Basil and oregano are the two most commonly used herbs in the kitchen, but many people need clarification on them. They may look similar to each other, and it might be challenging to differentiate between them, especially when people are new to cooking.
So, what are the significant differences between them? Although basil and oregano belong to the same family of Lamiaceae, they are very different in their appearance, taste, nutrient components, and culinary uses.
Basil has a sweet and savory flavor with hints of peppermint and clove, whereas oregano has a sharp taste with a touch of spiciness and an earthy aroma. Basil is used in many Italian and Asian dishes, whereas oregano is widely popular in cooking Mexican and Mediterranean food.
Read on to find more such differences in a detailed explanation and find out the significant difference between them, along with top recipes using basil and oregano. Before discussing basil vs. oregano, let’s look at the overall difference table of basil vs. oregano.
What's In The Post
Basil Vs. Oregano | Difference Table
|Basis Of Difference||Basil||Oregano|
|Origin/ Native||Southeast Asia to Central Africa||Mediterranean regions|
|Available in||Fresh and dried form||Fresh and dried form|
|Taste||Sweet and savory with a hint of pepper, mint, clove, and anise.||Grassy, earthy with a hint of spiciness and bitterness.|
|Appearance||Leaves: Oval and curl downward. Color of leaves- dark green, purple, or red.|
Flower: White flowers and green stems and grows separately.
|Leaves: Green leaves shaped like spades and tiny hair with pointed ends.|
Flower: Light pink or purple flower with a green and brown stem. Grow in bunches.
|Usage||Used in Italian and Asian cuisines.|
Goes best with vegetables, fish, and poultry.
|Used in Mexican and Mediterranean cooking.|
Goes best with vegetable and olive oil-based recipes.
|Nutrition||Good source of antioxidants, rich in protein and minerals.||It contains fiber and carbs, rich in micronutrients and vitamins.|
|Substitutes||Oregano, mint, tarragon||Basil, fresh thyme, parsley, marjoram|
What Is Basil?
Basil, which belongs to the family of mint, is widely used in Italian, Thai, Asian, and Indonesian cuisines. It has culinary uses and, in many places, it is used as a medicine. Basil also holds significance in religions such as Hinduism.
The leaves of the basil plants are oval in shape, and the color could vary from green to purple and red. Basil flowers are white in color, and they grow separately from the stems.
Different varieties of basil are available, and they all have a little extra taste and usage from each other. Let’s discuss the top 5 of them.
- Sweet Basil – Sweet basil, as the name suggests, has a sweet flavor, and this is a prevalent type of basil used. It is used in pesto, salads, and marinades. The leaves are green in color with a rounded cup shape. Sweet basil is also known to repel mosquitoes.
- Genovese Basil – Genovese is a classic Italian basil and another best option for pestos and Italian dishes. It has dark green colored leaves, which are larger in size and flatter as compared to sweet basil. Genovese basil has a strong aromatic flavor.
- Thai Sweet Basil – Thai sweet basil has a spicy and licorice flavor. It has dark pointed leaves with dark purple flower heads. Asian dishes usually add Thai basil, which keeps its flavor at a higher cooking temperature than other types of basil.
- Purple Basil – Purple basil is highly aromatic and can be steeped in vinegar or oil, adding beautiful colors to your dishes. It has a sharp burgundy color. The purple basil taste is not as sweet as other basils but has a stronger clove taste.
- Lemon Basil – Lemon basil has a flavor of lemon and is a widely used variety of basil. You can crush the leaves and smell the lemony scent. Lemon basil can be used in fish, grilled vegetables, desserts, and teas.
Basil can be found in dried and fresh form, and both have different culinary uses. Fresh basil is usually preferred while cooking as the dried basil draws out most of the minty flavor in the dehydrating process.
What is Oregano?
Oregano, also called Origanum vulgare, which means “joy of the mountain, ” also belongs to the mint family. It has a sweet, herbaceous, and earthy flavor and is widely used in Italian, Turkish, Mexican, and Greek cuisine.
Oregano leaves are dark green in color and shaped like spades with tine fuzzy hair. It is a fragrant herb that has some medicinal properties as well.
Oregano also has different varieties or forms which are available and used according to desired flavor and taste. Let’s have a brief look at the most common ones.
