in curries, stir fries, or other Asian dishes is of course fresh cilantro.
This is a very potent herb, so you will need to be mindful of how much you use as an alternative to basil in your dish.
Fresh cilantro can also work as an excellent substitute for basil in dips and soups, too.
Seeing as cilantro has such a bold flavor, you will need to ensure that you actually like its taste before using it in your dishes. The great thing about fresh cilantro is that you can substitute it in equal parts for fresh basil.
You can of course use its dried variant, coriander, but it will be best to halve the quantity that you use to avoid overpowering your dish.
Another fragrant herb that is a suitable alternative for basil is French tarragon. This popular herb is an excellent choice for chicken based dishes, tomato based dishes, and even some types of salad recipes.
Interestingly, French tarragon is from the same family as the basil plant, and has an intriguing anise flavor.
The best thing about using French tarragon as a substitute for a bunch of basil is that it can be substituted in equal quantities.
Blend Of Italian Seasonings
Making a range of Italian dishes but haven’t got any basil to hand?
Then a blend of Italian seasonings will provide the perfect substitute for basil! In fact, basil is one of the many herbs that is actually included in Italian seasoning.
Some other herbs included in Italian seasoning are also some that we have mentioned on this list: thyme, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram.
Seeing as there are several potent herbs included in the Italian seasoning, you may wish to lower the amount that you use compared to the amount of basil required in the recipe.
We would suggest using either half or two thirds of the amount required, depending on your personal tastes.
Fresh And Dried Mint
If you’re looking for an excellent basil substitute when it comes to Mediterranean dishes or Thai dishes, then fresh mint will be your best choice.
You will also need to treat this herb slightly differently to fresh basil, as it will need to be added earlier on in the cooking process.
Make sure to select a milder variety so that the mint doesn’t overpower the other flavors in your dish.
When it comes to the amount of mint that you should use as an alternative to basil, you can replace it in equal amounts.
If you opt to use dried mint, then you will need to halve the quantity needed so that you don’t overpower your dish.
A delicate herb, fresh spinach makes an exceptional alternative to fresh basil. It will be best used in either stir fries or basil pesto dishes.
It’s worth noting that because fresh spinach is such a delicate herb, it won’t be able to cope with heat as well as fresh basil can.
So it will be best to add this at the very last minute in the cooking process.
If you are using fresh spinach as a substitute for basil when making basil pesto, it will be better to combine it with garlic for the best results. This way you can substitute it in equal measurements.
If you use fresh spinach for stir fries, then you will need to use a lot more than the recipe calls for. This is because spinach tends to wilt quite a lot when exposed to heat or liquid.
Another excellent basil substitute is thyme. This is another popular herb that belongs to the mint family, just like basil itself.
They both have slightly different flavor profiles, however, with thyme having a more concentrated flavor.
It has a distinctly earthy taste to it when used for cooking purposes.
Thyme is best used as a substitute for basil when it comes to meat dishes, sauces, or pasta dishes.
Both thyme and basil are often combined when it comes to cooking, so this makes it an splendid fit as an alternative.
You can opt for fresh thyme, however, dried thyme will be the easiest substitution to make. Because this has a stronger flavor, you should alter the quantity of the herb that you use.
It will be best to halve the amount of thyme that you use for the basil required, and then you can always add some extra should you need to give the flavor of your dish a boost.
One of the more unusual fresh herbs that you might not have considered as a substitute for basil are celery leaves.
It’s worth noting that this won’t be an exact match in terms of flavor, so this makes celery leaves the perfect alternative for those who despise the taste of fresh basil.
You can use celery leaves as a substitute for basil when it comes to making fresh pesto. This can be replaced in equal measures for simplicity.
Winter And Summer Savory
An excellent substitution that you may have to hand if you like to cook a range of German dishes is of course winter savory and summer savory.
Both types of savory are a suitable alternative if you don’t have any fresh basil to hand. In terms of flavor, both versions of savory tend to be similar to thyme.
It is best to use the fresh variants of this herb in your dishes. It will work best when used as an alternative to basil in meat based dishes. You can use it in equal quantities to keep things simple.
Another potent herb that you can use as a substitute for basil is of course dried rosemary. This is a highly fragrant herb that has a slightly lemon based flavor to it.
If you need a suitable herb for use with potatoes or meat dishes, then dried rosemary is just the thing you need.
You will need to bear in mind that this is a wonderfully potent herb, so you will need to cut down the amount of rosemary that you use as a substitute for basil.
If you use the dried variety, it will be best to use just a pinch of dried rosemary.
You can of course use fresh rosemary as a replacement for basil. However, bear in mind that this is a woody herb, so you may need to remove it from the dish before you eat it.
Fresh And Dried Sage
A beautifully fragrant herb that adds a punch to dishes is of course sage. This can be used in both its fresh and dried varieties, and is best used for tomato based dishes, lemon dishes, or dishes that feature garlic as an ingredient.
Sage will pair very well with fish and meat recipes, too. You can also use it in pesto, stews, or soup dishes.
Bear in mind that sage is a very strong herb compared to basil, so you will need to pare down the amount that you use.
If you are using dried sage, it will be best to only use a small pinch to not overwhelm the dish. If you are using fresh sage leaves, then make sure to only use a couple at a time depending on your taste preferences.
Making a poultry, fish, or meat based dish? Then chicken seasoning will be the way to go when it comes to choosing a substitute for basil.
This is a highly versatile store cupboard ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of recipes.
There is also basil included as part of the chicken seasoning blend, so you won’t be going too far off-piste with this substitution!
Some other herbs and spices used in chicken seasoning include rosemary, paprika, parsley, celery seed, cumin, and many more.
Because there are so many herbs and spices added into this chicken seasoning, it will be best to use it sparingly.
Make sure to taste your dish and add more than needed.
Fresh And Dried Parsley
One of the milder alternatives for basil, parsley can be used in both its fresh and dried varieties. Just like basil, parsley is a popular herb when it comes to cooking.
It is used in a wide variety of dishes around the globe, and thanks to its milder flavor, it makes an excellent substitution for basil.
For the vast majority of recipes, you can use parsley in equal quantities as the basil required.
Bear in mind that the dried variety will be more potent than fresh parsley, so you may wish to adjust the quantity that you use according to your taste.
So there you have it! You now know up to 13 suitable alternatives for basil if you don’t have any to hand. No matter whether your recipe calls for fresh basil or dried basil, you will now know which herbs are best to use instead of basil.
If you don’t like the flavor of basil, one of the substitutes that we have covered above will make a magnificent choice for your dishes.
Remember that when using dried herbs in place of fresh basil, you will need to lower the quantities that you use. This is because dried herbs are a lot more potent than fresh herbs, so you won’t want to overpower your dish.
If you are using more potent herbs such as cilantro, thyme, or sage, you will want to add a small amount at a time and then taste your dish to see whether it needs any more added.