Thai Basil Vs. Basil | Are They The Same?

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Basil, also known as ‘Italian Sweet Basil’, is a really popular herb in many kitchens across the world. But, so is Thai Basil, much more than any of us would have anticipated! In this article, let us learn all about Thai basil v/s basil! 

Thai basil v/s basil

Thai Basil, although not as popular in the Western world, is still used quite often, especially in Asian cuisine. Considering the fact that both Thai and sweet basil belong to the same family, some may consider them to be the same or, at least identical. However, there are certain notable differences between the two. 

Thai basil and sweet basil both belong to the same family. However, they are both from different parts of the world and have different compositions. Hence, this leads to various differences between the two, with regards to appearance, flavor and much more.

The differences in the flavors between basil and Thai basil are actually so prominent that although the base flavor remains similar, they still provide very different aftertastes. What are all these differences though? 

We will discover all the differences and also the similarities between both these types of basils. Moreover, there are also details about how exactly you can use the two in different recipes. So, let’s get a closer look at the same! 

Thai Basil Vs. Basil | The Difference Table

Before we begin exploring the differences and more between these two types of basils, let us take a quick glance at what their main differences are! 

Basis Of DifferenceThai BasilBasil
AppearanceSturdy with narrow leaves and a purple stem.Round leaves with a floppy and delicate stem. 
Taste Slightly spicy Sweet
UsageWestern CuisineAsian Cuisine
OriginThailandChina, India, Africa
Shelf Life2 Years4-5 Months
Reaction To HeatCan Withstand High TemperaturesCannot Withstand High Temperatures

What Is Thai Basil? 

If you are a fan of Southeast Asian cuisine, more particularly, Thai cuisine, you may have seen Thai basil being used for various recipes. However, for those who are not very familiar with this type of food, Thai basil might sound like a completely new thing! 

Well, there are certain similarities between Thai basil and the sweet basil that we mostly use, considering the fact that they both belong to the same family. But, most of the similarities just end there! 

Thai Basil belongs to the mint family, which also has a lot of other types. This basil is originally from Thailand and quite often used only in southeast Asian cuisine. This sort of basil has a sharper flavor as compared to other varieties of basil. 

Thai Basil also has really sturdy leaves which have rough edges, along with a purple stem. This is considered to be one of the distinct characteristics of the same. Thai basil also has a longer shelf life and can live for up to two years, easily. 

What Is Basil? 

Regular basil, also known as ‘Italian Sweet Basil’, is something that more people are familiar with, in the Western world. This herb is used in a lot of recipes all over, especially in Europe. This sort of basil is also cultivated at more places and hence, is quite popular as well. 

Italian sweet basil belongs to the mint family, just like various other types of basils. Although the flavor of this basil is most well known, it is considered to be one of the lighter forms of basil, especially when compared to certain other types. 

Italian sweet basil, also simply known as basil, is originally from Asian countries as well, along with Africa. Although initially cultivated particularly in these regions, now the cultivation is widespread across the world. This sort of basil has rounded leaves. 

The leaves and stem of this basil are actually quite flimsy. Moreover, this basil grows and can be cultivated only at certain times during the year and it also has a much shorter lifespan, before and after harvesting. 

Thai Basil Vs. Basil | Differences Between The Two

In the table given above, we have discussed the main differences between Thai and Italian sweet basil. Now, let’s get a little more in depth about these differences and how easily they can be spotted. 

1. Appearance

Starting off with the appearance of the two, Thai basil, for those who don’t know, might not even look like basil! The sturdy leaves, sharp edges and also the purple stem of this particular type almost makes it look like a green leafy vegetable! 

On the other hand, Italian sweet basil is something that more people are aware about. It is indeed very easy to pick out a bunch of sweet basil, due to their characteristic rounded green leaves. They also are very flimsy to the touch. 

2. Taste 

There are really major differences when it comes to the flavors of the two types of basils. This is also the reason why their application is vastly different from each other. Thai basil has a really strong and sharp flavor. 

It gives out an anise like flavor, which has a spicy kick to it, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect out of basil. Italian sweet basil on the other hand, as the name suggests, has a sweet flavor. Compared to Thai basil, this flavor is actually really very mild.

3. Smell

Most types of herbs have a really distinct aroma that is attached to them. In fact, this aroma makes it much easier to differentiate one herb from another! Italian sweet basil has a smell that most people are really familiar with. 

The flavor is almost clove-like and it also releases a bunch of strong aroma, when rubbed. Thai basil, however, has a more licorice-like, strong smell. When Thai basil is rubbed, it does not let out its aroma, regardless of the fact that it is much stronger than sweet basil. 

4. Usage 

Although both these herbs belong to the same family, their uses are almost poles apart from each other! This is actually the case with many spices as well. This basil has very different uses, considering the fact that they are grown in different regions. 

This affects their overall flavor, smell and texture a lot, which in turn, causes differences in their uses as well. Considering the mild flavor of Italian Sweet basil, it is most often used to improve the flavor of various western sauces and soups. On the other hand, Thai basil has a sharp flavor and is used for certain Asian dishes, which need a stronger flavor. 

5. Origin

The origin of Thai basil is pretty obvious, as I mentioned earlier. This sort of basil is popularly grown in Thailand and certain other Southeast Asian countries, where there is a perfect atmosphere and various other factors in favor of this basil. 

Italian sweet basil, although the name might be misleading, is originally from parts of India, China and also Africa. However, it is now cultivated in various other countries too, with a warm climate, like Egypt, Morocco, France and also Italy! 

