How to Tell Difference Between Basil & Mint

Basil and mint are herbs that have numerous uses. Basil is popular in Italian as well as many southeast Asian cuisines. Mint is typically found in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine and is used in drinks and desserts. If you are unfamiliar with these herbs you might easily mistake one for the other, but once you know their defining attributes you will have no problem knowing the difference. Basil and mint plants have distinctive appearances and smells that make them easily distinguishable.

Basil or mint?

Step 1

Compare the appearance of the plants. Basil plants have leafy stems, two-lipped, white flowers and grow up to 2 feet high. Mint plants have square stems and grow between 1 and 3 feet tall.

Step 2

Compare the appearance of the leaves. Basil leaves are usually 2 to 3 inches long, oval-shaped and yellow-green to dark green. Mint leaves are generally narrower. Peppermint, the most common variety of mint, can be identified by the leaf's purple color.

Step 3

Smell the leaves. Basil smells similar to cloves. Mint smells like most chewing gum or air fresheners.