When cooking with basil in a recipe, there is a difference between Thai Basil and Holy Basil. Although both plants are basil, they have different flavors and uses.

Thai Basil has a spicy licorice flavor and is used in South Asian cuisine, while Holy Basil has a licorice peppermint clove flavor and is used in Thai cuisine. Holy Basil is also considered a sacred plant in some Hindu cultures and has medicinal properties. Let’s learn more.

thai basil and holy basil plants

🔑 Key Differences in Holy Basil vs Thai Basil

  • Compared to holy basil, which has broader, oval-shaped leaves, Thai basil has smaller, sparser-shaped (a little like mint) and more robust leaves.
  • Thai basil leaves are also brighter and more emerald in color (like they were coated with some kind of reflective layer).
  • Depending on the cultivar, Thai basil can contain both purple and green leaves, whereas holy basil solely has green leaves.
  • While holy basil leaves have a serrated border, Thai basil leaves do not.
  • Thai basil is frequently used in chicken meals and does best when cooked at high temperatures. Compared to green holy basil, Thai basil has longer, more leaf-like leaves and purple stems.
  • Holy basil only has green and hairy stalks, while Thai basil has purple stems that become more intense in color as they age.

What is Holy Basil?

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a type of basil that is native to the Indian subcontinent of Southeast Asia. The plant is considered sacred in Hinduism and is often used in religious ceremonies.

holy basil plant

According to NCBI, Holy basil has also been found to combat psychological stress by improving memory and cognitive function, as well as metabolic stress by normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure, and lipid levels, as well as metabolic stress through its anxiolytic and antidepressant characteristics.

🍳 Cooking With Holy Basil

Holy basil is not commonly used in cooking but is renowned for its pepper flavor and clove-like taste. Holy basil, often called “Bai gkaprow” outside of Thailand, is a common ingredient in Thai cuisine.

holy basil bundle

Holy basil is a well-known herb with antibacterial, immune-boosting, antiviral, and stress-relieving qualities that is frequently used as herbal tea. In addition, many civilizations have used it to support their bodies’ innate defenses against pathogens and other stressors.

The flavors in holy basil are great for cooking Asian food, curries, and stir-fries. The best way to use holy basil in cooking is to incorporate it at the end of the cooking process so that the heat does not destroy its therapeutic properties.

Holy basil can be found in most Asian grocery stores, but it is also possible to grow your own.

How To Grow Holy Basil

Holy basil seeds may be cultivated indoors all year round and is exceedingly simple to grow. It thrives in a small, transportable container filled with light, organically rich soil that drains well. If, however, obtaining that proves to be too challenging, your holy basil plant will thrive in any moist soil that has adequate drainage.

This herb adores the sun and desires to bask in its rays for roughly five hours daily. To ensure optimal circulation, if you intend to grow multiple plants, make sure to place them about two feet apart.

What is Thai Basil?

thai basil plants

Numerous names are used to refer to Thai basil (ocimum basilicum), including Thai Sweet Basil, Hot Basil, Anise/Licorice Basil, and Bai Horapa. It is also referred to as purple basil and is a fundamental ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking.

This herb is renowned for both its flavor and beauty. Because it stands out from other varieties of basil so much, it acquired the moniker of its place of origin, Thailand. So what then distinguishes Thai Basil as a unique variety? Read on to find out!

Thai basil is recognized for its stunning and delicate purple stems, which are often relatively little and display a variety of green and purple tones. Some people liken the appearance of Thai basil leaves to somewhat larger mint leaves since they are all slick and glossy-looking.

If you want to always have fresh Thai basil leaves on hand, you can cultivate them at home or get them from a specialty Asian market or grocery store that caters to Southeast Asian people.

🍳 Cooking With Thai Basil

Thai basil has a peculiar aroma that is a blend of the distinctive basil scent and rich, sweet licorice in both the leaves and edible blossoms.

thai basil

This type of basil is a fantastic herb to use in cooking, especially with dishes that require high heat because this is when its taste truly starts to emerge.

Thai basil has a wide range of culinary applications and complements a wide range of foods. Some of its most well-liked applications include adding it to drunken noodles, garnishing beef, Thai basil chicken, and chicken curries.

