I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of shiso substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Vietnamese perilla leaves is the best substitute for shiso in terms of flavor. For something more accessible, go for a mix of mint and basil. To replace shiso as a wrap, try grape or spinach leaves. You can replace red shiso leaves with purple raffles basil.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of this miso soup recipe to test out several different shiso substitutes.
Shiso, or Japanese basil, is an aromatic herb from the mint family. It has a fresh, citrusy flavor with subtle notes of cinnamon, cloves, and mint.
There are two shiso varieties: red and green. The green-colored one is the most common. And the red variety has a more bitter flavor – it’s often used as a natural dye for umeboshi.
Shiso’s unique flavor makes it a favorite accompaniment for sushi and sashimi (as discussed in the video below), but you can also use it in soups, salads, drinks, and even desserts. It’s delicious in ice cream.
Finding an exact flavor match for shiso was challenging, but I found some decent substitutes for specific uses.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Vietnamese perilla (tia to)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Korean perilla leaves (kkaenip)||Replace with ¾ the amount of Korean perilla||9/10|
|Mint||Replace with ½ the amount||8/10|
|Basil||Replace with ¾ the amount||9/10|
|Grape leaves||Use grape leaves instead of shiso for wrapping foods||7/10|
|Young spinach||Use spinach leaves instead of shiso for wrapping foods||7/10|
|Yukari||1 tsp, adjust to taste||8/10|
|Myoga (Japanese Ginger)||1 tsp, adjust to taste||9/10|
Common uses of shiso
Here are some common ways to use shiso and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a sushi/maki roll accompaniment: Vietnamese or Korean perilla are the perfect shiso substitutes for sushi. But you can also use grape leaves or baby spinach.
- As an addition to tempura platter: Again, try using Vietnamese or Korean perilla. Lemon or Thai basil are good too and easier to find.
- For salads, soups, and noodles: You can use mint or any basil variety to replace shiso as a garnish. Freshly grated myoga (ginger shoots) is also great for adding a burst of freshness.
- For cocktail drinks: Fresh mint leaves are the best replacement for shiso in cocktails.
Vietnamese perilla (tia to)
This leafy green is a mainstay in many Southeast Asian kitchens.
Vietnamese perilla comes from the same family as shiso leaves, so it’s no surprise it has a similar physical appearance, complete with the jagged edges.
But a closer look reveals a stunning purple underside, a unique trait that separates it from its shiso sibling.
The herb packs a flavorful punch, with similar minty notes to shiso leaves. But it also has subtle hint of anise, adding complexity to any dish you use it in.
It was delicious in my miso soup, and it would also work beautifully with freshly sliced sashimi.
How to substitute: replace shiso in a 1:1 ratio with Vietnamese perilla (Tia To).
Korean perilla leaves (kkaenip)
Welcome to the world of kkaenip, another leaf variety from the same genus as shiso.
This South Korean favorite comes with an intriguing mix of flavors – think black liquorice combined with mint and finished off with a peppery aftertaste.
These leaves have a more robust flavor profile than shiso, making them a bold substitute. Some people might even find the leaves too harsh compared to shiso, but I liked it.
Psst… Korean perilla tastes fabulous fried. Check out Maangchi’s recipe where she pairs the fried leaves with minced beef (yum!).
Kkaenip works great with heavier meats thanks to its intensity.
How to substitute: replace shiso with ¾ the amount of Korean perilla.
Looking for something you don’t have to hunt around for?
Swap shiso leaves for mint.
The flavor is more one-dimensional, with the main taste being mint (who’d have guessed?!).
And another downside is the smaller leaf size, which means it’s less versatile as a shiso substitute. You can’t exactly use it as a wrap for your sashimi!
But mint is a fantastic addition to salads, cocktails, or desserts where the refreshing, cooling flavor can really shine.
Psst… you can also mix it with basil (see below) to get a more complex flavor.
