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What Does Basil Smell Like? Detailed Information!

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Like other plants, basil is a leafy green plant with various physical traits, making it unique. It is best recognized as the wide and popular used culinary herb worldwide. Throughout its record, it has been celebrated because of its many uses but asks, what does basil smell like?

First cultivated more than 5,000 years ago, basil has apprehended deep religious and symbolic significance from ancient Europe to Malaysia, India and beyond.

It likes heat and also dies off when it freezes. Today, it is best recognized for its distinct flavor and versatility, adding herbaceousness to different dishes worldwide.

what does basil smell like
via Pixabay

What Does Basil Smell Like?

The reason why basil is very popular is because of its smell. Basil is a well-known aromatic herb. Because of that, its perfume is at the front position of its properties. Basil is aromatic and gives a vague explanation of its pleasant aroma, which is not enough to smell like other herbs.

The basil plants have a lot of varieties, and everyone has a different intensity in their flavor and smell. Nevertheless, most of them have a similar smell.

The unpleasant smell of basil can be caused by external factors, such as foul smell from dumped objects or the cultivation of basil that isn’t suitable for consumption.

The most common type of basil with a strong smell has a licorice smell. This is normal in most plant varieties because of the existence of anethole, which is a chemical compound.

Basil licorice and Thai basil have a very similar smell. Most basil types also smell like anise, and this is familiar because of anethole, which is the chemical compound it contains.

Some types like Nufar, Genovesa, sweet, Cuban, and red Rubin basil have a scent like a clove that is often intense. Cinnamon basil and lemon basil have unique and different flavors, with a former smelling like lemon.

This smell is because of the presence of citral and limonene compounds and having a cinnamon-like scent because of the cinnamate it contains.

The smell of basil is very impressive due to the different plant types. For that reason, it is not possible to determine a specific smell for each type of basil. Nevertheless, most basil varieties have an amine or licorice smell.

 Different Types Of Basils.

There are more than 60 types of basil. The common types are:

1. Sweet basil (also known as common basil or Genovese basil)

This is widely the commonly used basil form containing a fresh, slightly sweet aroma and flavor. Sweet basil is commonly used in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine.

2. Thai basil (also known as licorice basil)

This basil is mostly used in Chinese and Southeast Asia, known for its darker, smaller leaves and heavy flavor. It is often used as a garnish in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.

3. Cinnamon basil

It is a mild basil variety with a spicy flavor and a hint of cinnamon. It is most commonly used in Asian cuisine, including noodles, fried rice and marinades.

4. Purple Basil

It is a less sweet basil variety known for its clove-scented flavor and deep purple tone. It is commonly used as a garnish in Thai and Italian cuisine to add flavor and color.

5. Lettuce basil

It has large and wrinkled leaves that resemble lettuce with a milder taste when compared to its counterparts. It is normally used as a foundation for salads.

6. Holy basil

This type of basil is well-known for its spiritual uses instead of seasoning. The holy basil is honored in the Hindu faith as a sign of goddess Tulsi and is conventionally converted into basil extract, placed near Hindu shrines.

This type has a bitter taste in cooking and is mainly used in Indian food, especially in rich dishes and teas.

7. Lemon basil

As the name suggests, lemon basil tastes like sweet basil, which has a lemon hint and adds an acidic flavor to different recipes.

8. Christmas basil

This kind of fruit of basil variety tastes like a cross between Thai and Genovese basil, commonly used in desserts and drinks.

What Is Basil Used For?

Bread with Liver Pate and Basil leaves what does basil smell like
“Bread with Liver Pate and Basil leaves” via Flickr

Basil is a popularly used herb globally. This is only achievable due to the many advantages of the plant. Also, some basils are considered sacred in particular areas globally for their medicinal uses.

  • The well-known use of basil is ornamental. Various types of basil have different aromas and additional flower and leaf types.
  • You can plant basil in a pot or in your backyard to beautify your home.
  • Basil is the popular topping on different dishes due to its flavor. For instance, you can use them in salad dressings, serving sauces, and pizza toppings.
  • Also, you can use basil to basil pesto that is easy to preserve and use in bread and egg spreads and make multipurpose olive oil.

How To Purchase And Store Basil

When buying fresh basil in the market or aisle production, look for bright dark green leaves without wilting or discoloration and a strong and clean aroma. While buying dried basil, check for high-quality organic products with more nutrients and flavor.

Fresh basil leaves must be wrapped in faintly damp kitchen paper and kept in a plastic container in the fridge. If basil has roots, it may be kept at room temperature inside a glass of water in a plastic bag above the herbs.

Also, to extend durability, fresh basil may be chopped and frozen into ice cube trays. Once the basil is firm, freeze it in freezer containers to free up the ice cube tray. When basil is dry, it will stay fresh in a sealed container for more than six months.


Basil has many species. Although only some are edible and domesticated, the number is yet accounted for. This makes it difficult to tell what basil smells like. However, they have unique and special properties. Most of them have green leaves with serrated edges.

Nevertheless, the size and shades of the leaves can vary. The aroma is mainly clover, anise or licorice; however, the intensity changes, and some can even smell completely different. If you plan to plant one basil, pick the right variety you want to smell and then go for it.