Additionally, Thai basil tastes well in pesto, a versatile sauce and spread. Thai basil pesto is simple to prepare by combining smashed garlic, pine nuts, salt, Thai basil leaves, olive oil, and a small amount of hard cheese. It goes great with spaghetti and other Italian dishes.

Some people can confuse Thai basil with cinnamon basil, which is also a popular herb in Thai cuisine. But unlike Thai basil, which has licorice-like undertones, cinnamon basil has its own flavor. Thai basil also does well when cooked at high temperatures, unlike cinnamon basil, which struggles.

How to Preserve Thai Basil

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh Thai basil, you’ll want to know How To Preserve Thai Basil so you can enjoy its fantastic flavor all year round.

Close up of thai basil plants with title how to preserve thai basil

How to Grow Thai Basil

Thai basil seeds can be planted directly into the ground. However, the plant needs 90 days of warm weather to grow to maturity. This plant has a three-foot maximum height! Being a delicate perennial, it is crucial to provide the proper care so that you can always have a strong, productive plant. It’s time to bring this one inside as the weather turns cold. It is a tropical plant, after all. Thai basil can be kept outside if you live in a warm environment with no possibility of frost all year long.

Your plant needs fertile soil with good drainage, a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, and these conditions for it to thrive healthily. In addition, it should have between six and eight hours of ideal sunlight per day. Given the poor germination rate of Thai basil, it is advised to plant six to eight seeds per pot. Because you want your plant to concentrate on producing leaves, make sure to eliminate any blossoms that start to develop.

General Tips for Growing Basil

Having fresh basil leaves on hand makes a huge difference in the flavor of many recipes. When cultivating different types of basil, there are a few things to watch out for. First, make sure your soil has enough nutrients and gives your plants enough water before anything else. Given that the soil is the only supply of potassium for your plants, this is very crucial.

Typically, basil plants do not thrive in colder climates. Bring your basil plant indoors or provide some protection from the cold if you are concerned about frost or colder weather. Dark stains and blotches on your plant’s leaves are among the most crucial things to watch out for. Similar to the problems just discussed, these spots are an indication that something is amiss. They might also indicate an infection that must be treated to save the plant.

Other Types of Basil

In addition to Thai basil and holy basil, many other basil varieties are used in different cuisines around the world. Some of the most common include:

Italian Basil: This variety, also known as basilica, has a sweet, strong flavor. It’s commonly used in Italian recipes such as pesto and tomato sauce.

Genovese Basil: also known as sweet basil, has a milder flavor than Italian basil. It’s commonly used in pesto and other sauces.

Lemon Basil: As the name suggests, this type of basil has a citrusy flavor and is often used to add zest to Asian dishes.

Tips For Using Basil

You can use fresh basil leaves in your cooking, or dried herbs can be used instead. You can dry your own basil and store it in jars for future use. I like to use an Excalibur Dehydrator.

You can also purchase basil for cooking online, like this Lobo Thai Holy Basil Seasoning Paste.

Basil is also a great addition to herbal tea. For example, you could try this Buddha Teas Organic Holy Basil (Tulsi) Tea.

Recipes That Use Basil

There are some really excellent recipes out there that use basil as a key ingredient. So if you’re looking for some culinary inspiration, why not try one of these recipes?

As you can see, there are all sorts of different dishes that can benefit from the addition of basil. So, if you’re looking to add a little something extra to your cooking, why not give it a try?


Can I substitute Thai basil for basil?

You can not substitute Thai basil for other types of basil in a recipe. Thai basil has strong anise or licorice flavor compared to other types of basil, which will alter the flavor of your recipe.

Should Thai basil be refrigerated?

Thai basil should be kept in the refrigerator. Cut the end of the stems slightly, then place the bundle of basil in a cup with a few inches of water. Place in the refrigerator.

More Seasoning Recipes

✅ Summary

Basil is a popular herb that comes in many different flavors and varieties. For example, Thai Basil has a spicy flavor and is used in Thai cuisine, while Holy Basil has a licorice flavor and is used in Indian cuisine.

Holy Basil is also considered a sacred plant in some cultures and has medicinal properties. Thai Basil can be kept outside if you live in a warm environment with no possibility of frost all year long, but it should have between six and eight hours of ideal sunlight per day.

General Tips for Growing Basil provides information on how to care for your basil plant so that you can always have fresh leaves on hand. In addition, cooking with basil makes for some very delicious dishes, so get out there and try some Basil in your recipes today!