What Does Basil Taste Like? 10 Wonderful Basil Types & Their Flavor (Spice up Your Herb Garden)

You must have noticed mint-like spices in Italian and Mexican cuisines. Indeed, that was basil. No doubt basil is from the mint family, but it doesn’t taste like it. Then, what does basil taste like?

The taste of basil varies in different cuisines. For instance, it tastes a bit spicy in Thai foods and bitter in Indonesian cuisines. Its flavor distinction is due to the varieties of basil they use in their cooking.

Surprisingly, there are 50 to 150 species of basil. All these species have their unique taste and smell. But, not all of them are used in cooking.

In this article, I’ve discussed the 10 most in-use basil types with their flavor. Moreover, you’ll find a complete guide on what does basil taste like. So stay tuned!

What Does Basil Taste Like?

Basil is a royal herb with a sharp and robust taste. Although it is pretty intense in flavor, it isn’t strongly bitter. Indeed, its taste is peppery, with an anise tinge. Overall, the taste depends on the type of basil you use. 

Typically, sweet basil tastes like mint with a little peppery kick. While Thai basil has a licorice flavor, it tastes savory. Meanwhile, some other varieties have a strong to the mild citrus taste profile.

As for fresh basil, it has a unique minty taste. It adds a refreshing taste to drinks and cuisine. Indeed, it enhances the flavor of whatever it is added to. It is usually used in toppings, salads, veggies, etc.

Dry basil is much different from fresh basil. It tastes more like oregano and is much mellower in flavor. Dried basil is widely used in sauces and soups for additional flavor. In contrast, the fresh stuff is best for salads and presentation.

Basil Nutrition Facts (Serving Size 100 Grams)

NutrientsAmountDV(%)
Calories23
Total Fat0.6 g1%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Sodium4 mg0%
Potassium295 mg8%
Total Carbohydrate (Dietary fiber 1.6 g, Sugar 0.3 g)2.7 g1%
Protein (Vitamin C 30%, Calcium 17%, Iron 17%, Vitamin D 0%, Vitamin B-6 10%, Cobalamin 0%, Magnesium 16%)3.2 g6%
Basil Nutrition Facts

Types of Basil and Their Flavor

Different types of basil are used in various cuisines. Each basil has its unique taste and smell that adds aroma and unique flavor to food and drinks. Here I mentioned the 10 most commonly used basil and what does basil taste like in different cuisines.

Sweet Basil

The most common basil species is Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum). It is sweet and savory, with a hint of anise, pepper, and mint. It has a milder flavor than Thai basil. This herb imparts a sweet and aromatic flavor to food. Indeed, it tastes great!

What does basil taste like? sweet basil taste great and is used frequently.

Most cuisines of the Mediterranean, mainly Italian, use sweet basil.

Pesto is made from basil leaves, and it adds a distinctive flavor to pizza, pasta, salads, and other dishes. Also, this herb is used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cuisine.

Cardinal Basil

Cardinal Basil is the ornamental herb in your spice garden. It is the most enchanting variety of the basil family. With thicker leaves and a licorice taste, it is spicier than traditional basil. You get a robust anise-licorice taste when you eat it.

Its spicy scent makes it a popular ingredient for flavoring vinegar and oils. Moreover, its torn leaves and powder basil uses in stews and soups to add intense flavor.

Related: Does Spicy Food Kill Bacteria?

Green Ruffles

Basil leaves with ruffled edges are aesthetically more pleasing. It is rich in taste and fragrance. Its tangy flavor makes the tongue happy.

Its taste is more complex than most basil, with multiple anises, cinnamon, citrus, etc. It is trendy in the culinary world. Also, its sauce goes perfectly with tomato-based dishes.

It works well in pasta dishes due to its mild flavor and delicate taste. Also, this basil’s ruffled leaves make it ideal for salads.

Basil (Purple Ruffles variety) growing in an organic field
Basil (Purple Ruffles variety) growing in an organic field

Cinnamon Basil

Cinnamon basil is an aromatic species of the basil family. Gardeners can use it as an ornamental plant that emits a spicy, fragrant scent. In cinnamon basil, methyl cinnamate is the chemical compound that imparts the cinnamon flavor.

The leaves and flowers of cinnamon basil are used to make beverages (teas, drinks) and baked goods (pie, cookies). Additionally, it is used in jellies, salad dressings, vinegar, and pasta to add flavor. Cinnamon basil is used outside the kitchen for decorative arrangements and potpourri.

