Basil, a glossy, oval-shaped herb of the mint family, comes in different varieties, each contributing a different taste to the dish. From sweet basil’s fresh aroma and slightly peppery flavor with notes of mint to Thai basil’s savory, spicy, licorice flavor, you’re destined to find a variety that will elevate your recipe’s flavor profile.
While recreating its flavor profile may seem like an impossible task, there are a few ingredients that are great alternatives to this herb. These basil substitutes will help you mimic the flavor profile of the original ingredient quite well!
Oregano has a bold, peppery, earthy flavor with hints of bitterness and adds a lot of Italian flavor to the dish. While oregano isn’t a perfect substitute for basil in terms of flavor, it will work in a pinch in dishes like pizzas, casseroles, and pasta sauces.
Because oregano has a texture, flavor, and color that’s similar to basil, you can substitute either fresh or dried oregano for the original ingredient. Remember that, like fresh basil, fresh oregano has a fresh floral and strong peppery flavor that might dominate the other flavors of the dish, so use it sparingly. It would be wise to start with half the amount and adjust to taste.
1 teaspoon basil = 1 teaspoon oregano. (Both in fresh and dried forms.)
Mint, a cousin of basil, has a little sweetness to it and adds a refreshing burst of minty freshness to the dish. Given that its flavor, color, and texture are quite similar to basil, you can use mint in place of basil as a garnish or in sauces and desserts — basically, in recipes that don’t require cooking.
When substituting mint for basil, keep in mind that fresh mint is bitter and mintier than basil. So, you can use a 1:1 substitute, but it is recommended to start with a small amount and adjust to taste to avoid altering the recipe’s overall flavor profile.
1 teaspoon fresh basil = 1 teaspoon fresh mint.
Friendly tip: Spearmint has a more subtle peppery flavor than basil, so peppermint is a better option to keep the flavor as similar to the original as possible.
Tarragon has a pungent, bittersweet flavor that gives dishes a slight anise-like finish. Even though tarragon and basil have very different flavor profiles, tarragon can be used in most dishes that call for basil, especially ones that require a peppery flavor to shine.
Since there are different varieties of tarragon, you should have plenty of choices to fit your recipes just right. However, we commend the French cultivar variety to get that subtle, aromatic flavor of the perennial herb. It works best in creamy sauces, tomato-based meals, or fish and chicken preparations.
1 teaspoon basil = 1 teaspoon tarragon. (Both in fresh and dried forms.)
4. Spinach Leaves
Spinach leaves have a milder flavor than fresh basil, but they are similar in texture and color, making them a good stand-in in meals like pesto (especially when combined with garlic). Pesto can be great for boosting the flavor profile of dishes like sandwiches, pizza, and roasted meat.
Using spinach leaves in place of basil in dishes like stir-fry will help you avoid the strong flavors of the original ingredient and make the dish more palatable for everyone. It pairs well with other herbs in recipes, such as mint and cilantro, allowing you to fully appreciate all the flavors. But remember, spinach has high water content, so it can change the texture of your dish.
1 teaspoon basil = 1 teaspoon spinach leaves to make pesto (with garlic).
5. Italian Seasoning
Italian seasoning is a dried herb mixture that includes popular herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme, pepper, parsley, oregano, and basil. While these ingredients bring a variety of flavors to the dish, the inclusion of basil in its composition makes it a decent stand-in for basil.
You can easily substitute Italian seasoning for basil in pasta sauces and Italian recipes to elevate their flavor profiles. Just make sure to check the recipe to see what other ingredients are included, so you can reduce the amount of herbs and spices already present in the Italian seasoning and not overpower the dish with a sharp spicy flavor.
1 teaspoon basil = 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. (Add more if needed.)
Thyme has a more potent warm, earthy flavor than basil. It also has a distinct lemony taste with strong peppery and mint undertones. Typically, basil and thyme are often used together in a variety of cuisines, so substituting thyme for basil should work perfectly in a pinch.
Thyme works well as a stand-in for basil in dishes like casseroles, sauces, pasta recipes, or other meat dishes. Keep in mind that thyme has a very unique flavor that can overpower your food if used in higher quantities than required. So, make sure to begin with a small amount and adjust the flavor as you go to perfect your recipe.
1 teaspoon basil = 1/2 teaspoon thyme. (Adjust to taste.)
7. Celery Leaves
Celery leaves have a crispy and aromatic flavor, which is a far cry from basil’s sweet and subtle peppery flavor. However, despite the two ingredients having distinct flavor profiles, you can still use celery leaves in place of basil in sauces, particularly pesto.
As a substitute, celery leaves can help reduce the strong flavor of basil in your dish while maintaining the fresh green color, so you won’t have to worry about changing the appearance of your dish. It can also be used with parsley to make an Italian herb blend. As most of us generally use celery stalks in dishes and throw out the leaves, using celery leaves as a substitute will also help minimize food waste.
1 teaspoon basil = 1 teaspoon celery leaves.