There is something so pleasing about having a fully stocked and versatile range of herbs in your kitchen. You never know when a recipe will call for one herb or another, so having as many herbs to hand as possible will make your time in the kitchen much easier.
But if you do not have room for a whole garden of herbs, there are a few staples you can get by on so long as you know their individual functions. Basil and mint are two of the most popular.
As obvious as it seems, the most significant difference between basil and mint is their flavour. Both are sweet herbs, but while basil has more savoury notes, mint is mainly fresh and tangy.
What is Basil?
Though used all over Western and European cooking, basil is a particular favourite of Italian cuisine. This popularity could simply be due to where basil naturally grows, but it could also be because of its light flavour, which is a crucial component of many Italian dishes.
In all, there are more than 60 types of basil all over the world, each with its own unique taste. From large-leaf Italian basil to Thai basil.
The basil you are most likely to find in your local supermarket is sweet basil, which is best used fresh but can be enjoyed dried. As its name would suggest, sweet basil is mostly sweet with a slightly subtle anise flavour and an aroma to match.
Dried basil highlights this anise taste, diluting the basil’s natural sweetness. Again, it is sweet basil that is likely used for dried basil products, so you can still expect a sweet aroma.
Like most herbs, you will get the best flavour from basil when it is used fresh. Luckily, basil is very easy to grow and can yield delicious leaves all year round.
What is Mint?
Every cuisine has its go-to herb, and for Middle Eastern cuisine, that herb is mint.
Other cuisines and cultures are no strangers to mint as it has been used for centuries to add a spark of freshness to a range of dishes and products worldwide – from mint ice cream to mint toothpaste. However, when it comes to an actual meal, most cuisines use mint sparingly.
Mint leaves are as powerful in flavour as they are in scent.
This robust taste does vary depending on the species and type of mint you use, but all mint has a taste that can only be described as fresh, with enough sweetness to set your tastebuds alight instead of numbing them. This is why mint is often paired with sweeter foods, like chocolate.
Rarely will a recipe call for dried mint as it can make the strong taste of the mint too powerful and overwhelming. That is why instead fresh mint leaves or mint extract are preferred.
If you grow your own mint and don’t want the leaves to go to waste, you can either dry the leaves out yourself or keep the leaves in your fridge to make their powerful flavour last longer.
Similarities Between Basil and Mint
It can be easy to get herbs confused if you have never used or experimented with them before. Basil and mint are two of the most commonly confused herbs because of their similarities. Such as:
- Better Fresh – Admittedly, it is quite typical for a herb to have a better taste and aroma when used fresh. But in the case of basil and mint, using the herbs fresh will make a significant impact on the flavour of your food.
- Easy To Grow – One of the best things about mint and basil is that they are both effortless to grow in your kitchen garden and yield a lot of leaves for you to use throughout the year. This will save you plenty of money on herbs.
- Vivid Colours – It can be very easy for a meal to quickly become bland visually, especially if the presentation is not your strong suit in the kitchen. Fresh herbs can add a burst of colour to your plate easily, and basil and mint, in particular, stand out against other herbs for being especially green.
Differences Between Basil and Mint
Despite their similarities, basil and mint are very different herbs at their core and have different uses because of these differences. For example:
- A Little Or A Lot – Mint is well known in the culinary world for being as strong as it is pungent. Whether you are using fresh or dried mint or even mint extract, it must be used in moderation to avoid overwhelming your dish. In comparison, basil can be used excessively without making your dish taste like toothpaste.
- Level Of Sweetness – Both basil and mint have their source of sweetness which makes them the perfect pairing for a whole host of foods and ingredients. However, in mint, sweetness is not the herb’s dominant flavour; rather it helps to highlight the other flavours of the mint. In basil, it is the sweetness that is the most prominent taste, followed up by a hint of anise.
- Robust Flavours – Compared to mint, the flavour of basil is much more dialled back, no matter how you use the herb. Mint is strong and pungent in every sense, which makes it harder to master. So, if you are still wary about over-using your herbs, stick with basil-based recipes.
Basil vs Mint: Which Wins?
If you had to stick to using just one of these two herbs for eternity, which would you pick? It’s time to cast your vote between basil vs mint:
Do You Prefer Basil or Mint?
Basil and Mint FAQs
If you have more questions about basil, mint and what makes them different, then have a look at these FAQs:
No, this is not a good swap to make. They may both be soft, bright green herbs but the flavour profile of these herbs are entirely different. You’ll completely change the flavour of a dish by swapping these herbs.
No, basil is not a form of mint. Although they are both in the same order of plants (Lamiaceae), they are very different in flavour and texture.
Acacia may be a freelance writer by day, but they are a food fanatic by night. They are always trying out new recipes or finding different ways to elevate classical dishes. But their biggest culinary aim is to educate others on the basics of the kitchen so that they too can enjoy delicious food.