Looking for an alternative to Basil? You’re in the right place! Keep reading for my favourite simple basil substitutes.
What is Basil?
Basil is a leafy green herb used extensively in Italian cooking. There is also a Thai variety. The aroma is highly fresh, fragrant and peppery. It’s one of my favourite smells.
The while the stems are edible, it’s generally only the leaves that are used in cooking. Because it oxidises and goes brown easily it’s generally best to add at the last minute before serving.
The Best Basil Substitutes
(in order of preference)
1. Flat Leaf Parsley
Parsley is much more subdued in flavour compared with basil. Which means it won’t clash with any of the other flavours in your dish. It does add some lovely freshness and the visual greenery of basil so if it’s the only herb you have it will be better than nothing.
2. Coriander (Cilantro)
Will work in a similar way but just takes the flavours in a different direction. Coriander packs a big flavour punch so you won’t feel like you’re missing anything. Your dish will end up with more of an Asian or Mexican vibe but that can be a good thing.
While mint has a completely different flavour to basil, I can’t think of a place where the aromatic freshness of mint wouldn’t work exceptionally well as an alternative.
When Italians aren’t using basil with their tomatoes or tomato sauces, oregano tends to be the go-to. I’m not the hugest fan but a little bit can work to add the freshness of basil. I have tried making pesto with oregano instead of basil and it wasn’t great – even with all the parmesan and pine nuts.
While this classic Italian sauce won’t look anything like fresh basil leaves, the intense basil flavour in pesto can be a brilliant way to get the extra boost your dish needs. I always have a jar of commercial pesto in the pantry just in case.
How to Prepare Basil
Wash, dry then pick the leaves away from the stems and discard the stems. The leaves can then be either used whole, torn or finely chopped. I generally use them whole so you get big bursts of basil goodness.
How to Store Basil
I keep mine wrapped in paper towel and then in plastic bag in the fridge. Will generally keep for 3-5 days, depending on how fresh it was when you bought it. But I have had basil go bad after just one day. Some people store it in a jar of water in the fridge but I find this a hassle and have knocked over the jar and made a big mess in the fridge so am not a fan.
The other option is to make a basil oil by pureeing basil leaves with enough olive oil to make a paste using a stick blender or your food processor. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for weeks.
You can also freeze basil – it will be completely wilted when defrosted but will still add amazing flavour and fragrance.
Delicious Basil Pairings
- Chicken & Basil
- Parmesan & Basil
- Tomato & Basil
- Lemon & Basil
Can You Freeze Basil?
Yes you can. The texture will be wilted when defrosted but the fragrance and flavour will still be great. Defrosted frozen basil works well in hot dishes where the basil would have been wilted by the heat.
More Ingredient Substitutes
- The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Substitutes
- Collard Greens
- Miso Paste
- Oyster Sauce
Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.
Have fun in the kitchen!