Basil is one of the most popular culinary herbs in the United States. At home, in a variety of cuisines, you would be hard-pressed to find a kitchen in the country that doesn’t have basil in some form or fashion in it.
Fresh herbs are always the best option, but there are times when you might not have fresh basil leaves handy and no way of getting any. That is when you ask yourself, can I use dried basil instead of fresh basil.
In this guide, we will look at:
- The where, when, and how of substituting dried for fresh basil.
- How fresh and dried basil tastes compare.
- Tricks for working with dried basil.
- How to preserve basil for later use.
- How long dried herbs last.
We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s begin.
So, can I use dried basil instead of fresh basil?
You can use dried basil instead of fresh basil in many applications, but not all.
Dried basil works fine in sauces or for seasoning foods before they are cooked. The flavor will have time to blend with the other ingredients, and the basil will have an opportunity to rehydrate.
If you try replacing fresh basil with dried basil in cocktails, salads, tartare, or deserts, your results will be less than ideal. Dried basil has the texture of late autumn leaves. It’s not very pleasant.
If you find it necessary to replace fresh basil with dried, remember that you should only use 2/3 of the amount called for in the recipe. If your recipe asks for 3 Tablespoons of crushed fresh basil leaves, 2 Tablespoons of dried basil should suffice.
Is dried basil as good as fresh basil?
Is dried basil as good as fresh basil? It depends.
Dried basil has a more robust minty flavor than fresh, which could be a positive. Unfortunately, to gain this minty edge, you lose much of the anise and licorice notes that define the character of basil, a definite negative.
As to their relative value, that will depend on your personal taste preferences.
How much dried basil equals a cup of fresh basil?
In most uses, 2/3 cup of dried basil will deliver the same strength of flavor as one cup of fresh basil leaves.
How do you preserve fresh basil for later use?
There are several ways you can preserve fresh basil if you find yourself with more than you can use immediately. Which is best depends on how long you need to keep them.
If you only need to keep your basil leaves fresh for a couple of days, then treat them as you would a cut flower.
Remove the lower leaves from the stem. Use these first if possible.
Place them in a vase or jar with water and sit them out of direct sunlight. It is best not to allow the water to touch the actual leaves. Wet leaves will turn black quickly.
Change the water out at least once a day and trim the stem if it gets mushy. Your basil should stay fresh and vibrant for several days.
Long Term Storage
There are two popular ways to preserve fresh basil for later use.
The first is very simple, freezing.
Loosely crush the leaves and place them in a shallow dish or ice tray. Cover with olive oil and place in the freezer. This method is best if you are storing your basil for later use in pesto or similar dishes.
Basil leaves frozen in olive oil will last for months with no ill effects.
The second method for the long-term preservation of basil leaves is to dry them. You can use a food dehydrator, warm oven, or even sundry them. Just lay the basil on a rack, allow them to dry, then crush or grind, and place them in airtight jars as you would any seasoning.
What can I substitute for fresh basil?
Fresh basil is a joy to cook with, but there may be times you want something a little different, or it simply isn’t available. That’s when you need to know what you can substitute for fresh basil.
Here are five goto basil alternatives and some other options you can try.
1. Dried Basil
The closest flavor you will find to fresh basil is dried basil. Dried basil has a mintier taste and is missing some of those sharp licorice and anise notes, but it is still the best choice in many recipes.
2. Italian Seasoning
Italian Seasoning is typically a blend of sweet basil with minor amounts of oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and black pepper. While Italian seasoning is very different from fresh basil, it does bring that classic Mediterranean flavor to the table.
Note that since Italian Seasoning is a blend, you will need to adjust all the spices in your recipe.
3. Spinach leaves
Spinach leaves have a milder taste than basil, but they deliver the beautiful green color and vibrancy that people love about pesto. Use spinach leaves in place of fresh basil in pesto, stir-fries, and Asian dishes.
Oregano is another Italian classic. Much more intense than fresh basil, the amount of oregano required for a recipe will only be ½ to 2/3 the amount of basil you would use.
Thyme and basil are closely related. Thyme has a warmer flavor than most varieties of basil and more of a citrus punch. Be cautious using thyme. It has a beautiful flavor but can go from perfect to being overwhelming very quickly.
Other possible substitutes for basil include:
- Celery Leaf
How do you use dried basil?
Dried basil is used in much the same way as fresh basil but with a few caveats. It has a more pungent, minty taste than fresh with less of the anise edge. You should only use about 2/3 the amount of dried basil as you would fresh and then work your way up.
Where can I use dried basil?
You can use dried basil in sauces, dressings, marinades, or as a rub before grilling. The idea is to allow it to rehydrate before eating.
places to avoid using dried basil include:
Do dry herbs expire?
If properly stored, dry herbs and spices don’t expire. At least not in a classic sense. What will happen to stored dry herbs over time is that they will lose their potency, flavor, and color.