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Delicious Indian Basil Recipes to Try at Home

Embarking on a culinary journey is never just about the food; it’s about understanding the culture that shapes it, the techniques that bring it to life, and the joy that it brings upon savoring each bite. In the diverse universe of global cuisines, Indian food holds a special place with its audacious flavors, rich textures, and fascinating cooking methods. One key ingredient is basil, a seemingly simple herb that is tinctured with deep cultural and culinary significance throughout India. In this exploration, we will delve headfirst into the captivating world of Indian cuisine, mastering traditional and contemporary basil-centric recipes, and finely tuning our skills to celebrate this versatile ingredient.

Understanding Indian Cuisine

Introduction to Indian Cuisine

Indian cuisine is beloved around the world for its vibrant colors, fragrant aromas, and complex flavors. From deliciously spiced curries to delectable sweets, the vast array of dishes found across the country is simply staggering. The key to the complex flavors of Indian cuisine lies in the wide array of spices and ingredients used. In this guide, we’ll bring focus onto the use of basil – a versatile herb – in Indian cooking.

The Significance of Basil in Indian Cooking

Known as Tulsi in India, basil is considered a holy and revered plant that is frequently used in religious rituals as much as it is used in the kitchen. There are two common types of basil used in Indian cuisine: Sweet Basil and Holy Basil. Sweet Basil has a mild, sweet flavor, while Holy Basil has a more robust, pungent flavor. Each brings its own unique touch to the dishes it is used in.

Holy Basil in Indian Cuisine

Holy Basil, or Tulsi, is used less frequently in cooking due to its strong, somewhat bitter flavor. However, it takes center stage in certain regional dishes like the South Indian soup, ‘Tulsi Rasam’. To make Tulsi Rasam, holy basil leaves are simmered with tamarind juice, black peppercorns, tomatoes and a range of other spices. This soup is known for its healing properties and is often consumed when one is feeling under the weather.

Sweet Basil in Indian Cuisine

Sweet Basil, on the other hand, is more commonly used in Indian cooking, especially in dishes that originate from the North-West part of India like ‘Paneer Tikka Basil Masala’. In this dish, tender pieces of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) are simmered with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and a blend of spices along with a hefty handful of sweet basil leaves. The basil lends its own distinctive taste, making it an indispensable part of this recipe.

Making Basil Chutney

Basil is also used to make a popular condiment known as Basil Chutney. To make this chutney, fresh basil leaves are ground with green chillies, ginger, garlic, lime juice, and salt until it forms a bright green paste. This chutney is typically served as a dipping sauce with various snacks or can be spread on sandwiches for an added burst of flavor.

Basil Tea – A Refreshing Beverage

One of the more surprising uses of basil in Indian cuisine is in beverages. Basil tea, for example, is an extremely popular drink in India. Made by steeping fresh basil leaves in boiling water with a touch of honey or jaggery, this tea is believed to have a range of health benefits, including improved digestion, and reduction of stress and anxiety.


Whether it’s the sweet basil making your curry flavors dance on your tongue, or the holy basil teasing your palate with its robust flavors in a soup, basil has a distinctive role in Indian cuisine. Understanding the types of basil used, and the flavor profiles they add, will take your Indian culinary journey to new heights.

A delicious spread of Indian cuisine with various dishes and spices

Mastering Basil Recipes

Introduction to Indian Basil Recipes

Indian cuisine is renowned for its varied flavors and the use of various herbs and spices. Basil, in particular, holds a special place due to its distinctive aroma and taste. The herb, known as ‘Tulsi’ in India, not just lends an enticing flavor to food, but is also revered for its medicinal properties.

Embracing basil in Indian recipes will introduce you to a delightful mix of cultural history, flavor, and health benefits. Herein, we shall explore ways to master the art of Indian basil recipes across appetizers, main courses, and desserts.

Starting with Appetizers: Basil Paneer Tikka


  • Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) – 200 grams
  • Basil leaves – 20
  • Ginger paste – 1 tsp
  • Garlic paste – 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste


  1. Cut paneer into small cubes.
  2. Blend the basil leaves with a little water to create a thick paste.
  3. Marinate the paneer cubes in the basil paste with ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, and salt.
  4. Keep aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Skewer the paneer cubes and grill on a griddle until golden brown.

Voila! Your Basil Paneer Tikka is ready to serve.