6. Shelf Life

As the textures of these two types of basils are really different from each other, that also accounts for differences in their shelf life. Thai basil tends to have a much longer shelf life as compared to Italian sweet basil, even before harvesting! 

The shelf life comes to 2 years for Thai basil before it is harvested. On the other hand, the shelf life of Italian sweet basil is 4-5 months, before harvesting. 

7. Reaction To Heat

Coming to the last difference of them all, the way both these forms of basil take heat is very different from each other. Thai basil, considering its hard, sturdy leaves and stems can withstand high temperatures. 

Hence, if Thai basil is to be added to a curry while cooking it, you can very well do so. Italian sweet basil on the other hand is really delicate. So, if added at a really early stage while cooking, chances are it will wilt and not add as much flavor. So, it is better to add it in a little later in the cooking process. 

Top Recipes To Make With Thai Basil

Here are some classic recipes that you can try out with Thai basil. 

1. Thai Basil Chicken

Thai basil chicken is a classic from Thailand, all for a reason. This recipe consists of classic ingredients like chicken, ginger, garlic and thai basil, which makes up for a great combination of flavors. This southeast Asian delight can be enjoyed just as it is, or with a steaming hot bowl of rice. 

2. Thai Basil Spring Rolls

Considering how important this ingredient is in Southeast Asian cuisine, there are many recipes from this region that can be made with this ingredient. Thai basil spring rolls is one such versatile recipe, with a sharp flavor. This recipe makes for a fantastic appetizer, with just a few ingredients. 

3. Vietnamese Beef Pho

Thai basil isn’t just limited to Thai cuisine! Vietnamese cuisine also quite often uses Thai basil, for various recipes. One such Vietnamese classic that everyone loves is pho, that too, beef pho! The Thai basil can be added to the broth of this dish and also added on top as a garnish.

Top Recipes To Make With Italian Sweet Basil

Here are some recipes that you can try out with Italian Sweet basil : 

1. Pesto

Pesto is one of the most popular sauces that is used in various dishes. Instead of buying store bought pesto, you can instead make your own at home with some Italian sweet basil. Just a few more ingredients like pine nuts, oil and garlic can bring up this recipe together.

2. Caprese Salad

Caprese salad has basil as one of the main ingredients that makes it taste really amazing. Along with fresh, homemade pesto, you can also top off your mozzarella and tomato treat with fresh Italian sweet basil! 

3. Tomato Basil Sauce

Ragu is again one of the most popular sauces that is used in making the base of various recipes, from pastas to chicken parmesan. Fresh Italian sweet basil added towards the end will add a great amount of flavor to a basic ragu recipe. 

Can One Of These Be Used As A Substitute For The Other? 

Both Thai basil and Italian sweet basil belong to the same family. So, many may wonder if both these ingredients are interchangeable.

Of course, this is a very valid question, considering how Thai basil is not as readily available as Italian sweet basil is. So, can they be interchanged in different recipes? 

Well, frankly, based on their properties, the two types of basil are not really interchangeable. If Thai basil is added to recipes in place of sweet basil, it will end up adding a very pungent flavor to the recipe.

On the other hand, sweet basil has a very mild flavor and hence, if added to a recipe in place of Thai basil, will not add as much flavor. So, the two cannot be used as substitutes for each other. 

Thai Basil Vs. Basil | Which One Is Healthier 

Basil, just like many other herbs that are harvested across the world, has various health benefits attached to it. These health benefits are truly equivalent, for both types of basils. However, is one really healthier than the other? 

Not really! It may seem like one of them is better than the other, however, they are both equally healthy in different ways. Let us take a look at what the differences in their health benefits are, below. 

Health Benefits Of Thai Basil : 

Health Benefits of Thai Basil
  • Good Source Of Minerals – Thai basil is a great source of various minerals, like magnesium, calcium and fiber. 
  • Helps With Digestion – Thai basil has certain properties that help with digestion and also weight management. 
  • Prevents Bacteria And Fungi – This sort of basil helps a lot with bacterial and fungal infections. 

Health Benefits Of Italian Sweet Basil : 

  • Reduces Depression – Italian basil has certain compounds that help reduce depression and also stress. 
  • Reduces Strokes – Italian sweet basil has compounds that help reduce stress. 
  • Prevents Ulcers – Some compounds present in Italian sweet basil help prevent stomach ulcers. 

Thai Basil Vs. Basil | Which Is More Versatile? 

Technically, both these types of basil are versatile in their own way. However, there are certain factors that make one a little more versatile than the other. In my opinion, regular Italian sweet basil would be more versatile as compared to Thai basil.

The reason behind this is just the fact that it has a milder flavor. So, it can always be adjusted, as compared to the flavor of Thai basil. 


Thai basil and Italian sweet basil belong to the same family, however, there are some notable differences between the two, keeping various parameters in mind. Both are equally versatile in their own way and hence, have their own independent uses for which they are most well known. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do Thai basil and basil belong to the same family? 

Yes, Thai basil and Italian sweet basil belong to the same family. 

Do Thai basil and Italian sweet basil taste different? 

Yes, there are major differences in the flavors of Thai and Italian basil. 

Is one of these types of basil more healthy as compared to the other? 

No, both types of basil are equally healthy in two completely different ways. 

Can Thai basil be used to make pesto? 

Yes, Thai basil can be used to make pesto, however, it will impart a different flavor as compared to the one that you are used to, with pesto. 

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