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Thai Basil vs. Basil

Ever wonder what the difference between basil and Thai basil is? You’ll know what dishes and tastes Thai basil vs. basil are great with!

A shot of Thai Basil and Basil

Thai Basil vs. Basil

I was gifted an Aerogarden for my birthday this past year and it’s quickly become one of my favorite things. Fresh herbs whenever you’d like no matter the weather or time of year! 

Two of the seed pods that came with the starter kit were Thai basil and basil which I’ve come to find out are just two of many different basil varieties. They both grew like crazy leaving me with an abundance of herbs to figure out what to do with.

The biggest thing I wanted to know was the difference between them and how each would work in a dish. Once you see them together, you’ll immediately know the difference and can taste all of the different flavors.

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A closeup of Thai Basil and Basil leaves

What is the difference between Thai basil and basil?

Physically, Thai basil leaves are sturdier, more narrow, and have almost a serrated edge to them. They also have purple stems which is also a good trait to look for if you’re able to find them in a store. 

The basil that you’re more likely to recognize at the grocery store is most likely Italian sweet basil. It’s got a shinier finish and has much more round leaves that tend to be a little more floppy and delicate.

In terms of taste, Thai basil smells like anise and has a more licorice smell with a slightly spicy taste. Sweet basil has the classic aroma that reminds you of pesto and has more of a clove like.

What is Thai basil?

Thai basil is a type of basil that originates in Southeast Asia. It’s got a stronger flavor than that of it’s sweet basil cousin with more of an anise flavor.

You can usually find Thai basil at a well-stocked grocery store or your local International or Asian market or grocery store. If you’ve never had it, or know the flavor it can bring to a dish, it’s worth searching for a source near you!

A closeup of Thai basil

Are Holy basil and Thai basil the same thing?

They are not! The main difference between Thai basil and holy basil is their flavor. Thai basil has a sweet, anise quality whereas holy basil is found to be spicy and peppery. 

Holy basil can often be called Thai holy basil making it confusing to differentiate that they are, in fact, not the same herb.

What kinds of dishes should I use Thai basil for?

You can use Thai basil in Southeast Asian or Thai cuisines like drunken noodles, Thai basil chicken, stir fries, or green curries. Adding fresh leaves to recipes like these Veggie Spring Rolls is an instant way to bring a bright and fresh taste to any dish! 

Can I substitute basil for Thai basil?

You can substitute basil for Thai basil in dishes if that’s all you have. It won’t have that same punch of flavor that Thai basil brings, so it could be worth adding other fresh herbs to help brighten the dish like mint or cilantro. 

A closeup of Basil

What is basil?

Genovese basil (Ocimum basilicum) is also Italian basil or sweet basil. It’s the basil that you’ll find at your grocery store and on top of your margherita pizzas! It’s often used in Italian dishes.

Is basil the same thing as sweet basil?

In the case of the basil that you’ll commonly find at the store, it is! You might hear it be called Italian basil as well. 

A shot of Thai Basil and Basil

What kinds of dishes should I use basil for?

Italian dishes are known for their use of basil! Creating a fresh pesto or caprese salad is always a good idea. Try this Sausage Caprese Stuffed Shells or this Caprese Turkey Burger with Balsamic Basil Mayo if you’re looking for that classic basil and tomato combination. 

If you’re looking to try something completely different, try making a basil simple syrup and trying out these Cantaloupe Basil Coolers which are perfect for the summer!


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Sam Ellis

Hey there! I'm Sam and if there are two things I love most in this world, it's food and travel... and my dog, Tucker. I'm using my little corner of the internet to explore everything I love and I'd love for you to join me!


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