Asian cuisines mostly incorporate cinnamon basil into fried rice, marinades, and noodles. It is even tossed with grilled veggies.

Related: Miracle Vegetable That Kill Belly Fat

African Blue Basil

African blue basil is an ornamental herb plant that can grow up to four feet tall. It features gorgeous floral arrangements. It gives off a distinctive odor of cloves, mint, pepper, and camphor. Moreover, its succulent, chewy leaves are characteristic of African blue.

Its taste notes are musk, cloves, and methanol, giving it a herbal, woody, or earthy taste—African blue basil blossoms into lavender flowers.

African blue basil gives distinctive clove like taste.

Ideally, Blue African Basil is used as a flavoring or garnish. These leaves are also used to designate pesto, chimichurri sauce, salad dressings, and dips. They can also be layered on bruschetta, sprinkled over soups, and thrown into salads.

Aside from these uses, blue basil is commonly found in rice, vegetables, and meat dishes.

Spicy Globe Basil

Among the basil, spicy basil is the dwarf herb. It has a shape similar to that of small boxwood. Indeed, it is also called boxwood or spicy basil because it’s spicier than its cousin herbs.

Spicy globe basil is just like boxwood with spicier taste

Moreover, its intense citrus scent with notes of mint is a characteristic of its fragrance and flavor. It would help if you used it fresh on salads. It imparts a delicious taste and aroma to salads. Apart from this, it is best to garnish fish and fruits. Also, it enhances the flavor of sauces and veggies as well.

Spicy globe basil goes well with Thai and Italian dishes like pasta, sauces, and pizzas.

Lettuce Basil

Lettuce basil is an Italian kind of basil that tastes like sweet basil. It has a mild peppery taste with a sweet smell. Unlike its cousins, it has larger leaves used for lettuce wraps, stuffing, lasagna sheets, and making pesto.

A lot of Italian appetizers and foods use it.

Holy Basil

In Asian cultures, holy basil is the most sacred plant. Aromatically, it gives off a pleasantly musky, clove-like fragrance, slightly herbaceous or bitter green scent, refreshing to the nostrils. As for the taste, it has a bitter, spicy, and sweet note. Indeed, it has a sweet, pleasing taste and aroma.

Holy basil tastes great and gives pleasant aroma

The Holy Basil plant has a more significant therapeutic effect than its family members. It is used in some medicines and treatment plans. Among other things, it’s used to treat stomach illnesses, kidney disease and promote heart health.

In general, it is used in Indian cuisines, particularly in curries and sauces.

Related: Does Spicy Food Cause Acne?

You can include basil in your diet via tea or sauces. Also, it comes in essential oils.

Thai Sweet Basil

As compared to other basil plants, it is the most stunning. It becomes known as Siam queen because of the purple flowers it blooms at the end of seasons. Aside from its beauty, it has an aroma reminiscent of anise and licorice. It has the same fragrance as sweet basil (although it is spicier).

In addition, it has a slight taste of spice and a strong taste of black licorice. Thai sweet basil retains its flavor even at high cooking temperatures, unlike other types of basil.

A variety of Asian dishes use Thai sweet basil.

Lemon Basil

Lemon Basil has a lemony flavor, as its name suggests. Aromatically, it smells of pure and sweet lemon. This variety enhances the flavor of traditional pesto while also adding a pleasant zing to the palate.

The mild and crispy flavor of lemon basil blends well with seafood, such as ceviche, shrimp, and grilled fish. It certainly adds an exciting twist to flavors.

Lemon basil gives a lemonyaste.

Make your dishes taste like lemons without using actual lemons!

Does Basil Change Flavor After It Flowers?

As basil matures, it loses some characteristics. In which taste is also one. However, all parts of basil are edible even after basil blooms. While flowers look good on food items, they detract from the flavor of leaves.

When basil blooms, its flavor becomes more bitter. Yet, the taste of basil flowers is similar to its leaves, though less intense. However, basil’s oil content is peaked when the plant blooms, and its flavor is the best.

Why Does Basil Taste Bad To Me?

Basil’s bitter taste sometimes causes the tongue to pucker up. Since the oil in basil flowers disappears when they mature into seeds, its strong flavor deteriorates.

Moreover, underwatering or overwatering basil plants can also make their taste more earthy and bitter. Apart from these, you might not enjoy this herb if you hate basil. Also, if basil tastes soupy to you, it is a genetic disorder.

