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The 4 Best Substitutes for Thai Basil in Cooking

Have you considered cooking with Thai Basil but are unsure of how to go about it?

The intensely flavorful Asian herb is subtle yet offers great depth to dishes.

Oftentimes used in Southeast Asian cooking, Thai basil can be used in stir-fries, salads, curries, and more.

In case of lack of access to the herb, there are many alternatives that could offer a similar tasty result.

Learn the best substitutes for Thai Basil and incorporate them into your cookery.

What’s Thai Basil?

Thai basil, also known as horapha, is a type of basil originally cultivated in Thailand.

Its scientific name is Ocimum basilicum, and it has small purple flowers that may be used as an edible garnish.

Thai basil differs from other varieties of basil in its more robust, spicy aroma, with a hint of anise-like flavor.

Its leaves are particularly dark green, small, and glossy which lends itself to adding a delightful texture to dishes when used freshly.

Like other varieties of basil, Thai basil is generally used in Asian cuisine for dishes like curries and stir fry, designed to bring out its full flavor.

It’s also commonly found in noodle dishes or served atop grilled meats for an aromatic accent that many find irresistible.

The 4 Best Substitutes for Thai Basil in Cooking

If you’re looking for a substitute for Thai basil in your cooking, you may be surprised to learn that there are several options.

Here are the four best substitutes for Thai basil:

1 – Sweet Basil

Sweet basil is a unique herb native to India but widely admired around the world.

With its beautiful, glossy, dark green leaves and bright aroma, it is no wonder that it is sought after in many dishes.

The fresh taste with hints of licorice will pique the taste buds and enhance any dish.

Sweet basil has a soft texture that can be used as an ideal herb for marinades, pestos, and sauces.

It can spice up salads or pasta dishes easily and make them more enticing.

If you are looking to replace Thai basil in recipes, sweet basil will make a great substitute to keep the flavor profile of traditional Thai dishes intact.

2 – Lemon Basil

Lemon basil is an herb from the mint family that has tangy citrus notes.

It’s relatively easy to cultivate and can be used as a useful substitute for Thai basil when looking for an exotic flavor for an Asian-inspired dish.

The small, pointed leaves of lemon basil have a strong citrus aroma and thrive in sunny spots.

Although its fragrant taste may remind some people of lemongrass, it is milder and can easily adapt to any recipe by adding a bright and subtle licorice sweetness.

Lemon basil is mostly used raw, but it can be added to stews or cooked dishes as well – either fresh or dried – to enhance its flavor with zesty notes of lemons.

3 – Holy Basil

Holy basil is an aromatic herb native to India and Southeast Asia.

Its flavor profile is complex, having both spicy and sharp notes that are a favorite across cuisines from Indian to Thai.

Holy basil has an intense aroma, with the leaves being particularly fragrant.

The texture of holy basil is similar to that of other basils–soft and slightly fuzzy–but with a hint of peppery bite due to its active compounds.

To add it to your dishes, try swapping it in as a substitute for all or part of the Thai basil in your recipes; it’ll provide a more pungent flavor than regular sweet basil but won’t overwhelm the dish like Thai basil can.

4 – Cinnamon Basil

Cinnamon basil is a hybrid herb that combines the sweet and subtle taste of cinnamon with the fragrant aroma of Italian Basil.

It is an easy-to-grow herb that thrives in warm climates, bringing a touch of spice to any garden.

With its narrow, jagged leaves and deep purple stems, it’s certainly a sight to behold.

Besides its ornamental appeal, this variety packs a punch of flavor.

As you might expect from its name when consumed raw and fresh, it has a spicy infusion of both cinnamon and licorice notes that other varieties simply don’t have.

Alternatively, cooked dishes tend to bring out more of the basil flavor.

The beauty of cinnamon basil is that it can be used as an excellent substitute for Thai basil in dishes like Pad Krapo Gai or Gang Kiew Wan if desired.


In conclusion, there are several options available when looking for a substitute for Thai basil.

Sweet basil, lemon basil, holy basil, and cinnamon basil all offer unique flavor profiles that can be used as an excellent replacements in recipes.

Whether you’re looking to add zest to salads or just want to find the perfect herb for marinades and sauces, these four herbs provide the perfect balance of flavor, aroma, and texture to make any dish more exciting.

So for anyone looking for a great substitute for Thai basil in their cooking, these four options are sure to be a hit.

Yield: 1 Serving

The 4 Best Substitutes for Thai Basil in Cooking

The 4 Best Substitutes for Thai Basil in Cooking
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • Sweet Basil
  • Lemon Basil
  • Holy Basil
  • Cinnamon Basil


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.

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