In need of a basil substitute? Check out this list of 18 substitutes that you’ll likely have in your pantry to use in a pinch. We’re also going to dive in to basil’s unique flavor and why it’s so popular in different types of cuisines. Whip up some of these tasty recipes that use basil’s strong flavor!

Basil leaves are stacked on top of each other.

What is basil?

Basil is a common herb that tastes strong, sweet, and peppery in a variety of dishes. It is actually a member of the mint family, along with oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Basil is not only used for pasta sauces, tomato sauces, and Italian dishes, but also in Mediterranean dishes, Thai, and Indian food. 

Fresh basil leaves are green with a long and shiny rounded shape. You’ll find it in the vegetable/produce section at your grocery store.

A clear glass jar with a spoon scooping out a DIY seasoning mix made with Italian herbs.
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The Best Substitutes for Basil

Take a look into these EIGHTEEN substitutes, when to use them, and what their flavor profiles will do for your dishes:

1. Italian Seasoning

Italian seasoning works great in place of basil AND you probably already have it in your pantry! It contains many sister herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary. It’ll give a very similar flavor profile to basil. However, with the other herbs mixed in, it might not work for simple recipes that call for more streamlined flavors. (You might even have your own Italian Seasoning Blend on hand!)

Ratio: use a 2:1 ratio when replacing basil with Italian seasoning.

2. Fresh Oregano

Oregano is a good substitute for basil because it is used in many of the same dishes. It brings on that earthy, minty taste that basil provides. It’ll add a few of its own flavors to your dish, but it won’t be overpowering if you add the right amount.

Ratio: use a 1:2 ratio when replacing basil with oregano. 

Homemade Italian seasoning in a white bowl next to a jar of dried parsley.

3. Tarragon

Tarragon has a subtle bitterness, but an intense flavor which makes it a great substitute for basil. The leaves are smaller and longer than basil, so it will make your dish look different.

Ratio: a 1:1 ratio will work perfectly for this replacement.

4. Mint

When using mint, it’s best in simpler dishes because of its basic flavor. While less strong, basil has a more complex flavor profile than mint. However, you’ll definitely have that sweet, fresh flavor when using this substitute.

​Ratio: a 1:1 swap will be suitable for this substitution.

5. Thyme

Thyme will be one of the closest substitutions when it comes to finding a replacement for basil. It’s in the same herb family and provides a very similar taste. Thyme brings a bolder, more lemony flavor, but it won’t be too overpowering. 

Ratio: use ½ of what your recipe calls for with this substitution. 

Parsley, green onions, and fresh mint are chopped on a cutting board.

6. Dried Sage

Sage’s bold, earthy flavor makes it a great alternative to basil. Because it’s more coarse in texture, it can complicate the presentation of your dish. 

​Ratio: start with ½ of what the recipe calls for, then adjust from there.

7. Herbs De Provence

This spice blend of thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, and bay leaf adds great flavor as a basil alternative. Since there is a little basil in the blend, you’ll be getting hints of it throughout your dish, so you won’t even miss it! 

Ratio: start with ½ the measurement and add more if desired.

8. Rosemary

This herb elevates many dishes, which makes it a very versatile replacement. Rosemary and basil are included in many blends, so it pairs well with the same foods. Your flavor will shift, but it won’t be too overpowering when you use the right amount. 

Ratio: use ½ of what the recipe calls for before adding more.

Greek seasoning is an easy DIY spice blend made with common dried herbs and spices.

9. Fennel Seeds

Heated up fennel seeds bring in similar components of basil like warm and earthy flavors. It’s definitely not an exact flavor match, but it will do just the trick when you add it in small amounts.

Ratio: use ¼ of what the recipe calls for before adding more.

10. Celery Leaf

While this might be an unusual substitute, celery leaf actually matches the taste of basil very well. It has a slightly salty, earthy flavor. Whether it’s dried or fresh, it’s a great substitute for any kind of recipe.

Ratio: use a 1:1 ratio with this replacement.

11. Parsley

This herb is definitely one of the more affordable basil substitutes, and it’s likely that it’s in your pantry right now. Parsley brightens up dishes with its light flavor profile.

Ratio: use the exact amount and then some extra with this substitute. 

Greek seasoning is quick and easy to make as you combine common dried herbs and spices.

12. Spinach Leaves

While spinach is in the leafy greens family, it’s still a good option for basil alternatives. It provides a bulkiness that fresh basil offers in recipes like sauces and marinades. Its flavor is very subtle, so keep that in mind when you use it.

Ratio: use the same amount or double with this substitution. 

13. Arugula

​Arugula is not an herb, but it’s a great fresh basil substitute because of its sharp, peppery flavor. It works great in salads, pesto, pizza toppings, or flavor enhancements. 

Ratio: start with ½ of the amount the recipe calls for.

14. Cilantro

​Cilantro has a strong taste, so it might not be the top substitute to grab when you’re needing a basil replacement. While it’s a leafy green that provides a distinct flavor, it’ll brighten up any dish. 

Ratio: using the exact amount or a little less will work great.

Fresh cilantro is chopped finely.

15. Poultry Seasoning

Using a small amount of poultry seasoning is better than no basil replacement at all. This blend includes herbs like sage, thyme, nutmeg, and rosemary. Nutmeg adds a new level of warmth to the rest of the herbs that are very similar to basil

Ratio: start with ½ teaspoon and go from there.

