Italian dishes, especially pasta always calls for a handful of this herb, basil. Basil is a herb that comes first from my herb garden and my bottles of dried herbs. I love the flavors of both the dried ones and the fresh basil leaves. It brings up so many dishes and it is, honestly, I can’t live without in my kitchen.
Even with all the different recipes for pesto that uses other greens rather than basil is also recipes that I love, nothing compares to the taste of a basil pesto. But even so, there will be times that my dried basil has run out and my fresh pesto from the garden does not have a decent amount of harvest. And so, I always turn to a basil substitute.
Even if basil is pretty much considered as a staple in some people’s kitchens, there are also people who don’t particularly like the flavor of this herb. And so they search for alternatives for basil in cooking with a milder flavor. In this post, we will look into this herb a little deeper, and also give you useful alternatives that you may use in your dishes.
Basil–A universal herb
Basil was around for so many years and the Italians started using them in their dishes a long time ago. Though it is also used in so many parts of the world, the place where the best tomato sauces came from is also the place where basil used almost every day.
It is used in so many Italian dishes as this herb is also known as a symbol of love in Italy. But this herb is actually a native of subtropical regions of Asia and Africa that spread through the entire world.
It serves a lot of medicinal properties and also full of vitamins and minerals that eating it is not only delicious but really really healthy. Having basil in your pantry of in your garden is easy. Growing it takes a little care and can actually be grown indoors. You can easily dry them and store them in different ways to make it last.
Basil, in different regions or countries, means lots of things. Aside from being a pantry staple, it could also be an ornament because this plant can appear really pretty. There is a variety of basil that with purple leaves that can serve as a decorative plant and a cooking herb at the same time.
In England, it serves as a good gift to visitors, in Africa, it is a medicine for scorpion and snake bites. In Greece, however, it is a sign of poverty and will only grow if shouted upon. It is very interesting how basil got all these labels and these meanings.
But for now, in almost every part of the world, it is known to give life and flavor to your tomato sauces, lift the flavor of pizza and make the best pesto.
In substituting basil, one thing that you should take into consideration is the taste. And it is the main thing to consider since the texture and the color is shared with common herbs or vegetables available. Basil has a combination of sweet and spicy flavors. It is rich with a hint of clove, licorice, and mint.
This flavor profile makes it very versatile for use in the kitchen to different cuisines around the world. The fragrance of basil makes a dish pop up and change with just a dash of it. In fact, it goes with tons of dishes and with almost any kind of protein and seafood available.
What Substitutes Can You Use In Place Of Basil?
Oregano is another herb that is commonly used in the kitchen. Like basil, it shares a long history of use from the kitchen and up to medicinal purposes. The flavor profile of oregano is not that far from basil which makes it a great substitute. Though unique with its woodsy and warm flavor, it also shares the fresh and sweet notes that basil has.
You can substitute oregano for cooking pasta, making tomato sauces, and cooking meat. Oregano is good in chicken and making burgers. It will also make a good pesto! Just substitute is for basil and you will get a warm, woodsy flavored pesto best enjoyed with salads, with vegetables and as toppings on bread.
Thyme is another staple in one’s kitchens. This herb with small leaves that are commonly used with the sprigs brings a lot of flavor in a dish without being overwhelming. Thyme also shares the minty and fragrant flavor profile of basil which also makes it a good substitute or companion in cooking.
The flavor profile is really earthy, with hints of mint, caraway, and orange. This basil substitute is often used in cooking steaks as it reduces the strong flavors and tones it down with its fresh and woodsy aroma.
You can totally use thyme as a good substitute for basil when cooking sauces and stews. But I can’t recommend using it for pesto. It will do great on Italian dishes and also with French and Mediterranean cuisines.
Substitutes For Making Pesto:
Only a few leaves of basil are used in our dishes, but we use a lot of it in making your pesto. So we included some substitutes that you might wanna try in place of basil. This will also do well for those who love pesto but don’t seem to like the flavor of basil on it. And so using half basil and half of this herbs or vegetables will do. You can also opt to fully use these substitutes.
If you want to try an additional layer of flavor to your basil pesto or want a new taste for it fully, parsley is a good substitute. The pesto made with this herb may come differently to the flavors you are used to cooking with basil but gives a great flavor and really delicious. You can substitute it for the equal amount of basil that the pesto recipe calls for.
The flavors will be fresh, sweet and a bit bitter. It compliments garlic, cheese, and other pesto ingredients. This herb creates a great pesto that is just delicious in pasta, meat and a topping on bread and salads.
Hearing kale, you will always think about kale chips, kale salad, and other kale recipes that some people is just finding it hard to love. Kale has a flavor profile that is bitter and peppery. Bitter flavors help to bring up your appetite and so making a kale pesto can make your meal better.
Kale pesto is not only tasty but also very healthy. We always hear every mother nagging us to eat our kale chips and we can’t blame them. It is packed with nutrients that our bodies need. Flavor wise, I love it with the pine nuts and the parmesan.
If you don’t love the bitter kale taste, you can choose to have the sweeter variation which is the smaller-leaf kale. Just remember that the leaf size is the indicator of flavor.
Spinach is another green leafy vegetable that is known in the culinary world and also another vegetable that we are forced to eat when we were kids. Spinach is indeed very healthy, but the bitter flavor is a bit pronounced.
Still, turning it into pesto lessens the bitterness a lot because of the oil that is included in the recipe. You can opt to use half basil and half spinach and have a milder basil flavor in your pesto. You can also opt to make a pure spinach pesto and it will do as a healthy dressing on salads and to your pasta!
Arugula is a herb that perfectly makes final touches on a meat dish or a salad. The flavor profile is quite peppery and also tastes bitter; it also has a hint of nuts and a light mustard. These flavors make a good pesto and also a good addition to pizza to substitute for basil.
It is also great for soups. If there is another herb that will the list of a must have in my kitchen, Arugula will totally make it on the list.
For pesto, it will totally do great as a topping for your pizza, pasta, and salads. You can also opt to mix it with your basil to create a good layer of fresh and peppery flavors.
Asparagus (This is unusual but awesome!)
Another vegetable that you can use as a substitute for basil on pesto is asparagus. Asparagus is very light and earthy flavors which intensify when mixed with cheeses and other pesto ingredients. I personally love asparagus pesto in place of basil in some days that I want a healthy and light dressing. I also put it on some roasted vegetables and salads.
In making asparagus pesto, grill it first in the oven with some salt and pepper for more tasty results.
Basil is a definitely a must-have in the kitchen. But upon looking into great basil substitute, it is amazing to see that the available substitutes are easy to find. I am sure that even if you don’t have basil, you will have a substitute from the list that will be available in your pantry or garden.
In terms of the pesto, it is great to try the other substitute because it actually makes great pesto with its different flavors. Try it out and you might be surprised and have a new favorite. What about you? What basil substitutes do you use? Comment below and let us know! Also, help us spread the word and share this post! Until next?