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What is Thai Basil versus Holy Basil?

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How to know the difference between Thai Basil & Thai Holy Basil | Thai-Foodie.com

Thai Basil is on the left and Holy Basil is on the right.

Last summer, my Thai Hubby and I and our kids walked into a small stall at our local farmer’s market that was packed with any herb seedlings you could imagine that you could grow at home.

We were meandering around, enjoying the warm summer mountain air as our four kids slurped melting watermelon popsicles from a nearby stand, when all of the sudden, my Thai Hubby said, “Look!!” and pointed at a plant with a small handwritten sign that said, “Thai Holy Basil”.

Immediately we both did a happy dance as our kids gazed at us and wondered out loud why we were dancing at the farmers market.

You’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal because you can find Thai basil even at some local grocery stores, but Thai Holy Basil (aka Holy Basil) is different from the Thai basil you might be lucky to find at your neighborhood store.

Are you just as confused as I’ve been about what’s the difference between Thai Basil and Holy Basil? Don’t worry, these top 5 FAQs about Thai Basil and Holy Basil will help you out!

Which Thai dishes are Holy Basil and Thai Basil in?

The best ever Thai dish with Thai Holy Basil is Pad Krapaw! Ask any Thai person, and they will agree immediately! The spicy kick in Holy Basil pairs so well with the spicy, sweet, savory flavors in Pad Krapaw, and it’s even topped with a crispy, fried egg. Seriously can’t get much better!

Other Thai dishes that Holy Basil is in are Pad Kee Maw aka Drunken Noodles (aka one of my fav Thai dishes of all time!) Jungle Curry, and Plaa dook grop pad ped, which is a crazy good crispy fried fish dish.

If you are a Thai curry fan, you will adore sprinkling Thai Basil as a finishing touch of flavor and color onto your Thai Green Curry, Thai Massaman Curry, Thai Chu Chee Curry, or any Thai curry you adore.

What is Thai Basil versus Holy Basil? | Thai-foodie.com

Instant Pot Thai Chicken Curry

So what’s the flavor difference between Thai Basil and Holy Basil?

Thai Basil has a distinct licorice or some say aniseed flavor.

Holy Basil has a peppery, with a hint of clove taste. Some people say it’s so intense that it almost has a numbing effect to your tongue like a Sichuan pepper.

What does Holy Basil look like and Thai Basil look like?

How to know the difference between Thai Basil & Thai Holy Basil | thai-foodie.com

Holy Basil is on the left and Thai Basil is on the right.

Thai Basil’s leaves are smooth, and it has purple flowers and purple stems on it.

Holy Basil’s leaves are jagged, and it has white flowers.

Where did Holy Basil get its name?

Hindu culture believes that holy basil is a sacred plant. In India, the plants are put in containers around Hindu temples to help cleanse visitors.

How do you grow Thai basil and Holy Basil?

If you want to grow your own Thai basil and Thai holy basil, it’s great in full sun or part shade. They need warm temperatures, so if you don’t live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate, then move it indoors during winter, like we have to. Keep it watered, but not soggy, like you would a sweet basil plant.

What is a good substitute for Thai Basil or Holy Basil?

Before we grew Holy Basil, I would substitute it with Thai Basil in Thai recipes, and it worked. If you don’t have either one, Italian Basil will do!

Can you freeze Thai basil and Holy Basil?

Apparently yes! I haven’t tried it yet, but we are going to harvest our Thai Basil and Holy Basil crop from this year, and give it a try.

There are lots of different ways to freeze any kind of basil, and this helpful website tested them out and concluded that just washing and drying the basil, putting them straight into freezer bags, taking out as much air as possible, and then freezing was the best method. I’ll give it a shot, and let you know how it goes!

Any more questions about Thai Basil or Holy Basil? I’m here for you! The best place to find me is @thaifoodie on Instagram!