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15 Best Basil Substitute Options

Below is a basil substitute list for when you’re seeking that replacement. You can’t take basil out of the kitchen, but you can definitely find a way to replace it. There are several basil substitutes that you can use in your cooking.

jar filled with dried basil and spice bottle labeled "basil"

What Is Basil?

Basil is an herb that provides a strong, sweet, peppery, minty, and licorice-like flavor. It is part of the mint family, with oregano, rosemary, and thyme. This herb is used not only as a pizza topping or flavoring agent for pasta sauces. It’s so versatile that you can use it in Mediterranean, Italian, and Indian food.

The leaves of this herb are distinguishable by their long, shiny, and rounded shape. When fresh, it is found in the refrigerated vegetable section of local grocery stores. Otherwise, dried basil is available year-round in the spice aisle.

It was originally grown and harvested in China, Africa, or India about 5,000 years ago. Basil has now evolved and grows in many warm locations worldwide. It is now grown even in California and Morocco, making it more accessible.

Types of basil

There are wide varieties of basil available. But, the most used variety is sweet basil. This type is most often found in Italian and Mediterranean cooking.

Other common varieties include Thai basil, holy basil, and lemon basil. Each offers a unique flavor and has a particular purpose. For example, lemon basil is often in use in desserts.
Thai basil is a variety of basil with purple stems, dark green leaves, and an anise flavor. It is often used in Asian cuisine.

Thai basil has become popular because it offers the aroma of cinnamon and cloves. It also has hints of nutmeg, cumin, peppermint, and tarragon aromas.

fresh basil leaves and spoon filled with dry basil spice

Best Basil Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Dried Basil Leaves

Use dried basil leaves or dried basil flakes as fresh basil replacements. These options both provide a nearly identical taste. Yet, dried basil offers a more concentrated flavor, so you need to use a smaller quantity.

Dried basil is easy to find at the store throughout the year. You can also make dried basil if you have too much fresh basil. Do this by dehydrating finely chopped fresh basil (for flakes). Or, use chopped fresh herbs to alter the size of dried basil pieces for use in future recipes.


You’ll find the original basil flavor.


The dried version is much more robust. It can easily overpower recipes, causing an unpleasant taste.

Cooking Tip:

Use 1/3 of dried basil to fresh basil. 

2. Italian seasoning

Italian seasoning is a mix of dried herbs commonly used in Italian cuisine. It usually contains basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. If you have Italian seasoning, you can put it in salads or pasta with olive oil and garlic.


It is an accessible option. Most likely, you already have Italian seasoning in your pantry.


These dried herbs might not work for recipes requiring savory mint basil flavor. For example, Italian seasoning does not pair well with spaghetti or pasta sauce.

Cooking Tip:

When cooking with Italian seasoning, use half the herbs your recipe calls for.

3. Fresh Oregano

Oregano is a strong, pungent herb that can be used to add flavor to dishes like pizza or pasta.

Fresh oregano is one of the best fresh substitutes for basil. It’s easy to find at the grocery store. Plus, it provides a minty, strong, earthy taste.

The flavor is close enough to basil that it bodes well as a replacement. If you need a dried basil replacement, you can use dried oregano instead.

As you would use basil, use fresh oregano in Mediterranean and Italian recipes.


This herb is the closest, flavor-wise, to basil.


There is a taste difference present when using oregano over basil.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:2 ratio to replace basil with oregano.

4. Tarragon

Tarragon shares an anise flavor with basil. It also has a subtle bitterness and intense flavor. These leaves are smaller and longer than basil. For this reason, your dish will appear differently when using fresh tarragon.


This herb is an excellent basil substitute in chicken and tomato-based recipes.

Like with oregano, there will be a taste difference when using tarragon.


Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio for this replacement.

5. Mint

Mint shares the same color as basil. It also has that minty taste and aroma that basil has. For these similarities, it can be another viable option. You can use it in Thai and Mediterranean recipes for a pop of flavor.


