If using fresh herbs in your kitchen is not your thing, you might struggle to recognize and make the best use of them in your frypan.. Fresh herbs unlock so much flavor to your dishes that it is well worth it to know how basil and parsley differ and whether or not it’s a good idea to use both in a recipe.
The differences between basil and parsley lie in:
- Appearance: basil stems are fibrous while parsley stems are more woody, especially at the base; basil leaves shape is spark like with only small occasional spikes, differently from parsley.
- Taste and Uses: basil is used in savory and sweet dishes while parsley is a popular garnish.
Two of the most common herbs are basil and parsley. Both are a staple in Italian and some Asian dishes. What distinguishes one from the other? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
- 1 Basil And Parsley – A Comparison
- 2 2 Easy Recipes With Fresh Basil
- 3 2 Best Dishes With Fresh Parsley
- 4 What Is The Shelf Life Of Dried Basil and Parsley Leaves?
- 5 Takeaways
- 6 Sources
The only common thing that basil and parsley share is that they contain a percentage of essential oils. Basil has 0.1 percent of essential oil components called methyl chavicol and d-linalool. In comparison, parsley has 0.5 percent of essential oil called apiol.
Methyl chavicol, also known as estragole is an essential oil that is used in perfumes, creams, lotions, and perfumes. This oil has been also used in Chinese medicine to alleviate stomach ache and kidney ailments for hundreds
Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also known as sweet basil, is a mint-like herb from the family Lamiaceae. It is a sun-loving plant that is only perennial in environments where it is warm throughout the year.
It is a common kitchen herb that’s supposed to have originated in India, but it is also found in Indonesia, Nepal, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. It is a source of the
Popular basil varieties are the common basil, Italian basil, lettuce-leaf basil, Thai basil, holy basil, and lemon basil.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial herb of the Apiaceae (or carrot) family that is endemic to the Mediterranean and southern Asian regions where it can grow through the winter if indoor. In the spring, it blooms, and in the summer, it fades. It thrives in the chilly autumn and winter months.
Its name comes from the Greek word for rock “petros” which points to its native habitat made of cliffs and rocks. Nowadays, parsley is planted in moist well-drained soil in a sunny area.
At banquets, the ancient Romans and Greeks are said to have used parsley to avoid intoxication.
At its simplest, a very distinct difference between the two is in the appearance of the leaves and the taste. Basil has a smaller leaf that tastes savory and minty, while parsley has broader leaves with a mild flavor.
In terms of cultivation, parsley is way harder to grow than basil, especially indoors. Parsley is indeed way more sensitive to temperature and even light fluctuations that can easily bolt such delicate herb.
Basil is a bushy plant with several branches sprouting from its stalk. Despite this, it does not become overgrown, especially if you harvest the leaves on a regular basis. The average height of mature basil is 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) and the average width is 12-24 inches (30-60).
Curly parsley can grow 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) tall while the flat-leaf parsley can grow 24-36 in (61-91 cm) tall. You can keep parsley bushy when you regularly cut the outer leaves and stems.
Basil stems are fibrous and square-shaped. Further, it is woody near the ground and thins out towards the ends of the stems. The branches grow in pairs in opposite directions. Going up the stem, the next pair of branches will grow in the same manner but in a perpendicular direction relative to the lower branch. This contributes to its bushy appearance.
Parsley stems are tough, long, and thin.
1.3 Leaf Appearance
Depending on the basil variety, the leaves can be: large lettuce-like, large leaves, bushy, compact, or very small leaves. The average leaf size is 1 to 4 inches (3 to 11 cm) in length with an oval to lanceolate shape. The leaf edges appear serrated and jagged.
The appearance of parsley’s foliage is what is used to distinguish parsley types: curly leaf and flat-leaf. The curly-leaf parsley also known as French parsley has fine and curled leaves and is mostly what is used as a garnish. On the other hand, the flat-leaf also called Italian parsley is what is preferred for cooking.
To add that basil leaves are usually meatier (thicker) than parsley leaves. Moreover, parsley leaves have pointed edges compared to basil that most of the time is smooth
Lastly, there is the hamburg parsley which is grown not for the leaves but the roots.
We have an article about white spots on parsley leaves if that is your situation.
1.3 Leaf Colors
Basil leaves can come in the colors: 1) green, 2) purple (like Ocimum basilicum var. purpurascens), and 3) wine-red color (like Ocimum basilicum).
Parsley only has only one leaf color, green.
Basil’s flowers are white or purple (or magenta) and grow from the stem’s center in a spiky appearance. The flowers are the seed-producing part of the plant.
Parsley has white flowers that have a strong aroma that attracts helpful insects to a garden, particularly wasps and predatory flies.
Basil generally has a sweet and savory taste with hints of clove, anise, pepper, and mint. There are many varieties of basil hence taste can vary. Some basil with distinct flavors are sweet basil, cinnamon basil, and lemon basil.
If your basil tastes differently, you might be interested in our article on why basil leaves are bitter.
Parsley has a fresh, peppery flavor with a hint of earthiness. The essential oil that is in each leaf is what gives it its distinct taste.
Basil, called the “King of Herbs” is a versatile plant because you can use it in savory and sweet dishes. You can use it fresh in ice cream, soups, lemon drinks, ice cream, milkshakes, chocolate drinks, tomato dishes, pesto. Fresh or dried leaves can be used to give flavor to meat and fish.
Basil tea, which is a stimulant, is a popular preparation of this herb. Parsley, chives, dill, mint, and oregano are just some of the herbs that pair well with basil. Interested to know more about basil? Then head on to our article on 15 unknown facts about basil.
