Basil is widely used across various countries and cuisines. There are many different branches of basil, but sweet basil is most commonly used in Western cuisine. Basil is a large part of Italian cooking, where it’s used for countless dishes and sauces, from creating pesto to being used in salads, pizzas and pastas. It is usually added at the end as cooking it kills its flavour.
However, don’t confuse it with the sweet Thai basil. Its Asian counterpart has a spicier flavour and can be subject to high heat. Used widely in Southeast Asian cooking, sweet Thai basil is a staple in the Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho, and the Thai basil chicken dish, Pad Krahow Gai.
Substitute with: Oregano, thyme
Native to the Mediterranean region and some parts of Africa, thyme is an essential part of classic French cuisine.
Its earthly profile pairs perfectly with lamb, veal, pork and poultry, and it also shares a special relationship with the tomato.
It’s often used to add flavour to stuffing as well as soups and vinaigrettes. This versatile herb also pairs well with a number of other herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary and oregano.
Substitute with: Marjoram, oregano, basil
One of the most pungent of all herbs, it’s impossible to miss rosemary’s distinct and robust aroma. Rosemary is often used in stuffing and for meats like roasted lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. In Italian cuisine, it is often added to focaccia, tomato sauce and pizzas.
Substitute with: Thyme, tarragon
Tarragon is one of the classic French herbs. It goes perfectly with chicken, fish and egg, and is one of the fundamental components of a traditional béarnaise sauce. It complements fresh vegetables and green salads, and is often used to prepare chicken and fish.
Substitute with: English parsley leaves, chervil
Oregano is used widely in Greek and Italian cooking.
Integral in preparing pasta and pizza sauces, it has become a big part of Italian American cuisine. It also pairs well with fish, green salads and tomatoes.
Substitute with: Marjoram
Dill is commonly used in seafood, especially in fish dishes. Grown in Europe and central Asia, it’s a flavour bridge between Western and Asian cuisines. This calcium-rich herb is very versatile and goes along with different types of cheese, omelettes and potato salads. In Nordic cuisine, dill is often used to flavour and pickle ingredients, such as cucumbers. It can also be finely chopped and used in soups like borsht.
Substitute with: Tarragon