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15 Different Types of Fresh Basil

Know more about the fresh basil by learning about its many different types, what they look like, their nutritional value, and how you may get a taste of them.

Closeup of fresh basil.

Fresh basil is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the mint or Lamiaceae family. They originated in India where the people used them as a spice and as medicine for over 5,000 years. There are 160 varieties of basil that vary in size, leaf and flower color, chemical composition, and aroma.

Fresh basil has high nutritional value and has been used not just in food preparation but also in folk medicine in the form of tea, in the chemical industry as an insect repellant, and even as an ornamental plant. The Orthodox churches in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia also use basil for the preparation of their holy water.

Related: Types of Basil | Types of Chili | Types of Parsley | Types of Pasta Sauce | Types of Herbs

Fresh Basil Nutrition Facts Chart

Fresh Basil Nutrition Facts Chart

Now let’s jump into your fresh basil options.

1. Boxwood Basil

The Boxwood basil originated in France as a way to develop a tasty ingredient for pesto but it is also a very attractive, ornamental type of plant. It has tightwads of small leaves that look similar to a boxwood plant, hence the name, and it is perfect to include in any garden regardless of what else is growing there. You can also use it to decorate the edge of a patio or place it in a container for people to look at.

2. Cardinal Basil

This type of basil has a very unique aroma. It is very heady and rich with just a touch of spice and it has strong stems that are a beautiful shade of dark red. The leaves on the plant are bright green and very smooth, making it stand out in your garden. Of course, Cardinal basil is more than just ornamental and something to look at; it is also very flavorful and increases the appeal of many types of dishes.

3. Cinnamon Basil

Cinnamon basil with purple flowers.

With a spicy, very fragrant characteristic, the Cinnamon basil plant has reddish-purple stems and pink flowers once it matures. It has a mild flavor and goes great with different types of fruit. A favorite in Asian cooking, Cinnamon basil can be used in recipes for grilled vegetables, fried rice dishes, different types of marinades, and even noodle salads. It is also an eye-catcher in your herb garden so even if you decide not to use it for culinary purposes, you can keep it in your garden just for looks!

4. Genovese Basil

Genovese basil

Genovese basil is a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen because its dark-green leaves are tender and fragrant. This type of basil grows to approximately two feet in height and originated in Italy, making it the perfect ingredient when you’re cooking pesto. In fact, if your recipe calls for basil or you need a garnish for drinks, you can use the flowers of this plant in that recipe. This includes dishes such as soups, salads, and even desserts.

5. Green Basil

Green basil

With the same attributes as Red basil, green basil has a lot of importance when it comes to medicinal tasks. In fact, in certain parts of the world, it is used in religious ceremonies and even in routine worship. It has been known to help with ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure and it is also a natural pest repellant. If you’re tired of house flies and mosquitoes, try using the green basil plant instead of a chemical-filled over-the-counter insect repellant.

6. Green Ruffles Basil

Green Ruffles basil

With very large, quilted leaves, this type of basil is perfect for improving the flavor of any dish made with tomatoes. This is a low-maintenance herb that gets roughly one and a half feet high and it usually completes its life cycle in about a year.

If you want it to thrive, pay attention to the requirements regarding soil, sun, and water, which is actually quite easy to do. Green Ruffles basil has purplish-pink flowers and has hints of anise and cinnamon when you taste it. It prefers to be grown in temperatures that do not get above 86ᵒ Fahrenheit.

7. Lemon Basil

Lemon basil

A very large and attractive plant that is silvery-green in color, this type of basil smells and tastes similar to lemons; therefore, it is perfect for teas and potpourris as well as herb vinegar and a variety of vegetable and chicken dishes. In fact, if you want a slight lemon flavor in any of your recipes, try adding a bit of lemon basil. Lemon basil’s stems can grow up to 20 inches in height and it has white flowers that bloom from late summer to early fall.

