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.
- Substituting Fresh and Dried
- Common Ways to Substitute for Basil
- Recipes with Basil
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Pesto Pizza Pasta Salad
Authentic Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs
The Easiest Grilled Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken