Thai Basil


About Thai Basil

Thai Basil is also know as Sweet Basil or Asian Basil and the Thai name is bai horapa Theses tropical varieties of basil are referred to as "Thai Basil" are slightly sweeter in flavor and are more stable when cooked than the Mediterranean basil. Another common variety is called Holy Basil, bai gaprow, and has little aroma or flavor until it is cooked. The leaves have a recognizable purple tinge.

In general the leaves of Thai Basil are more long and narrow while the Mediterranean version is more rounded.

Where To Buy Thai Basil

Fresh Thai Basil can be purchased at most Asian markets. If you don't live in an area where you have access to Asian markets you may want to grow your own. You can purchase live plants and seeds online.

How To Store

Basil is best picked or purchased fresh and used within a few days. To refrigerate first wrap whole stalks and leaves in slightly dampened paper towels, place in a plastic bag, and store for 4 days. Another storage method is to place a "bunch" of basil stems down, in a glass of water. You can also place a plastic bag over the leaves and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Basil stored in this manor will benefit from a water change every couple of days. You can also place basil in a blender with a small amount of oil, blend, and store in ice cube trays.

Basil is one of the least successful herbs when dried. The dried product loses most of it's flavor. Better methods of preserving basil include storage in olive oil or even honey.

Medicinal Uses

Medicinally basil is used both as an antidepressant and an antiseptic. Leaves can be rubbed on the skin to relive itching from insect bites. The leaves are also made into a concoction with honey and used for cough syrup. The essential oil extracted from the leaves can be used as an insect repellent or massage oil to aid in depression and anxiety. (Source: Herbs and Herb Gardening, Jessica Houdret)

Culinary Uses and Substitutes

Basil is used abundantly in both cooked dishes, raw in small amounts as well as for garnish. Recipes may specify a specific type of basil and if possible it is worth the effort to find the proper type.

Substitute For Basil

If your recipe calls for Thai or Asian basil you can substitute with the common Mediterranean variety with similar but not the exact taste results.  If you want an entirely different flavor substitute mint.

General Basil Information

Basil - pronounced [BAY-zihl] (botanical name - Ocimum basilicum) an aromatic herb is native to India, SE Asia, and NE Africa and is an important herb used in Italian and Thai cooking (and less significantly in other cusines). Basil is "the" key ingredient in pesto.


Nutrition Information For Thai Basil

Serving Size
1 tbsp, chopped
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 0g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Grow Your Own

Basils are normally planted in full sun but some of the Thai varieties such as Siam Queen can take as little as 4 -5 hours of sun a day. Thai basil grows up to 2 1/2 feel high and wide so make sure to provide ample space.

How to Grow

Purchase seeds or live plants (see sources below). Seeds can be started indoors then transplanted to the garden in early spring. Provide evenly moist, well-drained soil. Keep the flower buds nipped off to keep the plant putting energy into the leaves and not the flowers.


You can nip individual leaves or cut off the top third of the plant. The plant should be fertilized with organic fertilizer after each major harvest.

It is best to harvest just before use but it can be stored in the refrigerator for a short period of time. 

Where To Buy Basil Seeds

Credits and Sources

  • Hot Sour Salty Sweet - Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
  • Ingredients - Loukie Werle and Jill Cox
  • USDA - Nutritional information
  • Herbs and Herb Gardening, Jessica Houdret

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.