What Can You Substitute for Basil in a Marinade?


Basil is a versatile herb used in many cuisines in various countries. This sweet, aromatic herb comes from the mint family and looks a lot like peppermint. When you smell fresh or dried basil, you’ll notice it’s highly fragrant, and that fragrance shines through most dishes. In a marinade basil can tone down other, more pungent herbs and spices and adds a distinct sweetness to your meat or vegetables.

Fresh or Dry

  • Some recipes call for fresh basil, which isn’t always easy to find. Fresh basil is more potent than dried basil, but dried basil is smaller and you won’t need as much when substituting fresh with dry. Use a 1/3 teaspoon of dried basil for every 1 teaspoon of fresh basil. If making a recipe that specifically requires fresh basil -- such as a pesto or pestolike marinade -- you cannot substitute with a dry basil, because the fresh basil is pureed with cheese, pine nuts and other spices to create not only a flavor, but texture.


  • Parsley has a herbaceous, grassy flavor that works well in marinades instead of basil. When substituting parsley use it in equal proportions to basil, but only use it in fresh marinades where the item won’t be cooked on very high heat. Long cooking times break down parsley and make it bitter.


  • Tarragon is aromatic, much like basil, but has a more licorice aftertaste. It works well in poultry and seafood marinades, but doesn’t pair well with beef. Substitute fresh or dried tarragon for basil in equal proportions.


  • Thyme is versatile and used a lot like basil, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. It works well with seafood, poultry and beef and enhances other herbs like oregano, parsley and rosemary. Use fresh or dried thyme in equal proportions to the fresh or dried basil called for in the recipe.


  • Oregano and basil are often used together in most recipes, especially in Mediterranean cooking. Dried oregano has a stronger flavor than fresh oregano and can be used in place of dried basil for your marinade in equal proportions. For a sweeter, more mintlike flavor, use Mexican oregano, which is available in most grocery stores.

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