​16. Flavored Oil

​While flavored oil might not be anything like the real thing, it’s still an easy substitute if you have it on hand. Any kind of herb-infused olive oil will elevate a dish.

Ratio: start small with ¼ teaspoon and add as you continue to cook. 

You can make your own sausage seasoning at home.

17. Savory

Winter and summer savory seasonings can work as great substitutions for basil. Use summer savory when you have a more peppery dish. Use winter savory when you have a more mild dish. 

Ratio: use the exact amount that the recipe calls for.

18. Lemon

Whether it’s the citrus fruit or salt, lemon can be an option in a pinch. It’ll bring a bright taste depending on the type of medium you use. If you’re using juice or zest, add the exact amount. If you’re using salt, add half before adding more if desired. 

5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

Fresh Basil vs. Dried Basil

Like any other fresh or dried herbs, fresh basil and dried basil can be used interchangeably. So, whenever you’re out of fresh basil, grab your dried basil in your spice rack.

The ability for dried to substitute for fresh will depend on the type of recipe you’re using. For example, it might not be the same if you’re making a Caprese salad, but it will taste the same in any other recipe that doesn’t specifically highlight fresh basil. 

Because it takes more fresh basil to match the strong flavor of dried basil, you’ll need to adjust the ratio when swapping one for the other.

Use 3 times the amount of fresh basil when the recipe calls for dried basil. Use ⅓ the amount of dried basil when the recipe calls for fresh basil.

Dried Basil Substitutes vs. Fresh Basil Substitutes

When it comes to dried basil, let dried oregano, Italian seasoning, and dried tarragon be your first options. These come close in texture and taste before the rest.

When it comes to fresh basil substitutes, let fresh oregano, spinach, fresh mint, and fresh cilantro be your top picks. These 4 substitutes are the closest to fresh basil in terms of soft texture, mild flavor, and hints of sweet and mint

4 Different Types of Basil

Did you know there are many different types in the basil family? There’s such a variety, but we’ll just be taking a look into 4 and when they are most commonly used.

Sweet Basil

Sweet basil is the most common type of basil found in Italian cuisine and Mediterranean cooking. Putting it in any sauce, marinade, or salad will add the perfect amount of freshness and flavor.

Thai Basil

Thai basil has a purple stem with dark leaves. It can taste like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, or peppermint and is used in Asian cuisine. 

Holy Basil

Holy basil is most commonly used in the Indian cuisine. It is also known as hot basil because it brings a strong, peppery taste to dishes where it’s added. 

Lemon Basil

Lemon basil is mainly featured in desserts. It has a slimmer leaf profile compared to sweet basil, and is lighter in color. You’ll find it in jams, cobblers, or ice creams. 

How do I know which basil substitute to use?

Use this at-a-glance table for basil substitution dishes best suited for certain cuisines:

MediterraneanOregano, Celery Leaves, Mint
ItalianOregano, Italian Seasoning, Flavored Oil, Savory, Parsley
FrenchTarragon, Parsley, Savory
MexicanCilantro, Oregano
ThaiCilantro, Mint
VegetablesRosemary, Savory
ChickenThyme, Tarragon, Poultry Seasoning, Rosemary, Fennel Seeds, Mint, Sage
FishTarragon, Herbs de Provence, Poultry Seasoning, Fennel Seeds, Sage
SaladsThyme, Celery Leaves, Spinach, Arugula, Cilantro, Flavored Oil (dressings), Lemon, Tarragon
Red MeatThyme, Poultry Seasoning, Fennel Seeds, Parsley, Rosemary
Sauce/MarinadeThyme, Italian Seasoning, Tarragon, Fennel Seeds, Celery Leaves, Parsley, Mint, Spinach, Flavored Oil, Oregano, Lemon
PestoCelery Leaves, Spinach, Arugula, Flavored Oil, Sage
Soup/StewCilantro, Savory, Sage
Dried oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in jars showing how to make a homemade Italian seasoning recipe.

The Best Basil Substitute

While there’s not a perfect fresh basil substitute aside from dried basil, your best bet would be oregano. Yes, all herbs and substitutions listed above do work, but usually oregano and basil are found in the same recipes and dish types. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what you like best, so test them out and see what you prefer!

Pro Tip

Always, always, always test out your basil substitution before adding it into the rest of your dish. 


Is there a difference between dried basil vs. fresh basil?

Yes, dried basil has a bolder flavor while fresh basil is milder.

What tastes similar to basil?

Oregano, thyme, Italian seasoning, mint, and cilantro have similar flavor profiles to basil.

What can I use to replace basil in tomato sauce?

To replace basil in tomato sauce, use thyme, Italian seasoning, tarragon, fennel seeds, celery leaves, parsley, mint, spinach, or oregano.

What do you substitute for basil in pesto?

For basil substitutions in pesto, use celery leaves, arugula, spinach, or sage. 

What’s the best basil substitute in bruschetta?

For a bruschetta basil substitute, you can use oregano, thyme, or marjoram.

What if I don’t have fresh basil?

If you don’t have fresh basil, use dried basil or fresh herbs.

Can I use parsley instead of basil?

Yes, parsley is a great basil substitute.

A glass jar full of a spaghetti sauce recipe with tomatoes and garlic in the background.

Favorite Recipes with Basil

If you happen to have basil on hand, read here to learn how to store basil!

No basil? No problem; you can try your hand at some of the substitutions above with any of the following recipes.

5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

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