Dried basil leaves contribute a complex blend of licorice, mint and clove flavors to any recipe including them. This aromatic dried herb, usually found chopped or minced on the shelf, seasons all types of dishes, from Thai to Italian. Determine what specific flavor the dried basil leaves bring to the recipe to choose an appropriate substitute when necessary.
In recipes that call for dried basil leaves, fresh basil leaves can substitute, but measure three times as much fresh basil as dried basil. Because dried basil leaves have the water removed, their volume condenses, concentrating the flavor. Drying the basil leaves also changes the flavor a bit; fresh leaves won't taste exactly the same but still work well. Add fresh basil near the end of the cooking time.
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Because Italian seasoning blends contain dried basil leaves, it works as a substitute for the basil leaves themselves, especially in Italian dishes. Adding Italian seasoning to a recipe that calls for dried basil leaves also adds oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme and pepper, so check the recipe for these ingredients and adjust their amounts accordingly to avoid adding double. Check the label for added salt in your Italian seasoning and adjust that as well if necessary.
Analyze the recipe to determine what flavor the dried basil leaves bring, and choose an alternate dried herb or blend of herbs that mimics that flavor. For instance, in Thai recipes, Thai dried basil leaves taste minty with a bit of licorice flavor. For those recipes, measure equal amounts of mint and ground anise to equal the amount of dried Thai basil leaves in the recipe.
Other dried herbs that can substitute for dried basil leaves include parsley, thyme and oregano. Fresh or dried cilantro simulates some of the bitter freshness of dried basil leaves. Blend thyme, oregano or parsley with savory or marjoram for greater complexity. Add a small amount of grated lemon zest to simulate the slight citrus taste in dried basil.