Do you love fresh summer basil as much as I do? Dried basil just doesn’t have the same flavour. These 16 basil recipes will help you use and preserve your garden-fresh basil harvest so you can enjoy the taste of sweet, fresh basil all year long.
Basil is a fragrant herb in the mint family that is traditionally used to add its distinctive flavour to Mediterranean cuisine. It’s easy to grow, smells wonderful, and provides many nutrients and antioxidants. Many people use dried basil leaves in cooking, but there’s just nothing like the taste of fresh, garden-grown basil.
How to Quickly Grow Fresh Basil
If you buy basil in the store, it tends to be smaller plants that taste a little bit bitter and isn’t as sweet as garden-fresh basil. That’s because there are a whole bunch of plants crowded into those pots! You can bring them home to plant in your garden and it will be much happier, and sweeter.
Because basil will grow to be quite large in the garden.
Grocery store herbs are in tiny pots, or worse, cut from the roots and placed in a plastic clamshell package.
The herb pots are the ones I will often pick up when I see them, because they house many small plants that are grown from seeds and can be transplanted into the garden or a pot at home.
Dividing Grocery Store Basil Plants and Planting Them in the Garden
Give your plants more space to grow by separating them. Here’s how.
- Grab the bunch of plants and pull them out to expose the root ball.
- Gently tease apart the roots for each of the plants.
- When you pull a plant out of the cluster that has a nice, healthy root system, plant it in your garden.
- You may harvest your basil as you need it throughout the season. It will have the most flavour before it flowers.
By following this process, you’ll grow amazing basil that you can use all summer long and then preserve it to use over the cold months too.
Basil Recipes to Enjoy Fresh Basil All Year Long
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 how to use it in ways that will preserve it.
When you’re growing basil, it has a fresh flavour you only get when it’s in season. Here are some of my favourite fresh basil recipes that go beyond the norm and let you enjoy the taste of fresh basil throughout the year.
Usually, the first thing people think of to make with fresh basil is pesto. It’s easy to see why: pesto uses a large amount of fresh basil.
Enjoy some fresh pesto when you harvest your basil, then 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. It’s simple, classic, and packed with natural flavour.
This Basil Almond Pesto from The Wholesome Dish is a nice change from the original recipe and perfect to make when you don’t have pine nuts on hand or want to skip them because they cost a small fortune.
Basil Walnut Pesto
Given the price of pine nuts these days, I make this Basil Walnut Pesto from Epicurious as my regular go-to recipe because it has a rich nutty flavour without breaking the bank.
Add Fresh Basil to Condiments
Using fresh basil to spice up condiments is one of my favourite ways to eat it!
If you frequently use mayo as a condiment, you’ll love this basil mayo.
Make it by finely chopping a handful of basil and a teeny bit of garlic, then mix it with 1/4 cup of mayonnaise. This tastes particularly amazing on salmon burgers.
Make basil butter the same way as the mayo, but leave out 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 the water, then add the leaves (along with 1 cup of olive oil) into a blender.
Puree them together and 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 all of those ingredients infuse for 2 weeks before using it as an ingredient in a fabulous vinaigrette.
Basil Aioli Dipping Sauce
How incredible would this be with some panko-crusted shrimp or even a steamed artichoke straight from your perennial garden?
Fresh basil is always a welcome and flavourful addition to salads.
This simple 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, and drizzle some delicious 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.
Watermelon and Basil Salad
This Watermelon and Basil Salad from the Food Network adds a nice twist to eating a summer classic like watermelon. Basil generally pairs well with melon and other sweet fruits.
Cucumber, Tomato, and Basil Salad
I love the balance of this Cucumber, Tomato, and Basil Salad from The Spruce Eats.
Cool, thirst-quenching cucumbers and sweet basil translate to a very refreshing side dish!
Basil Caesar Salad
Try this delicious twist on a classic with this Basil Cesar Salad from Epicurious. It makes a perfect lunch with the addition of hearty croutons.
Fresh Basil Recipes with Sweet Basil
Basil’s sweetness and mild anise flavour also make it a wonderful addition to desserts and cocktails.
Basil Pineapple Spritzer
This Basil Pineapple Spritzer has a completely unique flavour as the two ingredients come from completely different worlds! Tropical pineapple and Mediterranean basil are a surprisingly perfect pair.
Cantaloupe-Basil Agua Fresca
Three fresh, simple ingredients are all you need to enjoy this refreshing Cantaloupe-Basil Agua Fresca from Bon Appétit. Mmmm, delicious!
Basil Ice Cream
If you haven’t yet tried this Basil Ice Cream recipe from Epicurious, you’re really missing out. It’s a delicious, refreshing, out-of-the-box twist on a summer classic dessert.
Basil ice cream has the exact flavour you would expect: fresh, 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).
Preserving Fresh Basil
Sometimes, even after making all of the recipes above, I still have loads of harvested basil leaves left over. Besides making up big batches of pesto to freeze, there are a few other ways to preserve basil for the winter months.
Dry clean and trimmed basil leaves by layering them 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
Add chopped fresh basil mixed to 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. Thus, you can just thaw what you are going to use and leave the rest frozen until you need it.
Fresh basil is one of my favourite herbs to grow and use. Now that you have these basil recipes for using and preserving garden-fresh basil, I hope you’ll enjoy growing and using it too!