Difference Between Parsley And Basil

Parsley VS Basil: How They're Different and When to Use Each

Where did Parsley and Basil originate?
How does basil differ from parsley?
Does basil or parsley go on pasta?
Can you use basil instead of parsley?
Are parsley and basil the same plant?
The difference between basil and parsley is that Basil consists of big, circular leaves, with a subtle minty taste and fresh fragrant smell. Parsley has smaller leaves that are serrated with a taste more bitter, woody, and slightly spicy flavor.

Basil adds freshness to both sweet and savory recipes especially pasta.

Parsley is a dark green that brightens up all styles of recipes and dishes, especially as a garnish.

Basil is very common and popular in Italian cooking, but it also is present and plays a very important role in most asian recipes.

Parsley VS Basil: What is the Difference?

Two of the tastiest and healthiest green leafy herbs that add flavor to your dishes are Parsley and Basil. 

These two fresh herbs are similar in many ways but have different applications and nutrients.
Let us familiarize ourselves and learn more about these two herbs - doing this for each herb will enable us to understand these handy herbs, how they work - what to add with them (e.g lemon zest).

We will give you the complete comparison between the culinary herb pair from their looks down to their nutrients to give you a better understanding, enhance your cooking, and may even help you with some health issues.

So what are the distinctions between the two herbs?

Let us get started!

Parsley Vs Basil: Origin

Where did Parsley and Basil originate?

Parsley is a fresh herb that originated in the Mediterranean region around western Asia and Europe. The Greeks believe that parsley came from a greek hero, Archemorous, the forerunner of death.

According to their mythology, this woody herb was evil yet at the same time, sacred. During wars, parsley leaves were usually given to the warriors to provide physical strength during the battle.
Throughout history, parsley was believed to have several strange and mysterious uses. "De'eis thai selinon" was the Greek expression meaning, "to need only parsley," which is similar to "one foot in the grave." Moreover, the Greeks placed parsley on athletes and also on the tombstones of the dead. Another belief that has persisted for curly parsley is to never cut it while you are in love or else it would destroy your love. - We really were a superstitious bunch!

For 2,000 years, flat leaf parsley and its many other forms have been cultivated by Charles the Great and his followers - he was a Holy Roman Emperor, who had it grown all over his property and therefore making the herb popular all over the empire.

On the other hand, Sweet Basil is falsely believed to have originated in Italy. It actually originated in India and was brought to the Mediterranean countries via the spice routes in ancient times and has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years.

It is known as Tulsi in Hindu, meaning "Sacred Basil." If you are familiar with Indian cooking, you would know that the varieties of Basil (e.g thai basil) these are normally incorporated in their dishes. 

Now, one of the most popular varieties is the Sweet Basil (Ocimum bacilicum), which is commonly used in popular Italian cooking to reduce the dominance of the mint flavor.

And while Basil has a long history in culinary traditions, it is also rich in other uses of society, particularly in Egypt. The Egyptians used basil as an embalming and preserving herb (mummification process), and remnants were commonly found in mummies and tombs. Eventually, it became a symbol of mourning in Greece and was known as basilikon phuton, meaning magnificent, kingly, or royal herb.

For the Jewish culture, basil is believed to be a symbol of added strength while fasting. In Greece, it is symbolized as hate; in Portugal, it is known for being a part of a gift for a lover on some religious holidays; for the Hebrew, it is used during the celebrations of the Passover.

As you can see, both Parsley and Basil have more uses than being just part of your culinary or recipe ingredients. Across many cultures and traditions, the two culinary herbs have a variety of uses, influence, and of importance.

Parsley Vs Basil: Nutrition

How do Parsley and Basil differ in nutritional profile?

They are very similar when it comes to nutritional profiles.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, a 100 gram of chopped parsley consists of:

  • 3.3 g of fiber
  • 0.9 g of sugar
  • 0.8 g of fat
  • 36 calories
  • 3.0 g of protein
  • 6.3 g of carbohydrate

Moreover, a 100 gram of parsley also contains:

  • 1,640 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K
  • 2,050 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin K
  • 133 mg of vitamin C
  • 8,425 international units (IU) of vitamin A

While a 100 gram of fresh Basil consists of:

  • 1.6 g of fiber
  • 0.3 g of sugar
  • 0.6 g of fat
  • 23 calories
  • 3. g of protein
  • 2.7 g of carbohydrates

Moreover, a 100 grams also contains:

  • 415 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K
  • 518 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin K
  • 18 mg of vitamin C
  • 5.276 international units (IU) of vitamin A

As seen above, parsley contains more nutrition than basil. Adding these leafy herbs into your diet not only improves presentation and flavor to dishes but also your nutrition.

