Basil is known as the ‘King of Herb’s and there is no doubt that its versatility when it comes to cooking helps it to keep its crown. However, one thing that people are probably not aware of is that there is more than just one single variety of basil. In actual fact, we are going to look at 24 different varieties here and the thing that you must keep in mind is that each variety has its own distinct taste.
Why is this important?
Well, the answer to that is simply because the taste is so different between the varieties that it is going to have an impact on the type of dish that you end up actually using them in so clearly this is something that you need to be aware of or else you run the risk of making a mess of things.
1. Christmas Basil.
This first variety does sound rather intriguing just by the name alone and the one thing you will notice is that this basil does look rather cool as a plant. However, when it comes to the taste of this variety, then it has a slightly fruity taste and that is going to work as a wonderful accompaniment to salads and even drinks.
2. Cinnamon Basil.
As the name suggests, cinnamon basil is going to be completely different as it does smell like cinnamon and has a spicier taste to it. This variety is actually a rather good addition to various Asian dishes and in particular mixed in with noodles or marinades. Alternatively, you can add it to some grilled vegetables just to give them an extra kick.
3. Dark Opal Basil.
Dark opal basil is something that is completely different once again. It has its own particular spicy taste and it is quite a dramatic herb. When it comes to cooking, then this is something that can make a pretty amazing pesto or if you feel like adding some spark to a salad then this could be the perfect garnish as it is also rather attractive to look at.
4. Holy Basil.
Holy basil has a slightly spicy, peppery, and clove like taste to it and you can begin to understand how it is then going to be a wonderful addition to different curries. Indian cooking seems to be perfectly designed for this particular herb especially if you are including meat in what you are cooking but do be careful as it can be quite a strong herb on its own.
5. Lemon Basil.
Lemon basil is going to be pretty self-explanatory and you will not be surprised to hear that it does have quite a lemon and citrus taste to it. This does mean that it is going to be the perfect herb to go alongside different fish dishes as well as poultry. Alternatively, it can be used in various deserts and even to add a fruity, lemon taste to a range of drinks. In other words, it is pretty versatile.
6. Lime Basil.
If you are looking at using a form of basil that is powerful, then this variety is quite good at making its presence felt and as the name suggests you are going to have quite a lime and citrus taste that is still different enough from the lemon basil. It can be slightly overpowering in some dishes, but if you are wondering as to what to use it in, then as an addition to teas or deserts would work perfectly.
7. Spicy Bush Basil.
Spicy bush basil has a name that kind of gives the game away as to what you should be expecting from this particular variety of basil as it certainly adds a spicy kick to a variety of dishes. It also has a rather amazing fragrance to it without the spice being too overpowering. It is often used in various pasta dishes as well as soups where you just want to add a slight hint of warmth to it.
8. Purple Ruffles Basil.
As names go, this one has to be one of the more interesting. The color is certainly different from what you are expecting as it is darker with frilly edges. The taste is stronger than sweet basil but milder than a number of others but due to its color it is actually used more as a garnish rather than anything else.
9. Sweet Basil.
Sweet basil is actually one of the main favorites with a slight peppery taste that is certainly not too overpowering. It is one of the most widely used versions of the herb and it is commonly found in a variety of pestos as well as sauces and marinades. It is quite a mild herb so if you are looking for a subtle taste to things, then this is the way to go.
10. Purple Basil.
Purple basil is different to the purple ruffles variety mentioned earlier and its uses are also going to be vastly different as well. It has a slight licorice taste to it but once again it is more because of its color that it is used in a number of dishes. One recommendation is to add it to vinegar or oil and allowed to steep for some time in order to infuse into the liquid before then adding it to a variety of dishes.
11. Purple Opal Basil.
Purple opal basil is yet another version of this amazing color that you may come across and, once again, it has its very own taste and its very own uses when it comes to the number of different recipes that it can appear in. It is stronger than purple basil and it has a slight clove taste to it although some people identify a slight ginger taste as well. However, when it comes to using it in cooking then you are looking at it working best in baking, salads, and even in some beverages where it can offer a slight kick to the taste.
