25 Basil Varieties | Top Picks for Home Gardeners & Cooks

Store-bought basil is great, but this is typically only one of two different basil types you’re tasting. Don’t you know there’s a whole world of basil out there with leaves the size of your palm and flavors ranging from lemon and licorice to mulled wine?

Here are 25 unique basil varieties you have to try!

1. Sweet Basil

The familiar grocery-store favorite has smooth and glossy bright-green leaves with the perfect balance of a slightly sweet and slightly bitter taste — perfect for all salad and Italian dishes!

  • Mature plant size: 1.5-2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2-4 inches long
  • Key features: Velvety bright-green leaves; soft, rounded leaf margins; sweet/bitter flavor

2. Genovese Basil

This sweet and slightly spicy variety has a more aromatic flavor than traditional basil and features slightly crinkled dull-green leaves with pointed tips.

  • Mature plant size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 3 inches long
  • Key features: Dull-green crinkled leaves, pointed leaf tips, slightly serrated margins, sweet/spicy flavor

3. Thai Basil

Thai basil has a punchy, spicy flavor that has a touch of licorice and clove and holds up well to high-heat cooking in stir-fries. The plant produces showy purple flowers and pointed medium-green leaves with purplish veins.

  • Mature plant size: 1-1.5 inches tall
  • Average leaf size: 1-2 inches long
  • Key features: Intense licorice and clove flavor, pointed leaves with purple venation, showy purple blooms

4. Spicy Globe Basil

This short and compact basil variety is ideal for indoor herb gardens and boasts a strong, peppery, citrus taste. It features dense heads of dainty chartreuse-green leaves with slender points and prominent cream veins.

  • Mature plant size: 6-10 inches tall
  • Average leaf size: ¼ inch long
  • Key features: Compact, globular form; tiny leaves; long, slender leaves with light-colored veins

5. Spicy Saber Basil

This bushier basil variety has a distinct sharp and spicy flavor and produces long saber-shaped bright-green leaves with an embossed surface and deeply serrated edges.

  • Mature plant size: 1 foot tall
  • Average leaf size: 2-2.5 inches long
  • Key features: Bushy plant; sharp, spicy taste; saber-like highly textured leaves; productive late into the season

6. Italian Large Leaf Basil

A super-sweet and mild variety of sweet basil, Italian Large Leaf has colossal glossy dark-green leaves the size of your palm with pointed tips and subtly serrated edges.

  • Mature plant size: 2-2.5 feet tall, 1 foot spread
  • Average leaf size: 4 inches long
  • Key features: Slow growers, very sweet flavor and aroma, large spade-shaped leaves

7. Napoletano Basil

This fragrant, slightly spicy offering in the sweet basil family features rounded and super-sized crinkled light-green leaves that are often used to wrap fish and poultry. It’s close to traditional basil with an extra kick!

  • Mature plant size: 2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 4.7 inches long
  • Key features: Large, wide leaves; crinkled surface; sweet/spicy flavor

8. Lemon Basil

A great garnish in fish dishes or a pitcher of lemonade, this punchy basil variety has a tangy lemon-anise flavor. Its narrow leaves are dull, matte green with slightly serrated edges.

  • Mature plant size: 2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2 inches long
  • Key features: Sharp lemon-anise taste, dull matte-green leaves with serrated margins

9. Lime Basil

Great when combined with the lemon basil, the slightly compact lime basil variety has a zesty floral-citrus flavor. Leaves are bright green and narrow with a point and noticeable vein detail.

  • Mature plant size: 1.6-2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2 inches long
  • Key features: Strong citrus flavor/floral aroma, bright-green slender leaves, compact variety

10. Lettuce Leaf Basil

Once it gets going, this slow-grower produces an abundance of large leaves nearlyresembling lettuce in size and texture! The crinkled, bright-green foliage has a mild and slightly sweet flavor and wavy, serrated edges.

  • Mature plant size: 1.5-2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 5-6 inches long
  • Key features: Slow growing; bright-green, wrinkled lettuce-like leaves; mild flavor

11. Christmas Basil

This festive basil variety is the offspring of Thai and Genovese Basil and features a pleasantly fruity and slightly spicy flavor that’s been compared to mulled wine. Leaves are large and glossy and grow among showy pink/purple flowers.

  • Mature plant size: 1-1.5 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2 inches long
  • Key features: Warm fruity/spicy aroma and taste, Large glossy green leaves, showy mauve and purple blooms

12. Green Ruffles Basil

The curled, fringed edges on this medium-green basil make it an attractive ornamental plant to have in your herb garden. Its long, slender leaves have hints of cinnamon, anise, and licorice in flavor.

  • Mature plant size: 2 feet+ tall
  • Average leaf size: 4 inches long
  • Key features: Slightly spicy cinnamon/anise flavor, long ruffled-edged leaves, early harvest

13. Purple Ruffles Basil

Purple Ruffles basil shares the same narrow leaves with tightly curled margins and warm spicy tones of cinnamon and anise as Green Ruffles, but this variety is in a striking deep-burgundy shade — sure to make any dish or herb garden pop!

