How to replace basil flavour

Almost every ingredient’s flavour can be replaced by the right combination of other products! That is why we conducted a little experiment. Starting from ‘basil flavour’ and its aromatic matches, we can actually replace basil by a combination of other dried spices. The basil experience, without basil!

Why we replace basil

Maybe you are surprised we selected basil. Apart from its interesting flavour profile, the production of basil actually goes along with a high carbon footprint. Basil was found to have the highest energy-label possible (´E´) all year round (based on the calendar of the Milieu centrale, an independent Dutch organisation aiming at improving the attitude towards sustainability). It is remarkable that although basil is often locally produced, it still gets such a high label.

Distance is not always a good measurement to determine if a product is high or low in carbon footprint. The growing conditions (heated glasshouses) and the vulnerability of this fresh plant will also have an impact on its footprint. When you don’t have the ideal circumstances to grow your own fresh basil, this mixture of dried spices might come in handy.

Starting from the “basil flavour” and its aromatic components, we can actually replace basil by a combination of more sustainable ingredients.

Food as a unique combination of different aromas

There is no such thing as a general “basil aroma”. Actually it’s the right combination of different aroma molecules which generates a certain food smell. Read more on the science behind Foodpairing.

Replacing the basil flavour by a mixture of other ingredients is not easy. To know which ingredients we should pick, we need to go into the science stuff!

Aroma wheel of basil

We have divided all the different aroma molecules in groups, so called “aroma descriptors”. As we can see from the chart, basil contains aromas that are fruity, citrus, green, floral, woody, herbal, minty, medicinal, terpenic and earthy.

basil flavour wheel foodpairing

To create a recipe that tastes like basil, we focus on the most important descriptors which are floral, spicy and woody.

Floral aromas

Floral aromas are present in citrus-like ingredients, such as coriander, lemon grass, ginger, juniper berries and sage.

Spicy aromas

The spicy aromas are a bit more complex. For basil, three subcategories of spicy flavours will be of relevance. The first one is a cinnamon-like side, also present in coriander, nutmeg, clove and of course cinnamon. The second would be the clove direction, shared with ingredients such as clove, sage and laurel. The last important spicy subcategory is tarragon-like. Apart from tarragon, we find it in anise, clove and liquorice.

Woody aromas

The last important aroma descriptor is the woody one. Ginger, piment, cardamom, rosemary or thyme are good ingredients to replace the woody side of basil.

Now we found the right set of ingredients, it’s time to create a recipe! After playing with different ingredients and quantities we have come up with a herb mix oil.

Herb mix oil with basil flavour


  • 3 g Whole Coriander seed
  • 0.5 g Dried Laurel
  • 0.2 g Dried Thyme
  • 0.1 g Dried Tarragon
  • 1 seed Cardamom
  • 1 head of a Clove
  • a pinch of Cinnamon powder
  • a pinch of Ginger powder
  • 50 ml Olive Oil

preparation basil flavoured oil


Weight the amounts of all the ingredients. Put all the herbs in a blender or mixer and blend until the herbs are cut into small particles.

Put the mix in a mortar and put 5 ml of the oil in it as well. Crush it until you obtain a nice herb paste. Put the paste in the plastic bag, add the other 45 ml oil and vacuum it.

Store the bag in your refrigerator for at least one night. Sieve the oil with a Superbag sieve.

The oil is now ready to use, enjoy!

We hope this post can change the way you look at ingredients, flavors, local ingredients and helps you to be creative with local foods.

basil foodpairing tool combinations flavour basil pairing pairings

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