Although they’re both classified as herbs, basil and bay leaves have inherent botanical differences and differences when it comes to using them during cooking.
Bay leaf and fresh basil are not used together very often, because basil pairs well with summer foods and bay leaf with hearty winter soups and stews. But bay leaf and dried basil work together to season heavier dishes.
Both herbs bring a touch of bitterness or woodsy flavor to a variety of different foods:
- 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 for the flavor of bay leaf, use juniper berries in sauces or stews or a few rosemary sprigs for a different, but equally woodsy, flavor.
- Fresh basil works with most of the foods of summer, including sprinkled over a caprese salad of tomatoes and mozzarella, over 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.
- Substitute other summer herbs or combinations of herbs for basil, such as fresh oregano, parsley, tarragon thyme or mint.
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.