Basil in Bengali & Indian Food: Things to Know

Basil is famously called the “King of Mediterranean Herbs”. It belongs to the family of mint, another fragrant herb originated in India. There are several varieties of basil.

Green is the commonest colour of basil but some varieties are red or purple. The herb offers a strong aroma. It has a strong peppermint-like taste.

The strong flavour and taste combo has made basil an all-purpose ingredient. This herb is used in several preparations, from salads, sauces to veg dishes and even eggs, fish, meat.

Basil is usually used at the end of cooking so that it adds a fresh pungent flavour and taste to the dish. Sweet basil is the commonest used variety for cooking. Other varieties are lemon basil, cinnamon basil and anise basil. It is amazing to note that their flavours resemble their names.

Basil is extensively used in various cuisines throughout the world. It is generously used in Italian, Vietnamese, Latian and Thai cuisines.

Basil in Bengali & Indian Cooking

Uses of Basil in Bengali & Indian Cuisines

Though basil is a very popular herb, there is no signature basil dish in India. Basil is called tulsi in both Bengali and Hindi languages.

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The herb is loaded with nutritional and medicinal benefits. Most Indians experience its strong pungent flavour and taste when they catch cold.

Tulsi with madhu and ginger (basil leaves with honey and ginger) is an age-old home remedy to fight throat irritations and seasonal cough.


Basil is a common ingredient in Italian salad. As many Indians have taken a strong liking to Italian cuisines, they are in love with the freshness and pungency that basil brings to the salads.

You can prepare these salads at home. Basil, when torn into pieces, enhances the taste much more.

A medley of vegetables along with basil looks really eye-teasing. A plate full of colours packs the nutritional punch to give you extraordinary health benefits. Basil leaves take the health and taste factor to a new level.

Dal and Soups

Basil always lends a healthy touch to any dish that it is added to. It also gives the dish a certain edgy flavour too tempting to resist. Basil and soup/dal is a winning combination.

Add a few leaves at the end of moong dal cooking and experience the difference. Dal basil is an amazingly flavourful delicacy that works well with both roti and rice. Make sure to serve both dal and rice/roti hot for the yummiest delights.

Soups are healthy and use of basil leaves jazz up the ‘health’ quotient of many soups. ‘Green peas and basil soup’ is good for your health and tastes really well.

This comforting soup keeps you full and makes you feel cool during the summer time when you may not like to eat a full-plate meal.

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Basil can be added to curries. The strong aroma of basil gives any vegetable dish an aesthetic vibe. The taste will feel different and refreshing.

Can you believe basil leaves are also added to meat preparations? Chicken-basil stir fry is an aromatic and scrumptious dish.

Fresh and fragrant basil leaves cooked with chicken chunks make an easy and quick weekend dish that can be served with steaming rice or any Indian flatbread.

Basil chicken is another easy and flavourful dish. Unlike chicken-basil stir fry, it is thick gravy best relished with chapatis, paratha or roti.


A steaming cup of flavoursome tea is a great way to start your morning or enjoy your evening.

Tulsi tea is one such aromatic drink that absorbs the flavour and taste of the herb and makes you feel rejuvenated, especially in the winter months or if you have a cough.

Tulsi drink is another Indian home remedy for common cold. Tulsi drink is prepared with a handful of ingredients including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and a few basil leaves.

Is Basil Tasty?

Basil definitely tastes pungent though not bitter.

But the sweet basil has a fresh taste with a pepper finish with a mint tone.

The thai variety is much stronger with liquorice flavour which is absent in this one.

Questions & Answers:

What Can Be Made from Basil?

A variety of dishes can be prepared with basil. It is added to salads, sauces, drinks, tea, veg curries and even non-veg preparations.

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What Goes Well with Basil?

Basil curries, both veg and non-veg, work well with both roti and rice. If you put basil, it will add a minty flavour and also makes the food much more digestible.

How Do You Prepare Basil for Cooking?

Basil leaves are normally used at the end of cooking for the fresh flavour that it brings to the dish. That means you can simply take the leaves and keep it for garnishing.

Does Basil Get Bitter When Cooked?

Basil is very heat sensitive. Mild heat can change the taste of basil and it may taste bitter. If cooked longer, it will taste bitter. This is why basil leaves are added at the end of cooking.

Can We Eat Raw Basil Leaves?

Yes, basil leaves are also eaten raw. These are taken with ginger and honey to fight the common cold. You can add basil like the mint leaves especially when you are having some juices.

What Meats Does Basil Go With?

In Indian cuisine, it is usually cooked with chicken. You can give it everywhere in the non veg item but not in fish.

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