- Common Oregano – Also known as Origanum Vulgare, can be used in different ways, like flavoring food or decoration as well. Typical oregano leaves are opposite to each other, and the leaf margin usually has a pointed tip. The flowers of common oregano are white, purple, or pink and grow in clusters.
- Cuban Oregano – Cuban oregano is native to India and Sri Lanka and found in many tropical and subtropical regions. It is a trendy ingredient in Caribbean cuisines and is used to flavor soups, stews, sauces, and rice dishes. Cuban oregano can also be grown at home, requiring warm and humid conditions. Cuban oregano is also well known for boosting the immune system and improving digestion.
- Golden Oregano – The yellow-colored oregano is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used in cooking for centuries. It can be used in many versatile ways, such as in teas and salads.
- Golden oregano can be used to flavor fish and meat dishes. The golden oregano flower is white or pale pink and blooms in summer as it requires full sun and well-drained soil.
- Greek Oregano – Greek oregano is a hardy plant that grows up to two feet tall and wide. The leaves of greek oregano are dark green in color and have a pungent, minty flavor.
- They are commonly used in Mediterranean cuisines, such as tomato-based dishes and grilled meat. Like golden oregano, it also blooms during the summer and has white or pink flowers. It is a good source of antioxidants and has antibacterial properties.
- Italian Oregano – Italian oregano, as the name suggests, is most prevalent in Italian cuisines and has a robust flavor. It pairs well with tomatoes, garlic, and other intense flavors. To use Italian oregano, gently crush the leaves and add them to your dishes.
It is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. The taste of Italian oregano is strong and pungent.
Basil Vs. Oregano | Similarities Between The Two
Before jumping into the significant difference between basil and oregano, let’s quickly look at the similarities.
Both Belong To the same family
Basil and oregano belong to the Lamiaceae family, the same as mint, thyme, and sage.
Both are used to flavor the dishes.
Basil and oregano are both used to flavor the dishes. They both add robust flavors and aromas to the plate. 66 are added to dishes and available in fresh and dried forms.
Both can be substituted with each other
Basil and oregano can be used interchangeably per your taste preference. Both have a robust flavor and are pungent. Many people use basil and oregano together in a dish.
Basil Vs. Oregano | What Are The Major Differences?
Even though they belong to the same family, basil and oregano are very distinct. They are like second cousins to each other. Now, without much delay, let’s view basil vs. oregano – major differences.
The origin of basil was from Southeast Asia to Central Africa and is widely used in Italian and Asian cuisines. From Africa, it was brought to Italy by the greeks.
On the other hand, oregano originated from Mediterranean regions and spread across western Asia, parts of Mexico, and the United States.
2. Taste and aroma
Basil is a mild herb with a sweet taste and smell. The taste can differ from sweet to a little spicy depending upon the type of basil. The overall flavor of basil can be described as peppery with traces of mint, clove, and anise.
When it comes to the taste of oregano, it has a very aromatic scent and has a subtle balance between sweet and spicy with a bold and earthy flavor. Usually, it is bitter and pungent in taste with minty tones.
You can quickly identify basil and oregano based on their appearance.Basil has smooth, oval-shaped leaves that curl downwards and can grow up to 4 inches.
The leaves are usually green and can have pink or purple shades. It gets darker in color when dried. It also produces white flowers, which grow separately from the light green stems.
Oregano leaves are usually spade-shaped with a pointy head or tip. They only grow up to two inches. The edges of the leaves have tiny fuzzy hairs. A healthy leaf is olive green, and the flowers are usually purple.
The flowers of oregano are white or pink and grow in clusters.
4. Culinary usage
Basil is not only a staple food ingredient of Italian cuisines, but it is widely popular in Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. You can pair up the basil with tomatoes for salads and sauces.
Additionally, seasoning the vegetables, fish, and poultry recipes is an excellent option. You can also brew some tea using basil and enjoy it on cold winter mornings.
When it comes to oregano is a flavorful herb commonly used in Italian, Mexican, Spanish, and French dishes. Like basil, it goes great with tomatoes and is used in olive oil-based recipes.
It can work in conjunction with olive oil to marinate the beef, lamb, or chicken or make tasty, mouth-watering oregano vinaigrettes.
Basil and oregano have a comprehensive nutritional profile. Let’s have an overview of the nutrient contents present in both of them.
When compared, oregano is high in micronutrients and contains more carbs, protein, fiber, and fats than basil. The calorie count of oregano is also high along with the Vitamins and protein content compared to basil.
On the other hand, basil is lower in sugar and contains 14 times more Glycemic Index than oregano. Basil also has lower fat content and carbohydrates.
When it comes to basil, three herbs can easily replace the use of basil in many recipes. Mint, tarragon, and oregano are the apparent substitutes for basil.
While using any one of them 1:1 ratio is applicable, meaning that in place of 1 tablespoon of basil, you can use one tablespoon of oregano, mint, and tarragon in dried or fresh form.
Oregano can be easily replaced by fresh thyme, parsley, basil, and marjoram. Fresh thyme, parsley, and basil will work best in a ratio of 1:1 in Mediterranean or Italian recipes.
At the same time, marjoram is the best substitute while cooking Spanish dishes. Just switch ¾ amount of oregano with marjoram in place.
7. Growth requirements
Basil is a tropical herb that grows well in hot climates. It is a water-sensitive plant and thrives in moist soil. Basil requires at least 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. It is also important to note that high doses of fertilizers can ruin the soil and the basil plant.
Oregano grows best in well-drained soil but does not require much moisture compared to basil. Overwatering the oregano plant can cause damage. Both herbs require a warm temperature.
8. Life Span
Basil has many species, most of which are perennial, meaning they can last more than two years. However, the most common Genovese basil tends to bloom in spring and summer and dies off in winter after flowering and going to seed.
Oregano, which is very different from basil, is a perennial with a way longer life span of easily four years, and the growth of the oregano can be controlled if growing indoors.
9. Health benefits
Basil and oregano have many health benefits as they are nutrient-rich.
Basil is rich in antioxidants, and they help to reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer, like lung cancer, skin cancer, liver cancer, or oral cancer. It also has eugenol, which can reduce high blood pressure. Basil also helps in treating type 2 diabetes.
With anti-inflammatory properties which help to treat inflammation. It also helps in alleviating stress, anxiety, and depression.
Oregano is also high in antioxidants that help to stop cancer cells from growing. The essential oils in oregano can reduce the number of E.coli bacteria in the gut and help cure diarrhea. Oregano is rich in zinc which helps in improving hair health.
Can basil and oregano be used together?
Yes, there are many dishes in which people prefer to add both types of herbs to enhance and upgrade the flavor of the dish. Sounds exciting and tempting, right? There are not plenty of dishes that will require both herbs, but there are a few of them.
Let’s check a few dishes where we can easily use them together.
- Pasta – Pasta is one of the easy and obvious ways to combine herbs to make oregano and basil pasta or mix herbs and pasta. Make your pasta as usual but with little change. After boiling the pasta, add the spices and then add the same to sautéed veggies or meat.
- Pesto With Basil And Oregano – To make pesto with basil and oregano, just blend some garlic, basil, parsley, spinach, oregano, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a blender until smooth, and enjoy your pesto. Either add it to your bread or tortilla or use it as a dip.
- Basil And Oregano Baked Salmon – Basil and oregano baked salmon is quite a tasty meal. For this, just marinate the salmon with a rich coat of oil, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper with the addition of dried basil and oregano and then bake the salmon inside an oven foil so that the flavors of basil and oregano are well trapped inside the foil itself and penetrate the salmon.
- Basil And Oregano Bruschetta – Basil and oregano bruschetta is a perfect starter option that revolves around basil, oregano, and tomatoes. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and onion in a bowl. Bake your bread until brown. Spread the mixture and some cheese and broil it for a few more minutes.
Top dishes To Make with basil
Here are some of the top dishes that you can prepare with basil.
Pesto using basil is a very classic and yummy recipe. Pick some fresh basil leaves and use them in your regular pesto recipe. I will suggest using a marble mortar and pestle and crushing all the ingredients like garlic, cheese, nuts, and basil leaves by adding olive oil.
2. Thai Chicken
Thai chicken is a very flavorful meal; you can enhance it further by using basil leaves in the recipe. Make your Thai chicken and usual and while cooking, add a big chunk of basil leaves and stir for a few minutes. Serve it with rice and fried eggs.
