basil substitute

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Are you making a recipe that calls for basil? If you are and you have just run out of basil, then you must be looking for a good basil substitute. This post shares 11 of the best basil substitutes that actually work. 

basil substitute

What is basil?

Basil is a type of herb from the mint family that is used in both its fresh and dried form in recipes like tomato sauce, salads, pesto, pasta dishes and more. 

What is the flavor of basil?

The most popular variety of basil called Sweet basil or just basil has a flavor that is fresh with a good balance of sweet, peppery and spicy with hints of mint, anise and clove.

More about basil

Basil is not the easiest herb to replace in any recipe. In fact, if you’re making a recipe like pesto or Caprese salad in which basil is a main ingredient, then it is best to wait until you have basil on hand to make that recipe.

Having said that, if you absolutely must go on with the recipe these are the best basil substitutes to try out. 

Fresh basil substitutes 

The most popular basil that every one loves to use is called the sweet basil often referred to as basil. If you are out of this herb, consider replacing it with other less popular varieties of basil like:

Spicy Globe basil


A good substitute for basil is spicy globe basil. Spicy globe basil is a variety of basil that grows differently than regular basil in that it is a short, compact and bushy plant with smaller leaves.

Spicy globe basil has a strong spicy, anise, clove like flavor that can work in many recipes that call for basil.

Some examples of recipes in which spicy globe can be used include sauces like tomato sauce, desserts, vegetable salads, fresh fruit salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, drinks like lemonade, cocktails and ice teas.

Thai basil

Thai basil

Thai basil is another good substitute for basil. Thai basil has a slightly spicy, sweet and mellow flavor with some licorice hints.

Use Thai basil in recipes like soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, pizzas, fish recipes and more.

Holy basil

holy basil

Another great substitute for basil is holy basil. This variety of basil has purple stems and flowers and it is slightly sweet with some spiciness, hints of peppermint, licorice, cloves and lemons and some astringency.

Use Holy basil in teas and stir fries.

Now, if you can’t find any of these, here are some other fresh herbs that can work:

Fresh oregano

fresh oregano

Fresh oregano leaves are another way to replace basil. Oregano leaves have a peppery, robust flavor that can work in fish dishes, fruit salads, tomato based sauces, marinades and even oregano pesto!



Spinach leaves have a mild, slightly sweet flavor, so it is nothing like basil. However, because spinach leaves are vibrant green, and, spinach leaves have a similarly delicate texture to sweet basil, they make a great substitute for basil for making recipes like pesto. Spinach also works great in salads, topping pizzas, stir fries and pasta dishes to name a few. 



Another herb that can be a substitute for basil is arugula. Arugula has a nice peppery, pungent, spicy, sweet flavor that goes well with grilled foods and also salads, topping pizzas, you can even use it to make an arugula pesto.

Dried basil substitutes 

If your recipe calls for dried basil, here are some of the dried basil substitutes that can work:

Fresh basil

Fresh basil is the best substitute for dried basil. It will work in any recipe the calls for dried basil. It is also very easy to make your own dried basil from fresh basil leaves.


Dried oregano has a flavor that is a cross between sweet and spicy with a subtle bitterness. This makes it a great substitute for dried basil in just about any recipe including tomato sauces, stews, soups and more. Dried oregano is a great sub for dried basil in terms of texture, color and flavor as well.

Dried Marjoram

Marjoram is another spice that can be used as and alternative for dried basil. Marjoram has a flavor that is earthy, with hints of pine, citrus as well as mild bitter undertones.

Marjoram is the milder version of oregano and has a similar look and texture to dried basil.

Italian seasoning

Italian seasoning

Italian seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices including basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, garlic powder, sage, coriander and thyme. Therefore, in a pinch, it is a great substitute for dried basil. 

Basil substitutes in specific recipes

Now, if you’re looking for the best ways to substitute basil in specific recipes, here are some ideas below:

Basil substitute in pesto

Leafy greens and leafy herbs are the best basil substitutes in pesto. Think leafy greens like spinach or leafy herbs like arugula, mint or sage. You can feel free to read more about the best substitutes for basil leaves in pesto here.

Basil substitute in bruschetta

Basil is a vital ingredient in bruschetta so it’s always best to wait until you have basil on hand to make a bruschetta recipe. However, if you don’t want to wait, a few other likely substitutes are other varieties of basil like holy basil, spicy globe basil and Thai basil, or, fresh oregano or marjoram. Also, feel free to check out some other great basil substitutes in bruschetta here.

Substitute for fresh basil in salad

It is best to wait until you have basil to make a salad like Caprese salad for example, you can find some other great substitutes for basil in Caprese salad here. You can also substitute fresh oregano, fresh marjoram or fresh arugula for fresh basil in certain salads.

Basil substitute in tomato soup

For tomato soup, replace basil with herbs like oregano, Italian seasoning, Marjoram and even Thyme.

FAQs about substituting basil

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