The fresh leaves of common Genovese basil can be used to flavor a wide variety of dishes from pasta sauces to salads and fish. If you don"t have fresh basil at hand, dried basil can sometimes be substituted for fresh basil leaves.
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However, replacing fresh basil with dried basil usually only works in recipes that feature this highly fragrant herb in small quantities rather than as a main ingredient. So making pesto with dried basil leaves, for instance, is not something you want to try out!
When converting fresh basil to dried basil, make sure you use the correct conversion ratio. Most experts recommend using twice as much fresh as you would dried basil. So, for example:
2 teaspoons fresh equals 1 teaspoon dried
In other words, if the original recipe calls for two teaspoons of finely chopped fresh basil, you can simply substitute the amount with one teaspoon of dried basil leaves. Similarly, two tablespoons of fresh basil would correspond to 1 tablespoon of dried basil. When substituting dried basil for its fresh counterpart in recipes, it is important to keep in mind that the conversion ratios should only be used as a rule of thumb as dried herbs tend to lose flavor quickly, thereby altering the optimal ratios.
Before seasoning your dish, crush the dried basil in the palm of your hand or between your fingers, and smell the herb. If the scent is strong, your basil still has strong flavor and the 2:1 conversion ratio is likely to be quite accurate. If the scent is light, your dried basil has lost flavor and you might want to measure out slightly more than the amount indicated in the original recipe. Another way of determining the potency of dried basil is to evaluate its color: if it looks nice and green, it is still likely to have its mojo. Finally, when seasoning a dish with dried basil, you should of course also your taste buds and adjust the amount of basil as needed.
What to Do When You Have Neither Fresh nor Dried Basil?
The above conversion ratio can be used when you want to substitute fresh basil for dried basil, or vice versa. But what if you want to make your favorite Italian-style pasta sauce but just realized you have neither fresh nor dried basil at home? In such a situation, you may be happy to learn that there are many herbs that can be substituted for basil in recipes. They include oregano, tarragon, thyme, savory and cilantro. If the original recipe calls for fresh Thai basil, you may also be able to use fresh mint instead. If the recipe uses fresh basil leaves just as a garnish, parsley leaves can usually be used as a substitute.
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