8. Lettuce Leaf Basil

Lettuce leaf basil

One thing that makes Lettuce Leaf basil unique is its large, floppy, wrinkled leaves, which stand out among other types of basil. The leaves are up to ten inches long and roughly four inches in width. This is an Italian type of basil with a mild flavor and even though the leaves are large, the plant itself isn’t; in fact, it only grows to roughly a foot high. It is slow to flower and therefore can last longer in the bright sun than other types of basil. It is also perfect for lettuce wraps and a variety of fresh dishes, including salads.

9. Lime Basil

Lime basil

Perfect for making dressings, sauces, and even some desserts taste even better, Lime basil has a mild citrus taste and a very good aroma. The bright-green leaves have a lime smell that makes it go great with lemon basil; in fact, if you want an explosive, tangy, and fresh taste in any of your dishes, Lime basil makes the perfect addition to your recipe. Once there is no more chance of another frost in the springtime, you can plant your lime basil. It goes great with recipes for fish or poultry, rice dishes, and even salad dressings and oils.

10. Purple Ruffles Basil

Purple Ruffles basil

With large and frilly purple leaves, this type of basil smells and tastes wonderful. It is stronger than Sweet basil but not as strong as the Green Ruffles type of basil. It is also a perfect addition to your next recipe for herb vinegar. As with many other types of basil, the Purple Ruffles basil should be planted in late spring when there is no longer danger of another frost coming. It matures in only 90 days or less and it can grow up to 18 inches in height. Mulch also helps keep the moisture level and the temperature at the perfect number.

11. Round Midnight Basil

Round Midnight basil is a hybrid plant with beautiful purple leaves and a great aroma. Full and round in shape, the plant grows up to one foot in height and up to ten inches across. Its light-purple blooms are real eye-catchers. They taste and smell absolutely wonderful and they can be used in a wide variety of dishes. In fact, if you’re looking for the perfect ingredient for mozzarella and tomatoes, the Round Midnight basil is perfect. It grows up to one foot high and up to ten inches in a spread and it can even be grown indoors.

12. Spicy Saber Basil

Spicy Saber basil is usually used in Asian dishes because it is quite spicy. Even late in the season, this type of basil will remain productive and very bushy. It has saber-like leaves that are ornamental and bright green in color. In fact, it is a very attractive plant and it can get up to fourteen inches in height. It prefers full sun and it can even be grown in containers. When you use seedlings in the beginning, keeping them under a fluorescent light helps them sprout faster. It is also a good idea to check with a local cooperative to determine what types of pests are common in your area.

13. Summerlong Basil

Summerlong basil

Summerlong basil has bright-green, shiny leaves and is a great ornamental plant. Its bushes are tight and compact and it looks great used as an edging or placed in pots. It matures in 90 days or less and gets up to approximately ten inches in height. It also prefers full sun and needs to be planted in the spring or summer months. Much as other forms of basil, the Summerlong basil does very well when you start with the seeds by using a seed starter kit. Of course, it can also be planted in a pot if you wish.

14. Sweet Basil

Sweet basil

Sweet basil is a staple in Italian cooking and is used in recipes for salads, pesto, and even tomato sauce. As with other types of basil, it does well when started indoors as seedlings before planting it outside. It gets up to 18 inches high and fourteen inches wide and it has a very fragrant aroma. It does better if you keep the air and soil at a consistent temperature. If you pinch the stems, the bushiness will increase. After they bloom, the plants should be discarded. You can find dozens of recipes that call for this delicious herb.

15. Thai Basil

Thai basil

With a height of up to two feet when mature, Thai basil has a more intense flavor even than Sweet basil. It is perfect in both Italian and Thai dishes and it is a late-flowering herb that smells and tastes wonderful. Thai basil has small leaves that have flowers of a purplish-pink color.

Unlike Sweet basil, Thai basil remains consistent in taste even when you’re cooking with high temperatures. Its taste is a combination of licorice and spice. A very sturdy plant that gets up to one and a half feet in height, the Thai basil has a square purple stem and is actually part of the Mint family.