Using fresh or dried mint is an excellent option if you want to replace basil’s sweet, minty flavor. But mint does not offer the complex flavors found in basil.


Using this herb as a replacement is limited to specific recipes. It is not suitable for Italian dishes.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to swap mint for basil.

6. Thyme

Thyme is also part of the same family (aka Lamiaceae family), providing a similar taste to recipes as basil. Like most herbs, you can use fresh or dried thyme to substitute basil.

Thyme has a slightly lemony flavor and goes well with dishes like chicken or fish.

There will be a taste difference when using thyme as a swap. This is because it offers a bolder, warm, and earthy flavor.

You can use this replacement in pasta sauce, meat-based dishes, and pasta.


This herb is commonly paired with basil. So, you can assume it also pairs well with the other seasoning typically found in basil dishes.


As thyme tastes more intense than basil, it can easily overpower the rest of the dish’s flavors. Use a smaller amount first, then add more slowly to avoid this.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1:2 ratio to replace thyme for basil, and adjust as needed.

7. Savory

Winter and summer savory can both work as substitutions for basil as they are from the same mint family. These herbs are common in Italian cooking. That said, savory is an excellent swap when cooking Italian dishes.

Summer savory provides a spicier, peppery flavor. So, it’s best for recipes where you want to mimic the pepperiness of basil. In comparison, winter savory offers a milder, earthy taste. Use them instead of basil in dishes where you want a more subtle flavor.


Both savory herb varieties are great with recipes that revolve around eggs. They also work with vegetables, soups, and stews. Having both types on hand allows you to customize the flavor of savory. You can choose which better complements the other flavor notes present.


This herb can be challenging to find at grocery stores as it’s a less common seasoning.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing savory with thyme.

8. Fresh Parsley

Parsley is another herb that is commonly used in Italian recipes. It has a similar flavor profile to basil. Plus, it is much more affordable than other basil substitutes.

This herb is usually seen as a topping or decoration instead of a food inclusion. You can use this as a substitute for basil when you need an edible topping.


It brightens dishes and offers a slightly bitter, earthy flavor and peppery kick. Fresh and dried herbs have a much milder taste than basil, though similar enough to be a good substitute.


The uses for fresh parsley as a fresh basil replacement are limited.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio.

9. Dried Parsley

Dried parsley provides a more concentrated flavor than fresh parsley. That said, this option has more uses as a substitute for basil. It still offers a similar earthy, peppery, and bitter taste to dishes.

Remember that this herb is still milder than fresh or dried basil. You will need to use more for a bolder taste.


Use this replacement for sauces, meatballs, and marinades. Dried parsley is an excellent swap in recipes that have a European background.


Even with more options for use, dried parsley is limited to specific recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1:1 ratio to replace dried basil and increase as needed.

10. Celery Leaf

Celery leaf might seem like an odd replacement for basil. Yet, celery is in the same family as parsley and offers a similar flavor profile in recipes. When using celery leaves, expect an earthy, slightly salty, and licorice-like flavor.


These leaves have a variety of uses, from soups and stews to a replacement in pesto. They’re easily accessible as most people already have celery in their kitchens.

Also, using celery leaves allows less food waste as you cook with them instead of tossing them.


This swap does not bode well with all basil recipes due to a flavor difference.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace basil with celery leaves.

11. Cilantro

Cilantro is another herb that you can use instead of basil. It has an earthy flavor like basil. Cilantro is often used as a substitute for dishes such as chimichurri in Mexican cooking.

Keep in mind that this herb has a different taste than basil. If you’re only trying to add flavor, you can use cilantro in Mexican and Asian recipes.


Fresh cilantro is readily available at grocery stores year-round. It provides a bright, fresh flavor to recipes. Use this herb in curry, soup, and stir-fries.


This alternative is one herb that people either enjoy or dislike intensely. Ensure your dinner guests enjoy the flavor of cilantro before using this swap.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace basil with cilantro.

