Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil? (ANSWERED)

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Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil

Trying to figure out if you can use basil instead of parsley? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about swapping these two ingredients. Let’s get started!

In General, Can I Use Basil Instead of Parsley?

parsley flavors

Swapping basil for parsley is probably acceptable in most cases. While the flavors of these two herbs are certainly different, you aren’t going to make the dish offensive by making the swap. Basil tends to have a bit of a stronger flavor, so keep in mind that if you’re using it instead of Parsley you may want to add less to the dish and taste it. You can always go back and add more later!

Both Basil and Parsley have pleasant, fresh flavors which add a nice touch to any dish. However, the two have very distinct flavor profiles. They are not related, and both have different families.

Basil comes from the Lamiaceae family which includes herbs such as mint and oregano. These herbs are known for their “minty”, fresh, peppery flavor. Although the flavors vary, they are similar in their taste profiles. 

Parsley is part of the Apiaceae family, also known as the Umbelliferae family. They include such plants as Queen Anne’s Lace, Dillweed, celery, and coriander. 

The flavors of parsley and other Apiaceae are citrus, strong, and bitter. They have a very grassy-like flavor which makes them taste rather bitter, so it is difficult to do a 1 to 1 replacement for the mild, sweet, minty basil. 

If used to replace basil, it must be for a dish that will be complemented by the strong, herbaceous flavor of parsley without the anticipation that it will emulate basil.

Some Useful Pointers

parsley vinaigrette

  • For Salads: Keep in mind that the flavor profiles are not the same for these herbs, however, when added to salads they can be exchanged. Both have a fresh and bright color which would complement any fresh, green salad nicely and add a kick of flavor and nutrition. 
  • For Sauce: If you wanted to replace Basil with Parsley in tomato sauce it may be difficult. Parsley and basil are actually used in tomato sauce together already and are loved for their distinctive flavors. If you’re in a pinch though, you may want to add a little extra sweetener to compensate for the lost sweetness provided by the basil and to cover the bitterness of the parsley.
  • For Vinaigrette: With vinaigrette dressings, we come up against a similar issue as with basil. While parsley can’t replace the basil flavor, it can be used in a savory vinaigrette if you do not have basil but still want that fresh taste. In other words, as long as you don’t expect it to taste like basil, parsley works nicely in this dressing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil in Pesto?

parsley pesto

You can use parsley instead of basil in pesto, just keep in mind that it’s going to taste a little bit different than what you might be used to. Since basil has that sweet, cool, and herby flavor, swapping it with parsley will result in a pesto that tastes more earthy and peppery. However, it will still be delicious and refreshing!

If you are concerned about the bitterness being overwhelming, try to add just a touch of lemon or lime juice. Believe it or not, the acids in these juices actually help to tame the bitterness of the parsley. 

Parsley pesto can taste wonderful, just don’t expect it to taste exactly like “regular” pesto.

If you find that the flavor of parsley is too strong, you may want to “cut” it with spinach or another green.

Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil in Bruschetta?

parsley bruschetta

Yes – you can swap out basil for parsley and still get a delicious bruschetta! It’s not going to taste exactly the same as “traditional” bruschetta, but will still be refreshing and delicious.

For some more context: 

Bruschetta usually is a blend of olive oil, garlic, basil, and tomatoes. It’s added on small slices of Italian bread which is toasted and served as an appetizer. To recreate this experience without basil is a little difficult but possible.

Parsley can make its own delicious version of this appetizer. Again, keep in mind that parsley is a bitter, citrusy herb that is distinctive from basil and you want to be careful what you pair it with. 

If you were to create a bruschetta using parsley, most recipes advise you to tweak the recipe a bit. Use lemon along with the other ingredients to offset the bitterness of parsley in bruschetta, and be sure to increase some of the pepper to compliment the strong taste of the parsley. 

Can I Use Parsley Instead of Basil for Garlic Bread?

curly parsley

Garlic bread can go well with both parsley or basil. Both mix well with the salty, buttery garlic sauce that is placed on the bread. The cooking process also helps to bring out the earthy tones nicely to compliment the richness of the butter. 

One thing you want to be careful of is to use flat-leaf or Italian parsley rather than the curly variety. Curly parsley does not cook as well as the flat-leaf variety, and if you want the flavors to be captured well during the baking process, the Italian variety is best for garlic bread.

Do You Add Parsley or Basil to Pasta?

When garnishing pasta or making a sauce, you can add parsley and/or basil! It doesn’t matter if you only want to add one or add both. The flavors of parsley and basil are not going to clash so it’s perfectly acceptable to mix the two.

Which is Better, Basil or Parsley?

basil primary flavor

Whether basil or parsley is better depends a lot on what you plan on cooking, and what flavor profile you like best. Although there are some distinctive differences in their overall health benefits. 

While both of these herbs are highly praised for their health and medicinal purposes, parsley does surpass basil in most regards. Both have high levels of vitamin C, K, calcium, and antioxidants. However, parsley does come out on top for most of these vitamin counts. 

However, as far as cooking goes, basil is more straightforward to cook with, with its sweetness and complimenting flavors of anise. Whereas parsley is rather bitter and earthy, and even though some do really love this flavor, it is difficult to find as many fans for parsley as for basil. 

Additionally, the quantities of these herbs which are used in each dish are usually different as well. Basil can easily take center stage as a flavor in a dish without people disliking it. However, parsley can be difficult as the primary flavor of a dish. 

To conclude, neither is really better than the other for cooking. However, basil definitely has broader uses and tends to be the main flavor in more dishes than parsley. But, parsley makes a fabulous flavor to add to complement a large variety of dishes.