Shisho, the ornamental, aromatic herb of the mint family, also known as perilla or perilla mint is typically found in Japan and Korea.
Now, shiso leaves are pretty expensive and sometimes hard to find fresh or even as a dried herb. It might not be readily available around you, which is why you should look out for alternatives.
Great substitutes for shiso leaves include mint, Thai basil, sweet basil, grape leaves, lemon basil, lemon thyme, green onion, and cilantro.
So, let’s see more about these shiso leaves substitutes and how you can use them.
Best Shiso Leaves Substitutes
Shiso leaves have a lot going around when it comes to flavors. So, when you don’t get your hands on one, you can try the substitutes listed below for a similar taste.
1. Mint leaves
Mint leaves are the best substitute for shiso leaves because both mint and shiso originate from the same family, i.e., Lamiaceae. So, they hold similar flavoring and fragrance.
These leaves have a stronger and sweet flavor with a subtle pepper flavor. They also have a cool tingling sensation which is caused by the menthol present in the leaves.
Additionally, they may also have a slightly bitter taste.
Mint is often associated with desserts but is also well suited with the food dishes shiso is used in due to the almost same flavoring effect.
Hence, as mint has so many similarities with shiso, you can use it as a substitute.
The only issue is that mint leaves are comparatively smaller than shiso. Therefore, you can’t use them for wrapping rolls. However, they’re ideal as a flavoring agent.
2. Thai basil
Thai basil originating from southeast Asia is one of the main ingredients of Asian cuisine. Shiso and Thai Basil also come from the mint family and are often used interchangeably
Thai basil not only shares the color composition as shiso but somewhat the flavor too. It has a bit of spicy and a bittersweet, sour taste, just like that of shiso.
Again, just like mint leaves, you cannot use Thai basil for wrapping rolls since it is smaller in size. But, it is perfect for adding flavor to your dish.
3. Sweet basil
Sweet basil holds a subtle flavor as it balances between sweet and sour.
It also blends the flavors of pepper, mint, and anise. Hence, it has somewhat identical flavors to shiso, which makes it a suitable substitute.
I recommend using sweet basil, along with mint leaves, if you want better volume in your dishes.
4. Grape leaves
Grape leaves make a great shiso leaf substitute. They are quite soft in texture. Also, when it comes to the taste, they are tangy and citrusy, just like shiso lives.
Moreover, they are stocky and hence, can withstand long cooking procedures.
Also, the best part is that they are comparatively easier to find and are big enough for wraps. So, they will not only give an almost similar taste but also a similar appearance to your dish!
Keep in mind that grape leaves are best suited to use when they are fresh.
5. Green onion
This may come as a huge surprise, but green onion is one of the most common ingredients you can use as a shiso leaves substitute.
Green onions can add a similar green color to your dishes, like Shiso leaves. Additionally, its cool and refreshing flavor is perfect for Japanese dishes, like Sashimi.
However, note that green onion has a slightly pungent taste in comparison to shiso leaves. So, use it in lesser quantities.
6. Lemon basil
Lemon basil has a similar taste to that of sweet basil. However, it holds a stronger flavor than regular basil. You can use lemon basil as a substitute for shiso leaves as both provide the same tangy and slightly bitter flavor.
I suggest using lemon basil with mint leaves to achieve a cool mint-like flavor as well.
Cilantro does not belong to the mint family, but you can use it to substitute shiso.
It has a fresh citrus taste with a pungent smell. So, you can say that the flavor is somewhat identical to shiso leaves.
The best part is that cilantro is a common product that people use worldwide. Hence, it’s readily available in supermarkets around you or even in your own kitchen.
8. Lemon thyme
Lemon thyme has a sweet and savory taste.
Hence, you can use it as a substitute for shiso leaves too. However, the best way to add lemon thyme to get a flavor similar to shiso leaves is by using mint with it.
What do Shiso leaves taste like?
Shiso leaves are particularly red or green with spiked edges. They have a close resemblance to the basil leaves. Moreover, they have a similar taste to basil as it is minty and bittersweet with a bit of tanginess.
Shiso leaves hold a strong flavor, and hence, they can make you experience a variety of flavors. One bite will leave you experiencing the taste of basil, cinnamon, tarragon, mint, cilantro, and many more!
What’s interesting about shiso leaves is that the taste differs from the leaves you’re using. For instance, the green leaves taste like you’re having a mix of mint and cinnamon, whereas the red leaves taste like cumin and basil mixed with spearmint and anise.
What can I use instead of Shiso leaves?
There are several substitutes you can use instead of shiso that will give the same flavor to your dish. For flavoring, you can use mint, sweet basil, Thai basil, grape leaves, lemon thyme, lemon basil, and cilantro. As for wraps, grape leaves are the perfect substitute.
Are Perilla leaves the same as Shiso leaves?
Perilla is a term used for naming the mint plant species. Hence, there are quite a few plants of the mint family that are called perilla leaves.
For instance, Perilla leaves are known as sesame leaves in Korea, just like they are shiso in Japan. So, you can say that perilla leaves are the same as shiso leaves.
However, note that the Japanese shiso is comparatively tiny and mintier than the Korean sesame leaves, which are round and broader.
Is Shiso Thai basil?
Shiso is a herb commonly used by the Japanese for wraps and adding flavor to their food. Now, Thai basil is also a herb belonging to the same mint family.
However, even though the two share the same family, they are quite different from each other. For example, the leaves of Thai basil are quite smaller than shiso.
Moreover, the flavors differ as well. But, you can use Thai basil as a Shiso substitute.