16 Recipes to Use and Preserve Fresh Basil
If you planted basil edible edges or propagated your basil from cuttings like I did this year, no doubt you have a boatload of basil to contend with. Having a ton of one specific crop can be overwhelming, but basil is such a versatile herb that can be integrated into so many different recipes that you will be grateful to have a lot of it once you learn what to do with it all. Here are some of my favorite recipes that go beyond the norm and help that basil last throughout the year.
Usually the first thing people think of to make with fresh basil is pesto. Make a big batch without the cheese and store in the freezer in small jars. When you want to eat the pesto, thaw just enough to use add the cheese in, and it’s like you have garden-fresh pesto all winter long.
- For a basic traditional pesto, I like Jamie Oliver’s Pesto Recipe.
- Basil-Almond Pesto is also a nice change from the original.
- Given the price of pine nuts these days, I make Basil-Walnut Pesto my regular go-to recipe because it has a rich nutty flavor without breaking the bank.
Besides making up big batches of pesto to freeze, there are a few other ways to preserve basil for the winter months.
- Dry clean, trimmed basil by layering onto the shelves of a food dehydrator. Leave lots of space between leaves and check often to ensure they don’t over dry. Store dried herbs in a sealed jar for up to a year.
- Freeze chopped basil mixed with water in ice cube trays. Transfer frozen cubes to a freezer bag to store. Thaw a cube when needed for a recipe. I like this because an ice cube makes it easy to thaw a small amount of basil at a time, so you can just thaw what you are going to use and leave the rest frozen.
Using fresh basil to spice up condiments is one of my favorite ways to eat it.
- Make basil mayo by finely chopping a handful of basil and a teeny bit of garlic, then mix it with 1/4 cup of mayonnaise. This is beautiful on salmon burgers.
- Make basil butter the same way as the mayo, but skip the garlic and replace the mayo with butter. Cook your morning eggs with basil butter and you’ll never want them another way again.
- To make basil oil, blanch two handfuls of basil by dropping it into boiling water for 5 seconds, then immediately into ice water. Squeeze out water, then add it and a cup of olive oil into a blender. Puree, then strain until all that remains is a beautiful bright green oil. Perfect for drizzling over some grilled white fish.
- Make basil vinegar by packing basil, peppercorns, and garlic into a jar topped with apple cider vinegar. Let infuse for 2 weeks before using as an ingredient in a fabulous vinaigrette.
- Make Basil Aioli Dipping Sauce by pulsing basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and anchovy paste in a food processor, then folding the mixture into some mayo. I would love this with some panko-crusted shrimp or even a steamed artichoke.
Fresh basil is always a welcome addition to salads.
- Caprese salad is a perfect go-to recipe when you have an abundance of heirloom tomatoes. Slice and salt tomatoes, add some fresh mozzarella and full-size basil leaves, then drizzle with a great olive oil. You can layer it on a plate, spike it on a bamboo skewer, or pack it into a mason jar for a Caprese Salad To Go.
- This Watermelon and Basil Salad looks interesting, and since the instructions are simple enough it’s worth a try in my books. Basil pairs well with melon and other sweet fruits.
- I love the balance of this Cucumber, Tomato and Basil Salad. Cool cucumbers and sweet basil translate to a very refreshing side dish.
- Try a twist on the classic with this Basil Cesar Salad that makes a perfect lunch with the addition of hearty croutons
Basil’s sweetness and mild anise flavor also make it a wonderful addition to desserts and cocktails.
- This basil pineapple spritzer has a completely unique flavor as the two ingredients come from completely different worlds! Tropical pineapple and Mediterranean basil are a surprisingly perfect pair.
- If you haven’t yet tried basil ice cream, what are you waiting for?! It’s delicious. It has the exact flavor you would expect: basily, sweet, creamy. Delightful. Top a small scoop with some dark chocolate sauce and you will have your dinner guests licking their bowls (seriously, it happened).