  • Mature plant size: 1.5-2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 3 inches long
  • Key features: Ruffled slender leaves, dark purple-burgundy color, spicy and sweet cinnamon-anise taste

14. Cinnamon Basil

This tall variety features smooth, slender, pointed leaves of light green set in darker green margins with the strong warming taste of cinnamon. This plant also sends out small flower spikes in pretty lavender and mauve.

  • Mature plant size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2.5 inches long
  • Key features: Glossy light and dark-green leaves, strong cinnamon flavor, showy purple/pink blooms

15. Holy Basil

Named for its sacred status within the Hindu faith, holy basil has broad leaves of bright green on hairy stems, some of which are purple-tinged while others are entirely deep purple. Its flavor is sweet but slightly sharper than traditional basil.

  • Mature plant size: 2 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2 inches long
  • Key features: Bright green and purple leaves, hairy stems, mild flavor, delicate pink/purple flowers

16. Greek Basil

Those short on space will adore this pint-sized basil variety. Greek basil grows in a compact, mounding form with tiny mildly aromatic leaves of yellowy-green and brighter lush green.

  • Mature plant size: 8 inches tall
  • Average leaf size: <1 cm long
  • Key features: Super compact variety, yellowish bright-green leaves, mild taste, pale-pink flower spikes

17. African Blue Basil

This lofty and eye-catching basil variety boasts a peppery, minty, and clove taste and grows among tall violet flower spikes. Its broad, smooth leaves are tinged with dark purple that radiates out to darken the veins.

  • Mature plant size: 4 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2-3 inches long
  • Key features: Complex spicy flavor, deep-purple-tinged foliage, tall purple flower spikes

18. Cardinal Basil

This basil sends out show-stopping heads of spiky maroon blooms, but you’ll want to pinch out the buds quickly to preserve the foliage flavor! The smooth, light-green leaves have a spicy anise quality, making them an ideal pairing with vinegary salads and dishes.

  • Mature plant size: 2-2.5 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2-3 inches long
  • Key features: Showy dark-red blooms, anise-licorice-flavored leaves, pointed light-green foliage

19. Pistou Basil

A versatile French dwarf variety, Pistou basil has an earthy, mild taste and aroma, making it suited to most dishes (even fruit salads!). The plant grows in a compact, rounded form with teensy bright-green spade-shaped leaves.

  • Mature plant size: 8 inches tall
  • Average leaf size: ½-inch long
  • Key features: Delicate, earthy flavor; compact form; tiny bright-green leaves

20. Clove Basil

This super-tall variety has a powerful aroma of cloves with a hint of cinnamon and thyme. The emerald-green leaves are slender with a slightly hairy texture and grow on purple stems among pretty mauve flowers.

  • Mature plant size: 8-10 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 3-4 inches long
  • Key features: Clove/thyme/cinnamon flavor; slender, hairy leaves; mauve flower spikes

21. Dark Opal Basil

This stunning basil variety packs great flavor and ornamental value with its glossy deep-purple leaves and pink vein detail. The broad leaves have a taste of anise with a subtle hint of ginger and grow among hot-pink flowers.

  • Mature plant size: 1.6 feet tall
  • Average leaf size: 2-2.5-inches long
  • Key features: Broad dark-purple foliage, anise-ginger flavor, slow growing

22. Summerlong Basil

This dwarf basil variety was developed by Burpee Gardens and has a mild, delicate taste similar to sweet basil. Its dense bush of small bright-green leaves works great in containers and kitchen windowsill gardens!

  • Mature plant size: 1 foot tall
  • Average leaf size: 1-2 inches long
  • Key features: Compact, bushy variety; mild, sweet flavor; matures in 30 days

23. Round Midnight Basil

Dramatic burgundy leaves and baby-pink flowers set this basil away from the pack! The broad and serrated leaves have a subtle silver luster and carry hints of allspice and nutmeg on the tongue.

  • Mature plant size: 1 foot tall
  • Average leaf size: 2 inches long
  • Key features: Burgundy foliage with silver shimmer, complex spicy/savory taste, light-pink blooms

24. Mammoth Basil

True to name, mammoth basil produces huge bright-green lettuce-like leaves with ruffled edges and a densely wrinkled texture. These leaves have a rich sweet-and-spicy flavor and a clove-like aroma.

  • Mature plant size: 2 feet tall, 1.25-foot spread
  • Average leaf size: 3-4 inches long
  • Key features: Large lettuce-like foliage, sweet and spicy taste, clove fragrance

25. Boxwood Basil

Named after the boxwood shrub, this neat and rounded basil variety resembles a well-pruned topiary and is littered with soft and dainty bright-green leaves. Boxwood has a complex sweet, peppery, and minty taste and aroma.

  • Mature plant size: 1 foot tall
  • Average leaf size: 1-1.5 inches long
  • Key features: Compact shrub form, complex spicy flavor, tiny soft leaves

Conclusion

Now’s the hard part — deciding which basil varieties to grow! Compact types like spicy globe and Summerlong will be great among the kitchen herbs, while show-stoppers like Purple Ruffles and African Blue can steal focus in your container garden.

Whatever type you go for, be sure to use organic, non-GMO basil seeds — we love the collections from Baker Creek and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.