Bowl of bay leaves

Although similar in appearance and both herbs, basil and bay leaf have varying botanical properties and different uses when it comes to cooking.

Bay leaf and fresh basil are not used together as seasonings very often because basil pairs well with light summer foods while bay leaf is great for hearty winter dishes, like soups and stews. The one exception is with heavier dishes, here dried basil and bay leaf work well together as seasonings.

[To learn about the benefits of adding fresh herbs to your recipes, go [here.]]

Both bay leaf and basil bring a touch of bitter, woodsy flavor to a variety of different foods:

Bay Leaf

  • Classic dishes that rely on the flavor of bay leaf include pot roast, soups and stews, game meat, such as venison or rabbit,  chicken or beef stock and bean dishes, such as_ cassoulet_. 
  • To substitute the flavor of bay leaf in a recipe, use juniper berries in sauces or stews or a few rosemary sprigs for a different, but equally woodsy flavor.


  • Fresh basil works as a garnish with most summer foods like _caprese _salads with tomatoes and mozzarella, zucchini or green beans, or over fish or pasta with any type of sauce.
  • Fresh basil deepens the flavor in a traditional tomato-based pasta sauce when you add it for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Save a bit of the basil to sprinkle on the finished sauce as well.
  • Whole or torn basil leaves add flavor to Thai curries, green salads, pasta dishes and Asian-inspired soups.
  •  Use whole or torn basil leaves strewn over a cheese pizza during the last 5 minutes of cooking to make a classic Margherita Italian pizza . Check out our homemade pizza recipes.
  • Substitute other summer herbs or combinations of herbs for basil, such as fresh oregano, parsley, tarragon thyme or mint.