12. Fresh Herbs

If you have other fresh herbs, they can also make excellent substitutes for basil. They’ll most likely work in soups, sauces, and marinades.

You can use garden herbs like rosemary or sage for different basil recipes. Remember that you’ll want to try a small amount first. This is to ensure the flavors work well with your chosen recipe.


You likely have them on hand already. Or, you can easily buy them from a local grocery store or farmers’ market.


The herbs you have will change the flavor of the final dish, though they still offer a delicious flavor. Some grocery stores don’t carry fresh varieties of herbs anymore. When they do, they’re expensive.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a pinch or 1-2 leaves, then increase to your taste preference.

13. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is another replacement that offers a somewhat similar taste. This herb is versatile – its uses include sweet and savory recipes and drinks.


Use this swap in salads, sauces, candy, and tea for a bright, citrusy taste. This herb is the top option if you seek a lemon basil alternative.


This herb is not as commonly used in recipes. You may find it challenging to locate a bunch at the store.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1 :1 ratio.

14. Spinach

Spinach is not an herb. But, it provides a similar bulkiness offered by fresh basil in sauce-based recipes. It is a very affordable option found in most grocery stores.


The flavor of spinach leaves is very subtle. It mixes well with various recipes that other herbs may not bode well with.


Spinach leaves do not match the taste of basil in recipes. You will need extra seasoning to avoid a bland taste.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1 :1 ratio and increase if needed.

15. Arugula

Arugula is another green that can add bulk to basil-based dishes. Yet, it also provides a sharp flavor and peppery taste in recipes.

This swap is another affordable replacement. It is also easy to find at the grocery store in the refrigerated vegetable section.

You will not find arugula dried, so it’s best as a fresh basil swap.


Use arugula in fresh recipes like salads. Or, try it as a pizza topping, pasta enhancement, or soup flavoring agent.


This alternative offers a peppery flavor and has a tougher consistency. These differences are more noticeable in uncooked recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and increase if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There a Difference Between Dried Basil vs. Fresh Basil?

Yes, there is a difference between dried basil vs. fresh basil. The flavor of dried basil is much bolder than that of fresh basil. In comparison, fresh basil offers a milder taste and different consistency to recipes. Fresh basil is also only available while in season. It’s easy to swap dry basil to fresh basil and vice versa.

What Tastes Similar to Basil?

Besides oregano, thyme, celery leaf, and mint are all excellent basil substitutes. Each of these choices shares flavor notes with basil. While their flavor is not an exact match, they all provide a delicious flavor to recipes.

What Can I Use to Replace Basil in Tomato Sauce?

A fresh basil substitute is an excellent option for replacing dried basil. Otherwise, spinach leaves work well in tomato sauce as a substitute for fresh basil. While it does not offer a similar taste, it mimics fresh basil leaves’ shape, size, and color.

Can You Substitute Oregano for Basil?

Yes, you can substitute oregano for basil. It is one of the closest basil substitutes for flavor, size, and color. Oregano offers a spicy and sweet taste to recipes, along with earthiness. 

What Do You Substitute for Basil in Pesto??

The best options to substitute basil in pesto are leafy greens and fresh parsley. Use 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley to substitute for 1/2 cup of fresh basil in a pesto.


Try one of the above substitutes for basil when looking for a unique flavor in your favorite recipes. This is better than dashing out to the store to buy more basil when you run out.

Oregano is the best basil substitute. Due to their flavor, thyme and Italian seasoning are also great options to replace basil. You could substitute one tablespoon of dried oregano or thyme for 1 cup of fresh basil in a soup or pasta sauce.

Celery leaves are an excellent alternative if you want a subtler flavor in recipes. You can use parsley, cilantro, or any other leafy vegetable as substitutes for basil in salads. If you are out of basil, you can go buy some more at the store. Or, you can find a substitute right there in your kitchen. We have a whole list of them here.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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