12. Thai Sweet Basil.
You will be able to immediately guess the type of cooking that Thai sweet basil is going to work best for just by its name. It has a slightly stronger licorice or anise taste to it and that is why it is so popular in that part of the world as the slightly spicy undertones works well in their cooking. It is used throughout Southeast Asia and can be used in a variety of dishes from the region.
13. Sweet Italian.
Sweet Italian basil is yet another version that you are going to be able to guess where it is able to be used when it comes to cooking. This version is working along the same lines as the Thai sweet basil version but it is milder when it comes to the flavor. However, it is going to work wonderfully well with tomatoes and various Italian dishes where tomatoes are the main ingredient.
14. African Blue Basil.
African blue basil is certainly something different to try out. It has quite a mellow taste to it although there is still a hint of cloves in there but it is also quite earthy compared to other varieties that you may use in cooking. Due to its more mellow taste it is going to be a wonderful addition to meat dishes as well as rice and if you want to add in a bit more flavor to vegetables, then this is going to do an amazing job.
15. Cardinal Basil.
Cardinal basil has a rather strong and quite powerful licorice like taste to it and the fact that it is so pungent does mean that you do not have to use too much of it in your recipes to really experience everything that it can give you. When it comes to cooking, then you should be looking at adding this to the likes of vinegar and oils as it is a wonderful dressing in a range of dishes.
16. Greek Basil.
Greek basil is known to be slightly more subtle than its stronger Italian basil cousin so this does mean that it can be used in a number of different dishes. It does still have some spicy undertones to it and in particular a taste of anise and cloves without it being too overpowering. This particular variety is fantastic when it is used in salads or even soups where you just want to add in something slightly different without it destroying the other tastes in the dish. You may also want to include meat dishes as well and as it is milder you can certainly use a bit more of it compared to the Italian basil variety.
Ararat is also something completely different to everything else that has come before it. This variety can have a range of colors from green to purple and it tastes of a rather spicy version of licorice. It is known as an heirloom variety from Israel and it is most commonly found in flower arrangements rather than in recipes.
18. Genovese Basil.
Genovese basil starts off with quite a subtle pepper flavor before it then evolves into a sweeter and far more aromatic flavor later on. It is also one of the most common versions of the herb and it is widely used in Italy due to the way in which it plays a prominent role in pestos as well as other pasta dishes.
19. Green Ruffles.
Coming from the same family as the purple ruffles mentioned earlier, it has a stronger flavor than its purple cousin so you can expect more of a taste of licorice than you would get elsewhere. It is used widely in Italian cooking as it can still stand out from the crowd with the other herbs and garlic that tend to appear in pasta dishes whereas other basil can often end up being slightly swamped.
20. Pesto Perpetuo.
Now, this name is going to be new to a lot of people but it is actually along the same lines as sweet basil and it often comes with white tinged leaves that are also rather pleasing on the eye. As the name suggests, it is going to be the perfect accompaniment to pesto but you can also add in various other Italian dishes as well.
21. Red Rubin.
The thing about red rubin basil is that it is not often used in recipes but it does have a much stronger taste to it than either Genovese basil or sweet basil. It also comes with reddish colored leaves but thanks to the strength of its flavor it can be used to make your very own herbal vinegars or in dishes where you want to really ramp up the flavor as much as possible and where Genovese basil is just not cutting the mustard.
Summerlong is a dwarf type of basil but its compact size does not mean that it has a compact taste. In actual fact, it has a taste that is quite similar to sweet basil, so you are looking at a hint of pepper when it is added to dishes. If you are wondering as to the best recipes for this version, then we think marinades, pestos, and even some sauces would be a fantastic idea.
23. Sweet Green.
Sweet green basil is pretty impressive. It has a rather rich and spicy flavor to it with just a hint of sweetness which is quite a good balance. This plant is very easy to find and it is going to be the perfect addition to vegetables thanks to it having quite an aromatic flavor.
24. Lettuce Basil.
Finally, we have lettuce basil and this is known for its rather aromatic and powerful taste that has been described as being either peppery through to a slight hint of mint and mildly spicy. This is going to be the perfect thing to add to salads and other fresh dishes but perhaps do not add too much of it due to its strength.
As you can see, the 24 different varieties do provide you with a range of flavors and you can see the versatility of this herb with the way in which it can be used in dishes from around the world. It is best to experiment with as many as you can and see which ones have the greatest impact in your own recipes.