If there’s one fresh herb I use most often, it’s probably basil. In fact, it’s one of the few plants I find I can cultivate successfully, so a basil plant is a common sight on my windowsill or porch.
But have you ever considered how many types of basil there are? Beyond the sweet Genovese and Thai varieties that we see most in supermarkets, there’s plenty more to try—and some of them even have unique benefits. Holy basil is prized as a calming adaptogen, and this time of year, you can find a particularly vibrant variety at the market: purple basil.
How is purple basil different from sweet basil?
Sweet basil is the type that’s most frequently referred to as just “basil,” so we’ll reference this one for comparison with the purple variety. According to vegan chef Priyanka Naik: “Purple basil has the same flavor profile of sweet green basil, but amplified,” she wrote on Instagram. “Stronger smell, stronger taste, and overall a bit more flavorful.”
Separate from its flavor differences, that color is a pretty clear distinguisher, too. “Purple basil has anthocyanin, which gives it the beautiful purple pigment,” shares Naik. If you’re thinking that anthocyanin sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same phytochemical that gives red onions, pomegranates, and purple sweet potatoes their hues.
According to medical research, anthocyanins support metabolic health, contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and are also known to help support cardiovascular health. While just a few leaves of this purple herb may not contribute a significant amount of phytochemicals, if you’re making a basil-heavy dish, it’s worth considering this as a chance to add some extra antioxidants to your meal.
How to use purple basil for an antioxidant punch.
Once you pick up a bunch of purple basil (or grow it yourself because basil is always a great at-home herb plant), consider trying recipes with a high concentration of the herb (for all those antioxidant benefits).
Naik was sharing her love for this vibrant veggie as part of a delicious-looking homemade vegan pesto recipe, but some other options include blending it into a dressing for a grain bowl (purple goddess dressing sounds pretty good to us) or do a quick chiffonade cut on the leaves and toss them into your salad.