How to substitute: replace shiso with ½ the amount of fresh mint leaves (so the mint flavor doesn’t become overwhelming).
Another easily accessible shiso substitute is basil – did you know shiso is sometimes called Japanese basil?!
There a few varieties, but by far the most common is sweet basil.
The overall flavor of sweet basil is pretty subtle. But it has mildly peppery note with undertones of mint and anise. To better replicate shiso, I recommend mixing the sweet basil with a few mint leaves.
Other variations include holy basil (a stronger flavor), lemon basil (refreshing and citrusy), and cinnamon basil (sweeter flavor with notes of cinnamon and clove).
You can even replace red shiso with purple ruffles basil!
Pro-tip: add your basil leaves just as you finish cooking to preserve their flavor.
How to substitute: replace shiso with ¾ the amount of your chosen basil variety.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try swapping shiso for grape leaves.
This won’t work if you’re using shiso as an herb, but grape leaves are a good substitute if you need a sashimi accompaniment.
They’re typically used as wraps in Mediterranean cuisine, where they’re stuffed with rice and ground meat.
The leaves have an earthy flavor with a bit of tartness that pairs nicely with a light and delicate sashimi meal.
How to substitute: use grape leaves instead of shiso for wrapping foods.
A super easy option to use instead of shiso as a wrap is spinach leaves.
They have a mild flavor so work great as a functional ingredient. In a pinch, small lettuce leaves will work as well!
Psst… spinach is super healthy too.
How to substitute: use flat spinach leaves instead of shiso for wrapping foods.
Yukari seasoning (red shiso furikake)
Yukari is a type of furikake seasoning made with dried red shiso leaves.
It’s not the best substitute for shiso (or the easiest thing to find), but it can serve as a handy stand-in if you’re using shiso for garnishing.
You can sprinkle it over your sushi or soups for a herby flavor boost.
Plus it’ll add a nice pop of color to your dish, bringing some of that visual appeal that fresh shiso provides.
How to substitute: start with 1 tsp of yukari, and adjust to taste.
Last but not least is myoga, or Japanese ginger.
Myoga is actually the flower buds and shoots of the ginger root. You can’t use it as a wrapping like shiso, but again it makes a good replacement garnish.
I followed Just One Cookbook’s lead and grated a piece over my miso soup. It really elevated my dish, adding a bright, zesty kick with a subtle ginger flavor.
Not the same flavor as shiso, but tasty nonetheless.
The only downside with this substitute? It’s not going to be stocked in your local walmart. You’ll need to venture to your local Asian market to get hold of some – they should sell it fresh and pickled.
How to substitute: start with 1 tsp of myoga and adjust to taste.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for shiso substitutes, but they’re not the only options. Here are some other things you could try.
Cilantro and lemon thyme are both very accessible herbs and will complement most dishes that you’d use shiso in.
You can use both to build a soup base or garnish a dish.
Kaffir lime leaves are also a solid shiso alternative, but you’ll need to add them the early stages of cooking to mellow out the bitter flavor. I wouldn’t use these in raw dishes.
Flavorful salad sprigs like watercress, shredded green onion, or baby arugula can also work for garnishing dishes.
Substitutes to avoid
I found loads of different suggestions for shiso substitutes while I researching, but not all of them worked out in my experiments.
Umeboshi was one that frequently came up because it’s made with red shiso leaves. But all the leaves do is give the plums color, the flavor of umeboshi is VERY different to shiso. It’s salty and sour, not herbaceous.
It could be good as a sashimi accompaniment, but it won’t replace shiso.
Furikake was also mentioned, but this only works if you get the one made with red shiso leaves, yukari (mentioned previously).
Best Shiso Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- 10 leaves vietnamese perilla
- 5 leaves korean preilla
- 5 leaves mint
- 7.5 leaves basil
- 1 leaf grape leaves
- 1 tsp yukari, adjust to taste
- 1 tsp myoga, adjust to taste
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen shiso substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.