Sacred or Spice Basil in Recipes
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Lori Dale
Posted on: September 21, 2004

I tried several new basil types this year. Unfortunately the weather was so weird here (it was cold late and never really got warm) that by the time I recognized the seedlings I had forgotten what order I had planted the seed rows in. I know one was either sacred or spice. I was wondering are there any recipes designed for them specifically?

Spice and sacred basils are very different plants, although confusingly they are both known by the name "holy basil". We shy away from using the term "holy basil" because of this confusion. We use "sacred basil" to refer to Ocimum sanctum and we use "spice basil" to refer to the other "holy basil" which doesn’t have a proper botanical name, but does have a really nice spicy scent.

Neither version of "holy basil" is in common use in the West in cooking. There is a Thai recipe, "Khai Pad Gaprao," chicken with holy basil, which we believe uses sacred basil, O. sanctum. No doubt spice basil would work also, though the flavour would be different, if not as authentic. Please see: http://www.users.bigpond.com/catch22inc/khai_pad_gaprao.html .

For my previous posting on holy basil, please see: http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./QandA/Culinary/19980903-1.html

Also for the purple basil and the "Magic Michael" (I think that’s what the other ones I have are)? I was planning on just substituting that for sweet basil if I can’t find any recipes for them specifically, but I thought I might try you first to see if you had any or know of any where it specifies the other types.

I wouldn’t hesitate to substitute either variety in recipes calling for basil, even pestos. The tastes of these two basils are not identical to that of the classic sweet variety, but they are equally interesting and worthy of experimentation. Purple basil has the added appeal of the purple or red colour which comes out so vividly in salad dressings and infused basil oils.

Back to Culinary Herbs and Their Uses | Q & A Index

Copyright © 1997-2014 Otto Richter and Sons Limited. All rights reserved.