Apart from these, your taste buds might be affected if you are pregnant, making everything, including basil, taste terrific. Also, digestion problems can lead to poor taste perception and lousy taste in various things.

However, fresh basil tastes best when picked early in the morning when it’s calm and clear. When gathering your herbs, you should allow the morning dew to dry. Moreover, it would be best not to wait until later in the day when the weather conditions are more likely to alter the basil’s aroma and flavor.

How To Tell When Basil Is Bad?

As basil ages, it turns a brownish color, emits a foul odor, and gets wet. It is the first sign of fresh basil going limp. As time passes, the leaves will turn brown. However, if there are only a few brown spots, you may still use the basil.

Basil plant rowing in the vegetable garden with yellow and dry spots on leaves.
Basil plant rowing in the vegetable garden with yellow and dry spots on leaves. 

In any case, once the dots have turned black, you must throw the basil away. Also, if the leaves seem slimy, moist, or if they have an unpleasant smell, you should discard them.

Moreover, the best time to discard fried basil leaves is when their color changes from dark green to brown.

Basil Cookbook

Basil gives a delicious taste and intense aroma to food. However, it is good to wash basil before using it. Basil is finely chopped, torn, or cut to use in various items. Also, you can use them whole as pizza toppings, salads, or garnishes.

What does basil taste like?

In contrast, herbs with thick stems and stalks may be bitter, so they should be tossed out. For instance, pesto can turn brown and bitter if stems and stalks are left in, so it is best to remove them before making pesto sauce. But, small stems can go well with dishes.

Also, you can add fresh basil to dishes such as veggies or baked goods to give them an intense taste. On the other hand, if it’s cooked at a high temperature, its oil content may not remain, and it might lose its taste and scent as well. Therefore, it is essential to salute it a little on medium flame while cooking.

Moreover, when using dried basil, add it at the beginning of a recipe to allow the herb to soften and fully infuse. The herb basil is also an ideal ingredient for essence oil. Aside from these, you can also use basil flowers to make tea and basil oil.

Make Your Herb Garden Better by Adding Basil!

Basil is a robust herb with a distinctive taste and aroma. It can, indeed, enhance the appeal of your garden and make the air feel more fragrant because of its pleasant smell. Besides being rich in taste, it is also suitable for health.

Thus, rather than asking what does basil taste like? It’s time to start using this herb in your garden and kitchen from today.

FAQs

  1. Is Basil a Strong Flavor?

Basil is a flavorsome herb. It gives a solid peppery smell, but it is not bitter. Indeed, fresh basil imparts a unique taste with the hints of mint, anise, licorice, and a bit spicy. As a whole, it tastes great. 

  1. What Does Basil Taste Like on Pizza?

Basil is used in pizza sauces and as a topping on pizza, where it gives a unique peppery taste and silky smooth crust. Besides a unique spicy taste, it also offers a distinctive aroma to pizza. Holy basil is good to use for pizza flavoring. 

  1. What Does Dried Basil Taste Like?

Dried basil has a distinct flavor. The flavor is mellower and more oregano-like. In sauces and soups, it adds great flavor, but it also looks great on salads and in presentations.

  1. Is Basil Good for You?

Basil is a good source of nutrition. Since it contains calcium, manganese, vitamin K and many other macro, micro, and trace elements, thus it promotes a healthy body. Indeed, Holy basil is used for digestion, heart tonic, and to boost immunity. 

  1. What Is the Best-Tasting Basil?

Although all basil varieties taste good, Thai, Greek, Sweet, and Cinnamon basil gives the best taste to different cuisines or beverages. 

  1. Is the Flower on a Basil Plant Poisonous?

Many people may assume basil when blooming is poisonous because of its mild flavor. But it is not toxic. Indeed, it is edible and can be used in many kitchen recipes for topping, garnishing, or presentation. 

  1. Why Does Basil Taste Like Soap to Me?

Basil that tastes soupy on the tongue might indicate a genetic disorder. Moreover, pregnancy or stomach illness can also leave you with a sour taste. 

  1. Can You Eat Basil Leaves Raw?

It’s okay to eat basil leaves raw. Indeed, the natural form of this herb tastes wonderful. However, it’s better to cook rather than eat raw basil.

Aneeza Pervez

My name is Aneeza Pervez. I am a medical content writer. I enjoy travelling, writing, reading, composing, and singing. As a health advocate, I educate people about how to be healthy through my content. Health is wealth, so do your best to keep it!

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