Your Guide to All the Different Types of Basil
Does your recipe call for basil? Turns out there are plenty of types of basil to choose from.
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Basil is a kitchen herb in the mint family. Although it’s native to India, basil is used in a wide number of cuisines, from Italian to Thai and Vietnamese foods. While sweet basil might be the most commonly used variety, there are several different kinds, each with a unique flavor profile.
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Sweet basil is the most common variety at the grocery store. If your recipe doesn’t specify what kind of basil to use, it probably calls for sweet basil. This type of basil has dark green, glossy leaves and a sweet but slightly spicy flavor. Use it to make pesto or a caprese salad.
Thai basil is strong and bold, with a spicy, licorice-like flavor. The leaves are smaller and pointier, and the plant produces beautiful purple flowers. This type of basil holds up well to high-temperature cooking, so don’t be afraid to add it to your favorite stir-fry recipe.
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Holy basil (also called tulsi) is a sacred plant in Hinduism. It’s used for medicinal purposes in Ayurveda, but you’ll also find it in many Thai dishes like pad kra pao. It can taste bitter when consumed raw, so it’s best to cook with this type of basil.
As its name suggests, this type of basil isn’t green like most herbs. It’s a vibrant purple color with larger-than-normal leaves. It’s not as sweet as other basil varieties, and it has a strong clove flavor. We don’t recommend cooking it, as it turns an unappealing black color when heated, but it’s perfect for use in salads, pesto or any of your other favorite ways to use fresh basil.