If you are you out of basil when a recipe calls for it, there is no need to worry. Here are the best dried and fresh basil substitutes that you can use as a replacement in your cooking.
Basil is a popular herb often used in Italian cooking, used both fresh and dried. It has a mildly sweet fresh taste with a hint of licorice and is typically the base for pesto sauce. Basil is also essential in Mediterranean cuisine, but if basil is unavailable or can’t be used due to an allergy or preference, there are several basil substitutes that can be used in place of fresh or dried basil.
Basil is fairly easy to grow and I grow it all summer long. But in the off season, there is always a time when I need basil but realize I am out or my market doesn't have it. This is what I substitute instead.
Swapping Fresh and Dried Basil
It might seem obvious, but fresh and dried basil can be swapped interchangeably if necessary. If fresh basil is unavailable, dried basil can be used in its place, and fresh can be used in place of dried basil. Use 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil in place of 1 tablespoon of dried basil or vice versa .
Both dried and fresh parsley are my "go tos" when I am out of basil. It really is my favorite fresh substitute as the fresh green color makes a pretty garnish too like in this baby carrot recipe. Both fresh and dried parsley work well in sauces also. In many of my recipes, they call for either fresh basil or parsley depending on what you have on hand.
This herb has subtle flavors and is often used in French cooking. It will be a milder flavor than basil, but fresh tarragon will lend a slightly peppery flavor to dishes. Tarragon is not a good choice as a replacement where basil is the star ingredient like in these Strawberry Feta Skewers with Basil, but in many dishes where basil is one of the spices, fresh tarragon will be a good option to replace basil.
When basil is being used as a garnish, fresh cilantro can be a good substitute. Basil is a popular herb in Thai dishes and cilantro complements these flavors. Cilantro has a sharp and bright flavor that mimics the bright flavors of basil, making it a good basil replacement in some instances where basil was the star.
Fresh Celery Leaves
Another option when you need a fresh, bright taste to replace fresh basil is celery leaves. Often, celery leaves get thrown away when the stalks of celery are chopped, but these small leaves will have a fresh and tangy flavor that closely resembles basil, especially if they are mixed half and half with fresh parsley for a fresh version of Italian herbs.
Oregano is a very popular herb used in Italian cooking, and dried oregano can be a good substitute for dried basil. The flavor of oregano will be a bit stronger than dried basil, with more of a peppery taste, so it will be best to reduce the amount of oregano used to replace the basil.
Basil is the star ingredient in pesto, but many don’t like the strong flavor of basil, or maybe there is an allergy to basil. To keep the bright, fresh, green color of pesto, substitute fresh spinach leaves for basil. Be sure to add in another herb such as parsley, tarragon, or dried oregano to add flavor, since spinach is very mild.
This may seem an odd substitute for basil, but mint and basil are actually plant relatives. Fresh mint will not work in situations like pesto or pizza, or other cooked dishes, but when heat isn’t involved, mint can be a good basil substitute. I have a few cocktails that I add basil to but mint will also work well in this Orange Basil Cocktail. For bright sauces, salads, and flavored waters, use mint when you need to replicate the bright green color and bold, fresh flavor. Use less mint than you would use basil, as mint is much stronger.
The flavors of dried thyme is much warmer and almost heavier than basil, making dried thyme a good dried basil replacement in sauces, casseroles, and other cooked dishes. Thyme has a slight minty undertone and a strong flavor even when dried, so be sure to use less dried thyme than basil.
Dried Herb Blends
Dried herb blends will help elevate the flavors of a dish when basil is unavailable. Often, different types of cuisine will have herb blends that match the flavors of that particular cuisine, such as French, Italian, or Asian.
Italian seasoning is what I use often if I run out of basil especially in this marinara sauce recipe. This dried seasoning blend typically includes parsley, thyme, pepper, rosemary, oregano, and basil. I already use this blend in my Spaghetti with Turkey Bolognese recipe so if I don't have fresh basil, the recipe is fine without it. This basil replacement will be toned down in flavor and more well-rounded than just using straight dried basil, but is a good option for many recipes.
Poultry seasoning is another good basil replacement option, as this spice blend has a mix of warm and bright spices which helps mimic the flavor of basil.
Now we know that there are various substitutes when a recipe calls for basil. Here are some basil recipes where you can try one of these substitutes.
- Skillet Chicken Parmesan
- Penne with Artichokes, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Peas
- Easy Italian Marinara (25 minute recipe)
- Pasta with White Beans and Kale
- Lemon Basil Salmon via Food Fanatic
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