Basil is a key ingredient in many Italian dishes, but there’s more to basil than just pesto and pasta sauce. Basil is an annual herb from the mint family, but it doesn’t quite taste like it. There are more than 50 different varieties of basil, and each has its own distinct difference in flavor. Lemon basil has a lemony flavor, cinnamon basil tends to be warmer, spicy bush basil has more of a peppery kick, and striking purple basil is often compared to clove. The fresh, green, large-leafed basil that is most often used in our homemade soups is a variety called sweet basil.

Basil can be used in homemade soups either fresh or dried. The flavors do differ between fresh and dried basil, with fresh basil typically preferred. Dried basil tends to have a more concentrated flavor, but it tends to be sharper or more minty.

What does Basil Taste Like?

The flavor profile of basil can vary widely depending on the variety you choose, but the most common varieties of basil have a sweet and peppery taste. A hint of mint may be detected in fresh basil, but it’s much stronger when dried.  Basil’s aroma tends to be sharp, green, and fresh to add a delightful herbaceous note to homemade soups.

How Do You Cook With Basil?

Basil leaves are removed from the stem and either torn, cut, or finely chopped before being added to homemade soups or other dishes. Thick basil stems tend to have a bitter taste, so they’re best avoided when using basil in any recipe.

Prolonged exposure to heat can cause basil to begin to lose its herbaceous aroma and flavor, so fresh basil is most often added to a dish at the end of a recipe or placed on top as a garnish. Dried basil, however, will need time for flavor to develop, so it should be added at the start of a recipe to get the most out of it.

At our SoLé Soup Studio, we love the green freshness that basil adds to our homemade soups, like our Green Detox. It has a certain ability to brighten up and balance soups when used either fresh or dried, providing just that delightful, subtle, garden-fresh note that hits the spot at lunchtime.