There are numerous varieties of basil and in this country the most commonly used basil is referred to as “sweet basil” which is typically grown in Mediterranean countries. The name “sweet basil” is a bit misleading, as Thai basil has much more of a sweet quality. Sweet basil is the type found in Italian dishes, is most commonly used fresh and typically is added towards the end of the cooking process, as cooking quickly dissipates the herb’s distinctive flavor. When dried, basil has better flavor than when fresh. The drying process forces the collapse of the plant tissue, and brings about more essential oils in the herb. The increased oils also increase the ease of which food around the herb can absorb its flavors. Other herbs that are better dried include marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
Basil is an extremely aromatic herb. It has pepper, anise, and minty tones, and it tastes sweet yet savory, just as the scents would imply. If your recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh basil, you can replace that with one teaspoon of dried basil. This is especially helpful in sauces and dressings but there are some places, like pesto, where you cannot substitute dried for fresh!