Basil vs. Thai Basil

Do you know that your favorite herb, basil, comes in different varieties? Green thumbs probably have an idea, but most of us are still confused about basil varieties. The most common types are Thai basil, Lemon basil, Italian basil, Cinnamon basil, and Genovese basil. But today, let us focus more on the Thai basil. What makes it different from basil alone? Can you substitute one for the other? Let us get to know more below. 

What Are The Differences of Thai Basil vs. Basil

Let us get the basics first!

What is a Thai Basil

Thai basil is a tropical plant that has been used since ancient times by Ayurvedic practitioners to treat various ailments, including fever, colds, coughs, flu, stomach ache, indigestion, diarrhea, etc. It also helps with weight loss as well as boosts immunity. This type of basil originated in Southeast Asia, specifically in Thailand. But years passed, and people have learned to mix it in several dishes. It gives a licorice-like or anise-like flavor when cooked or added to dishes.

Thai basil leaves can be dark green, light green, purple, red, white, yellowish, pinkish, or even brownish, depending on their age. They grow up to 6 inches long and 1/2 inch wide that shows purple stems or green stem. It also has more sturdy leaves, even after cooking. 

How do you compare Basil and Parsley?

What Can You Use Thai Basil For

The uses of this culinary herb include cooking, adding to salads, soups, stir-fries, curries, rice, pasta, pizza, sandwiches, desserts, beverages, ice cream, and much more. It can brighten and freshen up the taste of your dish, whether it is dried or fresh. It is usually mixed into Asian cuisines like green curries, drunken noodles, braised eggplant, or Thai basil chicken. 

Is Thai Basil Different From Basil

Yes. There is no doubt that they look similar. However, their flavors differ greatly. Thai basil gives a sweet taste with a licorice flavor. Meanwhile, the Holy basil leaves have a peppery and spicy taste. It is a type of perennial shrub that grows wides as 1 to 2 feet tall. So if you want to use them interchangeably, then yes, you can do so. You just need to adjust the number of herbs accordingly. For example, add 2 tablespoons of Thai basil instead of 4 cups of holy basil. Or vice versa. 

Can you substitute regular basil for Thai basil?
Can you substitute regular basil for Thai basil?

How is Thai basil different from regular basil?

Let’s define “Regular” basil, as the sweet basil that is common in supermarkets and consists of a sweet, “Italian recipe” flavor.

There are heaps of style and different kinds of basil, and some do taste very different. Even within the “Sweet” basil category, there are many kinds, and they all have similar tastes: Examples are Nufar Basil, Genovese Basil, and columnar basil.

Other Types of Basil
  • Italian Basil
  • Vietnamese Basil
  • Persian Basil
  • Mexican Basil
Does Thai basil taste different?
Does Thai basil taste different?

What Is Basil

This fresh herb belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which includes mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, and many others. These all share some similarities such as being aromatic, having medicinal properties, and growing easily indoors. In fact, these herbs were once considered weeds until someone realized how useful they could be. Basil can also be called sweet basil or Italian basil. This is the type that is commonly sold in grocery shops, which is used in pasta and pizzas. 

Basil looks like a small bunch of thin stems covered in tiny lacy green leaves. Some may call it “basilic” because it resembles the shape of a bishop’s hat. Others say it looks like a cross between a pineapple leaf and a fern. Either way, it is easy to recognize. 

What Can You Use Basil For

It is widely known for its culinary purposes. People love using it in sauces, dressings, dips, marinades, pestos (see what pesto tastes like), salsas, spreads, and condiments. It adds a nice aroma to food while enhancing the overall flavor, even if used in basil cocktail. If you do not already own any, now would be a good time to start buying some. 

Can you buy dried Thai basil?
Can you buy dried Thai basil? – Yes at you local store or online – e.g McCormick Gourmet

Final Thoughts

As a wrap-up, just remember that Thai basil has a licorice taste with a hint of something spicy, while regular basil is more of an aromatic herb with a sweet taste. They differ in their flavor profile, but you can substitute one from each other with only a slight difference in the food. Lastly, make sure to buy organic basil whenever possible. That way, you will get the best quality of basil plants for your Asian cuisine at affordable prices.