Both herbs are great sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Further data have also shown that they are also the perfect source of antioxidants that can help regulate oxidation in the body, thus prevents high sugar levels and prevents insulin resistance.


Parsley Vs Basil: Health Benefits

What are the top health benefits of Parsley and Basil?

Parsley and basil have advantages in the human body that greatly affects health.

Health benefits of parsley according to the health experts:

1. Improves bone health

Parsley has a high amount of vitamin K, which makes it perfect for improving bone health by increasing calcium absorption and reducing the urine's calcium excretion. Ten sprigs of parsley are already enough to meet the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.

2. Prevents cancer

Parsley has shown that it has a high amount of myricetin, which is essential in preventing skin cancer. Myricetin is a flavonoid usually found in green leafy vegetables, particularly in parsley. Also, parsley has Apigenin - a natural chemical that is proven to decrease tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer.

3. Protects against diabetes

Again, myricetin found in parsley can also be a good source in preventing and treating diabetes. Myricetin can lower blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance and at the same time, removes excess fat from the blood and provides anti-inflammatory effects.


Advantages of basil to the human body:

1. Prevents cancer

The phytochemicals found in basil can help the human body protect against some types of cancer such as skin cancer, lung cancer, oral cancer, and liver cancer.

2. Prevents heart disease

The eugenol content in basil can block calcium channels that result in lowering blood pressure. Basil also has a high content of magnesium, which is a great source of improving blood flow by allowing the blood vessels and muscles to relax.

3. Reduces oxidative stress

The high amount of antioxidants such as limonene, eugenol, anthocyanins, and beta-carotene have the ability to fight free radicals in the body that cause cell damage and increase the risks of diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and heart diseases.

Parsley Garnish
Parsley Garnish

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is Holy Basil?

Holy basil is a special type of basil that has become very famous for its supposed medicinal purposes.

I would not recommend using this variety for cooking as it has quite a peppery taste with an after taste of anise and clove. Some people also interpret the taste as somewhat metallic taste - like biting on foil.

What is Basil Used For?

Basil is most famous as the star ingredient in the recipe for pesto. It's also commonly employed in Caprese salads. And of course, you can not forget the flavor it brings to pasta recipes and sauces, both tomato-based and creamy.

What are the different types of parsley?

  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Curly leaf parsley
  • Japanese parsley
  • Italian Parsley
  • Hamburg or parsley root

Curly leaf parsley is the most common variety, which is usually dried and used in soups and stews. The flat leaf parsley has more flavor and is used in soups, salads, stews, and sauces. While the Hamburg parsley comes from the parsley's turnip-like root and is usually chopped, fried, or roasted to mix in stews or soups.

How does basil differ from parsley?

The aroma from basil is usually the first distinctive feature noticed. Both herbs come from different botanical families and vary in the aroma. Parsley is herbaceous and grassy without any sweet or minty aroma, unlike basil that has an intense aromatic smell, which is similar to mint or thyme.

What does parsley look like?

Parsley look like a serrated, broad, green leafy herb that varies in shape - curled or flat-leaf.

What does basil look like?

Basil's leaves are smaller and elongated that has similarities with mint. Its color ranges from green to purple but generally has purple stems.

Basil On Pasta
Basil On Pasta

Does basil or parsley go on pasta?

Yes. Leafy herbs like basil and pasta can certainly add more flavor to the pasta. Either pasta or basil can be added as a garnish to add extra presentation more than the flavor itself.

Are parsley and basil the same plant?

No. While both are green leafy herbs, they come from a different family. Parsley comes from the Apiaceae family and basil comes from the mint family. Also, they are different in taste and nutritional profile as mentioned above.

Can you use basil instead of parsley?

You can use both basil and parsley for a garnish - both look nice, but not for cooking the flavor profile is very different for each herb. So in some situations - Can you use basil in place of parsley and vice versa? Yes. Using a dried herb like dried parsley will also be similar.


See our article on herbs where we cover

  • Chives
  • Cilantro leaves (coriander)
  • Bay leaf
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic

Plus many more hardy herbs

If you have read above, both fresh herbs have a difference in their origin, uses, taste, nutritional profile, and benefits but both are considered to be significant in various cultures and in the culinary industry.

When comparing parsley and basil, remember that the most obvious differences are the looks and taste. Parsley looks like a broad leafy herb with a subtle taste while basil looks like a smaller leaf with a minty and more flavorful taste.

More than the differences, make sure that whether you eat parsley or basil, it should suit well to your diet. And most importantly, before eating one, it is best to have guidance from health professionals to have the best result.

rose chef
Hello !
I'm Rose
Welcome To One Pot Dish. I have spent 20 years as a professional Chef.  I make and test all my recipes before I share them with you.