Parsley is widely used in salads, sauces, soups, meats, fish, and as a plate garnish. It works well with these herbs: basil, oregano, dill, sage, and lemon balm.
Basil is such a versatile herb. Here we have 2 easy to prepare recipes that you can whip up in no time.
With no need for an ice cream machine, nothing can be easier.
This recipe requires you to 1) make the basil syrup and 2) prepare the ice cream itself.
Let’s get started with the basil syrup.
- cup each of water,
- and freshly cut basil leaves.
Preparation: Combine the water and sugar in a pan. Bring to a low boil, stirring regularly to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat once the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the basil leaves last. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Freeze overnight. Best served topped with fresh berries.
Now, let’s make ice cream.
- one cup cooled down basil syrup,
- one tub of whipped topping,
- fourteen ounces of sweetened condensed milk.
Who wouldn’t enjoy this refreshing drink on a hot summer’s day while lounging in the garden? The preparation takes roughly 45 minutes plus chilling time. Serves six.
First, the ingredients:
- three cups of fresh raspberries,
- one cup of sugar,
- one cup packed of fresh coarsely chopped basil leaves,
- quarter cup lime juice.
- two black tea bags,
- 1 liter of carbonated water or 750 milliliters of sparkling rose wine,
- and ice cubes.
- fresh raspberries
- basil leaves.
On to the preparation.
Combine the raspberries, sugar, basil, and lime juice in a large saucepan. Mash the berries. Cook for 7 minutes over medium heat, or until berries release juices.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 20 minutes while covered. Using a strainer, remove the tea bags and raspberry seeds. Fill a 2-quart pitcher halfway with tea. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Add carbonated water or wine carefully just before serving. Serve with ice cubes. Top with raspberries and basil, if preferred.
I regularly include these two recipes in our weekly dinner rotation using fresh herbs from my small indoor garden.
To cut the preparation time, we are going to use refrigerated pie crust. The preparation is 15 minutes and baking time is 25 minutes plus whatever time it takes for it to cool down.
This recipe calls for 4 different kinds of cheese. Shred the first 3 and crumble the last one:
- half a cup part-skim mozzarella cheese,
- half a cup Swiss cheese,
- half a cup of Gruyere or extra Swiss cheese,
- half a cup of feta cheese.
- one sheet of refrigerated pie crust,
- five large eggs,
- one cup half-and-half cream,
- one tablespoon each of minced fresh basil and parsley,
- two teaspoons of minced fresh dill.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Next, roll out the crust into a 9-inch pie pan and flute the edges. Sprinkle cheese all over the crust.
After that, whisk eggs and cream together in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Add the herbs and pour over the top.
Finally, bake for 25-30 minutes on a lower oven rack, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow for at least 10-minute rest before cutting.
Lemon And Parsley Butter Beans
Here’s something you can easily prepare after a busy day at work. With a preparation time of roughly 10 minutes, a cooking time of 20 minutes, and some common pantry and fridge supplies, dinner for 4 is soon ready.
For the ingredients:
- one tablespoon of olive oil,
- one sliced large onion,
- one crushed garlic clove,
- 2x400g (14oz) cans of rinsed and drained butter beans,
- juice and zest of one lemon,
- a bunch (to your preference) of chopped fresh parsley
Now let’s get cooking.
First, heat oil in a pan. Add the onions and stir for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic. Then stir the beans in. When the beans have warmed up, add the lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine then serve topped with parsley.
Note: If you are one of those who do not prefer lemon juice on your food, just skip it.
Can You Use Both Basil And Parsley In A Dish?
I have mentioned above that both herbs pair well with each other. If you decide to do that, the proper way is to add it to the food in small quantities, then taste and adjust accordingly.
Can You Eat Parsley Stems?
Parsley stems can be eaten. The best ones are those stems that are still young and fresh so that it isn’t hard to chew on. It has quite a bitter taste so it is recommended to chop them finely.
The flavor of the stem is stronger than the leaves which is why some people prefer to use it in making stock and soups instead.
How Long Do They Last?
Basil is a perennial plant in warmer climates and annual in colder climates.
Parsley is a biennial plant, which means it lasts up to two years. At the end of the second season of growth will be the time when they will flower and produce seeds.
Can You Grow Basil And Parsley Together?
Yes, basil and parsley can be planted together because they have the same watering requirements. Parsley is a great companion to many plants that love moisture like basil. Parsley can benefit from basil’s ability to repel harmful insects.
Basil leaves are used fresh or dried. Dried basil when stored properly at room temperature will generally stay at its optimum quality within 2 to 3 years. To improve shelf life, air-tight containers are recommended.
Dried parsley on the other hand when properly stored at room temperature will generally stay at the optimum quality for roughly 1-3 years. Same with basil, storing them in airtight containers will improve its shelf life.
1. Both basil and parsley differ significantly in appearance.
2. Basil and parsley are very popular herbs that are used in many dishes.
3. Basil is much more versatile because it can be used in sweet recipes.
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“Basil Vs Parsley – What’s The Difference?” by Jaron in Foodsguy
“Basic guide to herbs” by n.a. in Legro
“Herb Gardening” by n.a. in University of Illinois
“Basil” by n.a. in Specialty Produce
“Basil” by Editors in Encyclopaedia Britannica
“Parsley: Home” by n.a. in NYBG
“10 Companion Herbs To Plant In Your Garden” by n.a. in 1 Million Women
“PARSLEY FLAKES, DRIED, COMMERCIALLY BOTTLED OR PURCHASED IN BULK — UNOPENED OR OPENED” by n.a. in StillTasty