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13 Easy Ways to Substitute for Basil

Here are 13 easy ways to substitute for basil (fresh or dried) when you’re in a pinch, plus several delicious recipes with basil.

Basil is a popular herb with a subtly sweet flavor and mild, peppery anise notes. It’s used across many types of cuisines including Italian, Indian and Mediterranean.

It’s a member of the mint family and can be used in fresh or dried form. Basil is a delicate ingredient, usually added towards the end of cooking times or used fresh as a garnish and in salads.

It is also used medicinally for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Many of our favorite soups, sauces, and salads simply wouldn’t be the same without basil, but there are plenty of great substitutes in a pinch.

If your grocery store is out or you don’t have any on hand when you need it, here are several easy ways to substitute for basil, dried or fresh.

Dried basil in white bowl next to fresh basil leaves on wood table.

Substituting Fresh and Dried

The best substitute for a fresh herb is always its dried counterpart or vice versa. If you need dried basil but all you have is fresh, you can always use that version as a suitable replacement or the other way around.

Fresh versions of an herb will always have a more vibrant flavor, and the dried counterpart will have a much more concentrated flavor. A good rule of thumb is to start with 1 part dried herbs to 1 1/2 parts fresh herbs and adjust to taste as needed.

Common Ways to Substitute for Basil

Here are some common ways to substitute for basil that will work well in most circumstances.

But keep in mind, basil does have a pretty unique flavor that is irreplaceable in some dishes. You might want to hold off for the real thing for dishes where basil is a featured ingredient like Caprese Salad, basil-based pesto, or Margherita pizza.

1. Oregano

Dried oregano on worn wooden spoon next to fresh stems with oregano leaves.

Oregano is a popular herb that’s used in Mediterranean, Mexican and Italian cuisines and lends itself to similar dishes as basil. It’s from the mint family and has a zesty, peppery, and earthy flavor.

Oregano works best to replace basil in dried form and can be used as a 1 to 2 substitute. Start with half the amount of oregano and add more according to your taste.

Taste your oregano before adding it to your dish to make sure it works with the other flavors.

2. Tarragon

Bright green bunch of tarragon leaves wrapped with some twine on wooden table.

French tarragon makes a suitable basil replacement in tomato-based dishes, chicken dishes, and salads. It is from the same family and has a bittersweet anise flavor.

Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.

3. Mint (Fresh)

Bright green mint leaves growing in small tin can planter on wooden table.

Mint is best suited to replace basil in Thai and Mediterranean dishes. Use a mild version and plan to cook the mint longer than you would basil.

If mint melds well with the other ingredients in your dish, you can use it as a 1 to 1 substitute.

4. Thyme

Thyme stems wrapped in bundle with kitchen twine laying on wood table.

Thyme is another herb that is considered a cousin of basil. It has an earthier, warmer taste and is more potent but can stand in for basil in dishes like sauces, pasta dishes, and meat dishes.

Basil and thyme are frequently used together, so it’s not a stretch to use thyme as a substitute in most cases. Start with half the amount of thyme and adjust to your taste.

5. Savory (Summer/Winter)

Close up of twig of bright green summer savory on rustic wooden surface.

Summer and winter savory are popular herbs in German cooking. It has a woodsy taste that is similar to thyme. If you happen to have some on hand or grow it in your garden, you can use it as a basil substitute in hearty, meaty dishes, 1 to 1.

6. Cilantro (Fresh)

Large brunch of fresh, vibrant green cilantro on rustic wooden table top.

Cilantro works well to replace basil in Asian dishes. This herb has a very distinct flavor that can be polarizing. It has a grassy citrusy flavor that can work well in curries, soups, stir fry dishes, and dips.

Make sure you like the taste of cilantro before using it as a 1 to 1 substitute.

7. Italian Seasoning Blend

Italian seasoning on large white kitchen spoon and sprinkled on kitchen table.

Basil is a featured ingredient in Italian seasoning blends. If you don’t have any other fresh or dried herb replacements on hand, you can always use a couple dashes of this seasoning mix.

Because there are several other herbs and seasonings including in the mix, you may need to adjust the other ingredients in your dish accordingly.

8. Spinach (Fresh)

Freshly washed large spinach leaves in dark wooden bowl on bright white kitchen table.

Fresh spinach can stand in for fresh basil in certain dishes because of its green color and similar texture. Spinach has a much milder taste and doesn’t stand up to heat as well as basil, but you can use it in stir fry dishes and to make pesto.

Use as a 1 to 1 substitute for making pesto (with garlic) and you may need more spinach if replacing basil in a stir fry dish as it will wilt pretty significantly.

9. Celery Leaf

Large bunch of bright green celery leaves piled on rustic wooden table.

If you don’t like the taste of basil, but want to make pesto, you can use celery leaves as a substitute. This can also help to reduce food waste, as the leaves of celery are usually tossed out.

Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.

10. Rosemary

Large bunch of deep green rosemary stems wrapped in bundle with twine.

Rosemary has a lemony floral flavor that is a great herb for seasoning potatoes and meats. It has a much stronger and distinct flavor when compared to basil, but it can add depth and interest to your recipe in a pinch.

And that’s all you’ll likely need, just a pinch of rosemary goes a long way. Start with this small amount and add more according to your taste.

11. Sage

Leaves of fresh sage in rustic whicker basket on gray patterned table.

Sage works great with dishes that include ingredients like lemon, garlic, and tomato and also pairs well with meat and fish recipes and in soups, stews and pesto. This herb has a strong flavor and should be used sparingly as a basil substitute.

Start with a pinch or so and add more according to taste.

12. Parsley

Bunch of fresh bright green flat leaf parsley on wood cutting board.

Parsley has a mild, grassy flavor and is often used as a garnish and finisher. You can substitute parsley for basil when used in these cases, 1 to 1.

13. Poultry Seasoning

Various piles of seasonings on marble countertop used to make poultry seasoning.

If you’re out of basil and need to replace it for a meat or fish dish, try poultry seasoning. It will add depth of flavor and is a common pantry ingredient.

Use to taste.

Recipes with Basil

Here are some simple and delicious recipes that call for basil. Use these to test out your favorite way to substitute for basil. You’ll love them for your weeknight meals!

Perfect Lemon Basil Pasta

Gray square plate with pile of lemon basil pasta and gold fork, lemon slices in background.

Pesto Pizza Pasta Salad

White bowl full of pizza pasta salad next to white plates full of the salad.

Authentic Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

Italian spaghetti and meatballs in a white dish with fork and gray and white kitchen towel.

The Easiest Grilled Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken

Three pieces of balsamic bruschetta chicken on white platter with basil garnish.