3. Spaghetti basil
Spaghetti basil, as the name itself suggests that it uses basil as one of the ingredients. Cut some baby tomatoes and garlic. Cook it with butter or olive oil. Add basil leaves and cook it for 5 mins. Add boiled spaghetti and enjoy.
4. Mango and basil salsa
Mango and basil salsa can be a very yummy party dish. Add a few cups of diced mangoes with red onions, jalapeño, and basil in a bowl. Toss all the ingredients together and let it sit for a few minutes. Your mango and basil salsa is ready.
5. Lemon basil chicken
Lemon basil chicken is a delightful dish. Marinate your chicken with basil leaves and other spices. Cook your chicken and then grill it. It is effortless and quick to prepare and cook the lemon basil chicken. Add this to your pasta, salads, wraps, or sandwiches.
Top dishes To Make with oregano
Now let’s see some of the top dishes that you can make using oregano.
Meatballs call for some dried oregano. Make your meatballs as usual, and while making the Mariana sauce use dried oregano. Mix the meatballs with the sauce and sprinkle some cheese.
2. Pizzaiola steak
Pizzaiola steak is made with steak and tomato sauce. The meat is slowly cooked in the sauce. Simply make your tomato sauce and add dried oregano after the tomatoes are added to the sautéed onions and basil.
Cook the chicken in the sauce and enjoy this yummy and slow-cooked chicken.
3. Italian Stuffed bell pepper
Italian stuffed pepper, without any doubt, calls for oregano because no Italian dish is complete without oregano. Make the filling of the bell pepper. One part filling will be onions sauteed with oregano, and the other will be beef and brown rice.
Mix them and fill in the bell pepper. Bake the peppers. Do not forget to add cheese before baking, and enjoy.
4. Greek Salad
Greek salad is a very healthy dish and easy to make. Using oregano in salads can never go wrong. Just combine your vegetables in a bowl. Make your salad dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of oregano, and salt.
Pour the sauce over the mixed vegetables and enjoy.
5. Oregano tea
Oregano tea might not be the typical type of tea consumed, but once you try this brewed oregano tea, you will not be disappointed.
Use large leafy oregano sprigs and boil them with water or add boiling water in a mug with oregano leaves and let it steep for 5 mins. Enjoy this aromatic and warm tea.
Basil Vs. Oregano | Which is healthier?
Without any doubt, oregano has higher nutrient content but is also high in fats and carbohydrates. Basil might have little lesser nutrient contents but is low in fat and carbs. So, basil can be considered as a healthy option.
Basil Vs. Oregano | Which is tastier?
It is very evident that basil is widely used in many dishes because of its sweet and savory flavor. On the other hand, oregano can be a little bitter as well. So, we can conclude that basil has a better taste than oregano.
Basil Vs. Oregano | Which is More versatile?
As we have already seen, basil has a number of varieties, and many dishes are mainly based on basil as an ingredient. Oregano is generally used as a seasoning or in olive oil-based dishes. Therefore basil is more versatile than oregano.
Basil Vs. Oregano | Which is better?
Without any doubt, basil is better than oregano. It has a rich flavor and has many nutrient components. Basil is also considered sacred in many religions and is also used in medicines for treatment purposes.
Finally, we have reached the end of the discussion of basil vs. oregano, and I am sure we have learned so much interesting information about both of them. Now we know the significant difference between them and how to use them in recipes.
Both basil and oregano add extra flavors and have many health benefits.
However, through our discussion, basil is a more versatile option than oregano. Not to forget that they both have their own flavor and uniqueness.
This discussion was helpful to you, and now when you visit your kitchen next time, you will know which one you need to add to your dish. We will be back with such more exciting discussions until then. Sprinkle some oregano over your pasta.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
If a recipe calls for basil, can we use oregano instead?
Basil and oregano go well with any tomato-based dish. So, if these recipes call for basil, you can switch it with oregano. However, the type of dish should be taken in confidence, as adding the wrong herbs may spoil the overall flavors of the dish.
Can we plant basil and oregano in the same pot?
Many researchers claim that we should not plant both of them together as the growing conditions are very different. Basil requires a lot of water and sunlight, whereas oregano, if overwatered, may get spoiled.
Which herb is closest to oregano apart from basil?
Apart from basil, many other herbs, like parsley, thyme, and sage, can be used in place of oregano.