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What to Do with Basil: 16 Basil Recipes to Enjoy All Year Long

Do you love fresh summer basil as much as I do? If you get an abundunt harvest you may be wondering what to do with all that extra basil! 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. 

In this post, we will cover:

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.

But why?

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.

Woman holding a basil pot in a garden bed

Dividing Grocery Store Basil Plants and Planting Them in the Garden

Give your plants more space to grow by separating them. Here’s how.

  1. Grab the bunch of plants and pull them out to expose the root ball. Woman pulling a clump of basil out from the garden
  2. Gently tease apart the roots for each of the plants.Dividing a basil plant to give the stems more room for growth.
  3. When you pull a plant out of the cluster that has a nice, healthy root system, plant it in your garden. 
  4. 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

You can also plant basil edible edges or propagate your basil from cuttings and you’ll 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 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.

Pesto

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.

Traditional Pesto

For a basic traditional pesto, I like Jamie Oliver’s Pesto Recipe. It’s simple, classic, and packed with natural flavour.

Basil-Almond Pesto

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

basil being chopped on a wooden cutting board with a fresh basil plant in the background

Using fresh basil to spice up condiments is one of my favourite ways to eat it!

Basil Mayo

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.

Basil Butter

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.

Compound herb butter

Basil Oil

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!

Basil Vinegar

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

Make this Basil Aioli Dipping Sauce from Canadian Living by pulsing basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and anchovy paste in a food processor and then folding the mixture into some mayo.

How incredible would this be with some panko-crusted shrimp or even a steamed artichoke straight from your perennial garden?

Caprese Salad on a stick

Salads

Fresh basil is always a welcome and flavourful addition to salads. If you haven’t tried it before you’ll be blown away by how fresh mixed greens can become when you sprinkle in some basil leaves.

Caprese Salad

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

Surprisingly 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).

Basil Ice Cream

Preserving Fresh Basil

Sometimes, even after making all of the recipes above, I still have loads of harvested basil leaves left over. Wondering what to do with too much basil? Besides making up big batches of pesto to freeze, there are a few other ways to preserve basil for the winter months.

Dry Basil

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!

Comments

  1. Wow, you have made so many preparations with Basil !!
    I have plenty of basil plants in my small rooftop garden. In childhood, as a home made remedy against cough and cold, my mom used to give me few freshly picked basil leaves and one table spoon of honey in morning.
    In India, we make Chatni with Mint, Basil, Curd , Green Chilli and Lemon, which we use as dip for snacks, kebabs or in my case sometimes as a side dish with rice also.

    Reply
  2. Try gin and tonic on the rocks with a few slices of cucumber and a handful of basis leaves. Delish. It’s the real deal!

    Reply
  3. Try gin and tonic on the rocks, with a few slices of cucumber and a handful of basil leaves. Delish. It’s the real deal.

    Reply
  4. Basil added to a simple panzanella is…. transformative. Make the panzanella first — cubes of day-old bread (baguettes are good, especially if you rub a clove of cut garlic on bread slices before you cube them), fresh home-grown tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes if you don’t have a garden or it’s winter), a bit of garlic (roasted if possible, and grated), extra-virgin olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste — and then add chiffonade of basil (roll up washed and dried basil leaves into a cylinder, cut into thin slices and sprinkle over the panzanella). Or, if you have the infused basil oil you made above, use that instead of the olive oil and skip the basil chiffonade.

    Reply
  5. Does the basil vinegar need to be refrigerated at all? And should I remove everything that’s infusing after the 2 weeks?

    Reply

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