With over 50-150 projected varieties of the basil plant, only a few of them are cultivated and stand out for their benefits. Sweet basil and Thai basil are two varieties that have gained widespread interest in the past few decades.
Furthermore, they share similar physical characteristics that make them hard to distinguish. Therefore, it isn’t peculiar that you wonder whether they are the same species, just bearing different names based on their region.
So, is sweet basil same as Thai basil? Sweet basil and Thai basil are entirely different varieties of the basil plant. Though they share similarities, they still possess specific physical and chemical characteristics that you can use to tell them apart.
How Can I Tell Sweet Basil and Thai Basil Apart?
Sweet basil and Thai basil are arguably some of the most popular varieties of the basil plant, and they tend to have striking resemblance when seen together.
The vegetative parts of Thai and Sweet basil share a striking resemblance that they can sometimes be mistaken for the other. Sweet basil is mainly grouped into three main types – Napoletano, Romanesco, and Medinette types.
Each group of the sweet basil types has the signature green glossy appearance in the leaves though the size of the leaves differ, with Napoletano having the largest of the classes.
However, the leaves of Thai basil are narrow with serrated edges while still possessing the signature green glossy appearance of the basil leaves.
So while the leaves of Sweet basil may have either abroad or compact ovoid shape with a pointed tip, Thai basil has the signature serrated edges in the leaves, which are easy to distinguish.
Another way to tell Sweet and Thai basil apart is by the color of their flowers during the blooming season.
Sweet basil during the blooming season produces flowers that are either purple or white. Unfortunately, Thai basil also blooms with purple flowers, and this can be tricky.
The way to distinguish between the purple flowers is by checking inside the flowers. For example, the purple flowers of the Thai basil are always coated with pink inside.
Another sure way of distinguishing between these two varieties of basil is by noting the fragrance that each produces.
Thai basil tends to have a licorice-type smell, while Sweet basil often smells like clove. They may have other fragrances, but this is often the most noticeable in them.
Lastly, the final sure way and the most popular to tell both varieties apart is by the color of their stems. Thai basil has the unique feature of growing purple stems, and this is often the most common way people tell them apart as Sweet basil has a green one.
Can I Substitute Thai Basil for Sweet Basil?
Personal preference should be the basis to the answer on whether or not you can substitute these basil varieties for the other.
Different flavors of both Thai and Sweet basil varieties will most definitely alter the taste of a meal when substituted with the other.
Most occasions where you can substitute Thai and Sweet basil will be on recipes that do not depend entirely on a particular flavor of the basil variety; however, this is rare.
Thai and Sweet basil both have a distinctive flavor, and substituting one for the other isn’t exactly the best idea.
Is Sweet Basil Better Than Thai Basil?
Choosing a particular variety of basil to the other is always based on personal taste, as one flavor can appease you more than the other. Whether Thai or Sweet basil is better in culinary taste depends on the recipe and the individual.
If you opt for a minty, anise-type flavor in your dishes or prefer that flavor, then sweet basil may be the better option for you. Thai basil, however, is preferred by those that have a sweet tooth for spicy licorice-type flavor.
Thai and Sweet basil both are popular varieties of the basil plant and are used in a whole different array of culinary ingredients.
Thai and Sweet basil are different varieties of basil plants and you can easily differentiate them with proper knowledge about the vegetative and structural parts of the plants.
Substituting one variety for the other isn’t always the best idea as their flavor, and hence their taste would differ wildly.
If you do have to substitute, it should be for dishes that are not always exclusive to one variety of the basil plant and complemented with other aromatic herbs that can mimic the taste of the basil plant you are going for.
The best advice is to experiment with both Sweet and Thai basil and determine which one is best for you.