Parsley vs Basil: Differences & How to Use

Parsley and basil are two fresh herbs that I use regularly. Both are tasty and beneficial herbs used in all types of food- from meats to vegetables to baking and even juicing too!

Parsley and basil are two common fresh herbs used in a variety of cuisines, especially Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Although they are both green with a fresh herb flavor. There are differences between these two herbs and reasons you should be using one or the other.

This blog post will discuss the differences between parsley and basil, when to use each herb, health benefits, and more. Keep reading!

Key Differences in Parsley vs Basil

Parsley has a grassy, bitter taste with a spicy flavor that complements savory dishes. Basil has a minty, fresh flavor that complements both sweet and savory dishes.

Parsley has small, more rugged, and jagged leaves, While basil has large, delicate, rounded leaves.

What is Parsley?

Parsley originated in the Mediterranean region and is commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Today it is grown in most regions of the world.

Parsley is part of the Apiaceae family known as Petroselinum crispum. 

In addition to having several culinary uses, parsley is also known as a healing herb offering many health benefits. It has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. It’s a natural detoxifier, a natural diuretic, and has anti-inflammatory properties, among other healing benefits.

Types of Parsley

There are three types of parsley, but only two are commonly found in the United States: flat-leaf parsley and curly leaf parsley.

Curly parsley is also known as French parsley. Curly leaf parsley has a decorative appearance, making it a popular choice for garnishing dishes. Curly parsley has more rugged leaves than flat parsley leaves are.

Flat-leaf parsley is also known as Italian parsley and is more popular for cooking. Flat-leaf parsley has larger, more delicate-looking leaves than the curly parsley has.

The third type of parsley is uncommon in the U.S. It is called Hamburg root parsley. Hamburg parsley is a root vegetable similar to parsnip. Hamburg parsley is grown in the Middle East and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisines.

Parsley Taste

Parsley is one of the most aromatic herbs used in the U.S., with the stems having more aroma and flavor than the leaves. The stems can be used in cooking along with the leaves.

Flat-leafed, also known as Italian parsley, has a fresh, clean taste. Some may describe it as having a slightly peppery taste, with citrus, clove, and nutmeg hints. Parsley helps to bring out the flavors of other ingredients in the dish and adds a fresh vibrancy to a recipe.

In comparison, curly parsley is less flavorful, with a more grass-like taste that increases in bitterness over time.

When to Use Parsley

Parsley can be used in various recipes, from flavoring stocks and soups to soups, sauces, salads, dressings, bread, and even juicing and smoothies.

The whole leaf can be used in cooking and the stems if desired. Parsley is a popular herb used for garnishing, particularly curly parsley.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Parsley

Parsley has a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional benefits that can significantly benefit your health. You can read more in-depth on the many benefits of parsley here.

Parsley is particularly rich in vitamin K, which helps maintain bone density. The vitamin K in parsley works alongside other bone-building nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium to help strengthen bones from breaks and fractures. One cup of parsley has 820% of the DV for vitamin K.

It is also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and antioxidants, which help support eye health, skin health, and immunity. One cup of parsley has 168% of the DV for vitamin A.

Parsley also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and helps to promote healthy digestion.

It’s important to note that simply garnishing a dish with parsley will not be enough to provide you with significant health benefits from parsley. Consider adding a cup of parsley to bone broth and let simmer before straining, juicing parsley, or adding parsley to smoothies to reap the benefits from this beneficial herb.

Fresh vs Dried Parsley

While dried herbs typically have a strong flavor when dried, this is not the case with parsley. Dried parsley has minimal flavor compared to using fresh parsley leaves. Therefore, when it comes to a parsley substitute, it is not recommended to substitute the dried herb for the fresh herb. Fresh chervil makes a good substitute for fresh parsley.

It’s important to note that fresh parsley is best added at the end of the cooking time for a recipe or as a garnish.

Dried parsley is best used in dishes that simmer or cook for a long time, such as in stews, soups, and pasta sauces. Dried parsley performs better when mixed with other herbs and spices.

What is Basil?

Basil is a popular herb in Italian cuisine, belonging to the mint family. The two types of basil commonly used in Italian cooking include sweet basil, the most commonly found in the grocery store, and Genovese Basil.

Basil leaves are large and somewhat delicate. They have a smooth texture and are typically green in color. Sweet basil has a fragrant, sweet smell with a peppery taste and a hint of mint.

There are more than 40 varieties of basil, some of which are commonly used in cuisines such asThai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese.

Basil Taste

The taste of basil will depend on the variety as there are dozens of varieties of basil grown throughout the world.

Sweet basil, the most commonly found variety in the U.S., has a fresh aroma with a subtle peppery flavor and a hint of mint. Other varieties of basil, such as Thai basil, have a more savory and spicy licorice flavor. Different varieties may have flavors of citrus and spice too.

When to Use Basil

Basil leaves are typically removed from the stem and finely chopped, torn, or used whole in recipes or to garnish dishes. The thicker stems are discarded as they tend to have a bitter taste and will turn a pesto brown. Basil is popular in a variety of Italian dishes. It can be used to make pesto sauce, added as a garnish to pizza, or added to a salad, among many other dishes. It is also a great option for infusing olive oil with flavor.

Fresh basil is typically added at the end of the cooking process for the most intense flavoring as prolonged heat causes the oils in basil to dissipate. Dried basil may be used earlier in a recipe to allow the herb to soften for the best flavoring.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Basil

Different varieties of basil offer varying nutritional, health, and healing benefits.

Holy basil is revered for its medicinal and healing properties. Different parts of the holy basil plant, from the leaves to the seeds, are recommended for treating various conditions and ailments, including stress.

Holy basil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as an adaptogen. Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress and help stabilize blood sugar levels while also promoting longevity.

Sweet basil, which is most commonly found in the grocery store in the U.S., is an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K and manganese. It also contains calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Sweet basil also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, among other health benefits.

When to Use Parsley vs Basil

When to use parsley vs basil depends on the dish. Parsley is the traditional herb of the Caprese salad and a staple in pesto and is used as a garnish for many Italian and Mediterranean dishes. While parsley is commonly used as a garnish and added to many soups, stews, and French dishes.

Can You Substitute Basil and Parsley for One Another?

Yes, you can substitute fresh basil with parsley. You will lose some of the hints of mint that basil has when using parsley, but both have a fresh leafy green herb flavor that is great for garnishing most dishes.

Dried parsley has less flavor and is not recommended to substitute with dried basil.

Key Takeaways

Parsley and basil are beneficial fresh herbs commonly used in recipes, cooking, and baking. They each offer several health and nutritional benefits, making them a great addition to various dishes.

Read More:

Holy Basil vs Thai Basil

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Author Biography

Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.