Are bay leaves basil? (+5 substitutes)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer “are bay leaves basil?” and we will discuss what is the difference between bay leaves and basil, can you substitute basil leaves for bay leaves, what is the best substitute for bay leaves, and can you cook with fresh bay leaves.

Are bay leaves basil?

No, bay leaves are not basil. Basil is a different herb, also known as great basil, from the family Lamiaceae or mint family. 

Bay leaves come from different plant origins such as bay laurel or Turkish bay tree, California bay tree, Maxican bay tree, Indonesian bay tree, Indian and West Indian bay tree.

There are many varieties of basil also such as Thai basil, lemon basil, holy basil and the sweet basil which is usually the most common type of basil used as a flavor due to its clove scent.

What is the difference between bay leaves and basil?


Fresh bay leaves are oval and smooth with greener tops while dried bay leaves have a dull olive green color.

Fresh basil leaves are large and bright green which turn darker matte green when dried.


Fresh bay leaves have little flavor. However, dried bay leaves give much more significant woodsy flavor that compliments other flavors too with its slight bitterness. 

Fresh basil leaves give highly aromatic flavors of anise and clove. When we dry basil leaves, the anise flavor fades out and the remaining flavor is much like the woodsy flavor of dried bay leaves. 


Bay leaves are mostly used in European cuisines, Indian cuisines, and Fillipino dishes (such as menudo, beef pares, adobo). They also savor many Italian and French dishes, and sauces. Basil leaves are removed before serving the dish because they can bitter the taste.

Basil is best for tomato- based dishes and it is the main ingredient used in various italian sauces such as pesto and marinara sauce. It is best to use dried basil leaves in the last 30 min of cooking. 

Basil is used mostly as fresh in many dishes because cooking can destroy its flavor. Flower buds of basil are also edible and they have a nice flavor.

Can I substitute basil leaves for bay leaves or vice versa?

Well, it depends if your recipe calls for dried bay leaves then yes, you can use dried basil leaves because they give the same woody flavor. 

Take equal amounts of basil leaves as of bay leaves to substitute basil for bay leaves in Thai, Italian and other tomato- based foods (such as pasta sauces, stews). 

In short, whenever you need a minty, bitter and woodsy flavor in your soups or stews, you can use either dried basil leaves or bay leaves. Remember, dried for dried!

You cannot use bay leaves or basil leaves together as seasonings because bay leaves best pair with healthy winter dishes such as soups or stews, while basil leaves are best for light summer foods.

However, the one exception where both bay and basil leaves work together as seasonings, are heavier dishes. 

What is the best bay leaf substitute?

As you know, there are different types of basil leaves such as California bay leaves, Turkish bay leaves and Indian bay leaves, their flavors are also different.

You cannot substitute fresh, dried and ground bay leaves in equal amounts because of their different flavors. However, you can match their deliberate taste by swapping them as:

  • 1 fresh bay leaf = 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 fresh bay leaf = ½ tsp ground bay leaves
  • 1 dried bay leaf = ¼ tsp ground bay leaves

Other best options, beside basil, to substitute bay leaves are:

  • Dried thyme 

¼ tsp dried thyme = 1 bay leaf

¼ tsp dried thyme = ¼ tsp crushed bay leaf

  • Oregano

¼ tsp dried oregano = 1 bay leaf

¼ tsp dried oregano = ¼ tsp crushed bay leaf

2 or 3 juniper berries (whole or ground) = 1 bay leaf

  • Boldo leaves

½ boldo leaf = 1 bay leaf

¼ tsp crushed boldo leaf = ½ tsp crushed bay leaf

Other FAQs about Basil which you may be interested in.

How to know if basil is spoiled?

What can I use instead of basil?

You can use fresh oregano, thyme, parsley, tarragon or mint to substitute for basil. 

Can I cook with fresh bay leaves?

Yes, you can cook with fresh bay leaves but do not overuse them otherwise they can overpower in a dish and make the taste bitter. 


In this brief guide, we answered the question “are bay leaves basil?” and discussed what is the difference between bay leaves and basil, can you substitute basil leaves for bay leaves, what is the best substitute for bay leaves, and can you cook with fresh bay leaves or not.



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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.