Main Course Magic: Basil Ghee Rice


  • Rice – 1 cup
  • Basil leaves – 10
  • Ghee (Indian clarified butter) – 2 tbsp
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste


  1. Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes, then drain.
  2. Heat ghee in a pan.
  3. Add cumin seeds and bay leaf to the ghee and let them crackle.
  4. Add the soaked and drained rice to this and sauté gently.
  5. Add water and salt to this, cover the pan and let it cook until the rice is done.
  6. Crush the basil leaves and add them to the cooked rice.
  7. Stir it in and then serve hot with your choice of curry.

The Basil Ghee Rice with its aromatic flavor will tantalize your taste buds.

Sweet Finale: Basil Coconut Ladoo


  • Grated coconut (fresh or dry) – 1 cup
  • Basil seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Cardamom powder – 1/14 tsp


  1. Soak the basil seeds in a bowl of water until they swell up.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and dry roast the grated coconut on medium heat.
  3. Add sugar to it and stir until it dissolves.
  4. Drain the basil seeds and add them to the pan. Also, add in the cardamom powder.
  5. Stir well until all ingredients are mixed.
  6. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, roll them into small round balls or ‘ladoos’.

Basil Coconut Ladoo is the perfect end to a delicious meal, providing an exciting twist to traditional Indian sweets.


Mastering Indian cuisine is about understanding the balance of spices. While these recipes give you a starting point, feel free to experiment and make it your own. Try adding basil to a curry or lentil soup. Once you unlock the magic of basil in Indian recipes, the possibilities become endless. Let the fragrant herb enhance your culinary journey and bring a slice of India to your kitchen.

Assorted Indian basil dishes on a platter

Improving Cooking Skills

The Magic of Basil in Indian Cuisine

Indian cuisine is vast and varied, but one thing that remains constant is the use of spices and herbs. Basil, for instance, has been used in Indian cooking for centuries, infusing dishes with its unique flavor and aroma. Here’s how you can harness the power of this wonderful herb in your Indian recipes.

Firstly, familiarize yourself with the different types of basil used in Indian cooking. While sweet basil is commonly used around the world, Indian cuisine primarily utilizes holy basil (also referred to as ‘tulsi’ in Hindi). This variety of basil imparts a spicier and more robust flavor than its sweet counterpart, making it the perfect addition to traditional Indian curries, soups, and teas.

Expanding your Indian Culinary Vocabulary

Start by exploring a range of Indian recipes that utilize basil. Sample some classics like tomato basil soup, tulsi tea, and basil-infused curry. You can find these recipes online or in Indian cookbooks. As you practice these recipes, try to understand how each ingredient, including basil, contributes to the overall flavor of the dish.

After you’ve mastered a few traditional recipes, it’s time to experiment. Use what you’ve learned about the flavors and textures basil can bring to a dish, and start creating your own recipes. For instance, you could make a basil-infused pulao (Indian rice pilaf) or perhaps an Indian-inspired basil and coconut-milk curry.

The Art of Balancing Spices

Indian food is all about balancing flavors. When cooking with bold herbs like basil, you want to ensure that it complements the other spices and ingredients in the dish instead of overpowering them. This can involve a bit of trial and error, but that’s part of the fun of cooking!

Understanding the influence of basil on the overall outcome of a dish, and master the technique of pairing it with other flavors, can help you create beautifully balanced dishes. For instance, the sweet pungency of basil can work well with the heat of chili peppers or the tang of tomatoes.

Plating and Presentation

Once you’ve prepared your Indian basil-infused dish, the final step is to serve it with style. Indian cuisine is as much about the visual appeal as it is about the taste. Use vibrant garnishes like chopped fresh basil leaves to add a splash of color and extra flavor.

Remember to pay attention to the serving dish as well. A beautifully plated dish can significantly enhance your culinary experience.

In conclusion

learning to cook Indian food is a fascinating and rewarding journey. Practicing recipes, understanding the balance of spices, making use of basil, and learning how to present your dishes can greatly improve your cooking skills. From trying new recipes to creating your own, each step brings you closer to mastering the art of Indian cooking.

A plate of Indian curry with basil leaves as garnish

Embracing basil in Indian cuisine has been a truly enriching experience. Now armed with a better understanding of the flavors, cooking techniques, and delicate intricacies of Indian food, we are equipped to bring a piece of this vibrant culture into our own homes. It’s an art – this play with spices, the experimentation with basil, the careful plating of every dish. Let’s not forget that cooking is also about creative expression; these recipes aren’t set in stone but are instead stepping stones guiding towards our own culinary creations. May your revised relationship with basil and newfound love for Indian cuisine continue to inspire many unforgettable cooking adventures.

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