Holy Basil vs Sweet Basil

Holy Basil vs Sweet Basil

Basil is found in many varieties and this can be very confusing at times. The most common types of basil that you are most likely to come across are holy basil and sweet basil. They are often used interchangeably when cooking by a lot of people but, these are actually different. They have different tastes, appearance as well as colours. To get a more detailed explanation of how these 2 differ simply check out the article below.

 What is holy basil?

Holy basil which is also known as tulsi is an aromatic herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It originated in India where it is of religious significance to the Hindu people. They believe that it represents their goddess Tulsi. Holy basil has a number of health benefits and it is commonly used because of its healing properties and it can be added to a number of dishes.

What is sweet basil?

This is also another type of basil and it is actually the most famous one. It originated in India and it is an aromatic herb. It is very popular in the culinary world and it is used to add flavour and aroma to food. Sweet basil in botanical terms is known as ocimum basilicum. Sweet basil belongs to the Lamiaceae family.

Differences between holy basil and sweet basil


The first difference to note between these 2 types of basils is based on their appearance.  The stem of holy basil is hairy as compared to that of sweet basil which is hairless.

Furthermore, the leaves of sweet basil have smooth edges whereas the edges of holy basil are shaped like teeth. The leaves of sweet basil are also oval shaped and are always bending downwards as compared to those of holy basil which are somehow straight.

The other difference to note when it comes to appearance is that sweet basil usually grows taller than holy basil. The height of sweet basil usually ranges from 30 to 130cm whereas the height of holy basil is usually 30 to 60 cm.


The other difference to note emanates from the difference in the colour of the leaves. Holy basil has a light green colour as compared to sweet basil which has a dark green colour.

Furthermore, the colours of the flowers found on these 2 types of basils are different. Holy basil has purple or pink flowers whereas the flowers found on sweet basil are white flowers.


Holy basil and sweet basil have different tastes. The flavour of holy basil is much more concentrated as compared to that of sweet basil.


Sweet basil is commonly used for culinary purposes whereas holy basil is commonly used for medical purposes. It is believed to contain medicinal properties that is why it is referred to as “the queen of herbs.”

Furthermore holy basil has a religious significance as compared to sweet basil. This is because the Hindu people believe that it represents the goddess Tulsi and it is usually grown at the centre of a courtyard. Furthermore it is often administered to very sick people or people who are about to die. It is generally their belief and culture.

Chemical composition

The chemical composition of holy basil and sweet basil is different. Holy basil contains chemicals like rosmarinic acid, ursolic acid, leanolic acid, carvacrol, linalool, eugenol and caryophyllene. Whereas sweet basil contains chemicals like methyl camphene, chavicol, eugenol, licorice and citronellol. That is why these 2 types of basil have different tastes.

Similarities between holy basil and sweet basil


The first similarity to note down is that holy basil and sweet basil originated from India. Furthermore they both belong to the same family of herbs which is the Lamiaceae family.


Furthermore both holy basil and sweet basil are aromatic herbs. When added to food they release a strong pungent flavour and smell.

How to use Holy basil when cooking

NB: holy basil is known for its medicinal benefits thus, adding it to dishes will actually help to boost your immune system.

Use holy basil to make pad kee mao

Pad kee mao are also known as drunken noodles. These are very popular in Thailand. They are made using a combination of ingredients like garlic, soy sauce, broccoli and fish sauce. The ingredient that adds the final touch to the dish is holy basil. It adds a nice aroma as well as flavour to the drunken noodles.

Use holy basil to make pad gaprao

Holy basil can be used to make gaprao which is a holy basil chicken stir fry. Gaprao is a Thai name for holy basil. This dish is made using a number of ingredients like chicken, garlic, soy sauce and onion. The holy basil is added at the very end. This is because if you add it at the very beginning it will overpower all the other ingredients.

Use holy basil to make tea

There are a number of herbs that can be used to make tea, however using holy basil will give you a unique tea. Considering the medicinal benefits that holy basil has, taking it as a tea will actually help to boost your immune system. So to make the tea, simply boil the leaves of holy basil and consume the liquid.

How to use sweet basil when cooking

Use sweet basil to make pesto

One of the most common sauces in Italy is pesto. It is made using a number of ingredients and sweet basil is one of them. Sweet basil is added to the sauce to give is a sweet aroma and flavour. Pesto is usually served with pasta but you can serve it as a sauce for meat or fish depending on your preferences.

Use sweet basil to make Pasta allo scarpariello

Sweet basil can be used to make this simple pasta. The pasta is made using very few ingredients which include pasta, cheese, tomatoes and basil. This dish really takes up the strong aroma of the sweet basil and you can easily make this type of pasta at home.

Leave a Comment