The Best Herb For A Last-Minute Basil Substitute

There are few things as tasty as the aromatic basil, with its herby and peppery zest. Basil isn't just for garnishing pizzas and pasta, though. This herb is also prominently featured in many sauces, soups, and even cocktails. But imagine this: One day, you're craving a pesto caprese panini, you reach for your basil, and find your stash has vanished. What's your game plan?


In such a pinch, look around for some dried oregano. This herb — also popular in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine — shares basil's peppery bite, though it leans more earthy than sweet. So, it won't be a perfect match for basil, but in a culinary emergency, it'll do the trick.

You can directly substitute dried oregano for dried basil, one for one. If it's your first time trying this swap, consider starting with half the amount of oregano and adjusting to taste. This way, you can gradually explore the herb's intensity in your dish.

Italian seasoning and Tarragon are runner-ups

Don't have oregano? Keep on searching in your pantry. This time, see if you have any spare Italian seasoning or dried tarragon hanging around. Both of these should also work excellently as substitutes for dried basil.


Within Italian seasoning is a blend of various herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. The composition can vary by brand, but they should all contain some basil, making it a fitting alternative, especially if you're prepping some Italian dishes. Since this mix is a combination of several potent herbs, use it sparingly — a 2:1 ratio (half the amount of Italian seasoning to the basil called for) should suffice to avoid overpowering your dish.

Lastly, dried tarragon, with its unique licorice-like sweetness and subtle peppery undertone, can also step in for basil. Its robust flavor means you should use it more conservatively. A good rule of thumb is to substitute basil with tarragon at a 2:1 ratio, using half the amount of tarragon to maintain the balance of flavors in your recipe.


Fresh oregano or mint when subbing fresh basil

Fresh basil stands in a league of its own compared to its dried counterpart. Its flavor is gentler, less concentrated, yet it brings a vibrant aroma to dishes. The whole leaves are particularly prized for garnishing — a sprinkle of dried herbs doesn't look quite as good as a sprig of fresh basil green on top of a plate of Ligurian pesto pasta.


But if fresh basil is out of the question, you can still go for fresh oregano. It closely mirrors basil in flavor, texture, and looks, making it a seamless substitute. A sprig of fresh oregano can beautifully garnish a bowl of basic tomato soup.

For a slightly unconventional yet just as effective alternative, consider fresh mint. It shares the green, leafy appearance of basil and, despite its distinctive cool, minty flavor with a hint of bitterness, mint can surprisingly complement dishes in basil's absence. Who knows, the zesty kick of mint might just become your new favorite.