10 Ways to Use Basil

Ten ways to use basil.

Basil is the star of many herb gardens. 

It's so easy to grow, it loves our summer heat and grows like crazy. 

Updated July 2021

Prune your plants and they will grow bushy and provide lots of flavorful leaves throughout the growing season.

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To prune, pinch off the stems with flowers - ideally, you should do this before the flowers appear - so that you can continue harvesting the leaves through the summer. 

This keeps your basil from flowering and going to seed, so be sure to prune your plants before they look like the one in my picture below. You can see the flower heads at the top of the stalks.

You can see the seed heads in the photo below. Prune your plants before they look like this!

Basil with seed pods

Pruning will encourage your basil plants to grow thick and bushy, and to keep growing throughout the summer. 

You can prune basil several times a year, cutting off about half to two-thirds of the top growth each time.

You may end up with a lot of basil leaves. This is the fun part, putting that harvest to work! Try these ten ways to use basil.

Dried basil leaves

Remove the basil leaves from the stems and let them dry. You'll find a variety of ways to dry homegrown herbs (and how to store them too) here.

Pack dried basil leaves loosely into a jar, or several jars if you have too much to fit in just one. 

Don't crumble the leaves until you're ready to use them - the fragrance and flavor will last longer this way.

Fresh basil

Use fresh or dried basil in almost everything: sauces, soups, seasoning mixes and more. One of my favorite uses is this fresh-from-the-garden roasted tomato soup.

Add fresh basil leaves to salads, sandwiches or sliced tomatoes with homemade mozzarella cheese

Top pizza with fresh chopped basil.

Make pesto

You can - and you should - make pesto. I've always used walnuts instead of pine nuts because walnuts are much easier to find, less expensive and just as delicious.

Freeze basil

Preserve basil by freezing in ice cube trays. Simply chop the leaves, stuff them in the ice cube trays and fill with water. 

When you need some basil flavor in a dish such as a soup or sauce, just drop in a couple of cubes. 

In a recipe where you don't want extra liquid, let the ice melt before adding the leaves.


Make this easy basil sorbet for a light and refreshing dessert. All you need is a food processor.

Basil is an easy herb to grow.

Soothe insect bites

Chew a basil leaf and apply it to insect bites or bee stings to soothe the itch.

Or make a basil wash to rub on mosquito bites. Boil 2 cups water and add a half-cup of dried basil leaves. Turn off the heat and let this tea cool completely, then use a cloth to gently dab on the bites.


These spinach and basil noodles are easy (and fun) to make with just a few simple ingredients and about five minutes. 

No pasta machine needed, the recipe tells you how to use a blender, food processor or just make them by hand.

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Add basil to your daily green smoothie. This recipe pairs basil with blackberries. Basil makes a nice change from the usual spinach smoothie.


For a light summer meal, make this delicious (and beautiful) basil and zucchini soup.

Other ways to use basil

Basil goes well with Italian and Asian dishes, so you can add it to stir-fries, pasta dishes and other favorite recipes. 

Homegrown basil and tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.

Collect seeds

Then let your basil go to seed in the fall. 

The small, round seed pods are easy to collect after they dry on the plants. Rub the pods together in your hands until they pop open and the little black seeds fall out.

Keep your basil seeds to plant next spring - here's how to store seeds for the best germination rate next year.

Dark opal basil in bloom.

There are over 40 varieties of basil, so choose your favorite to grow, or grow a basil garden with several varieties. You'll find an awesome variety of basil seeds at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.

There are forty varieties of basil to choose from. Here are four: sweet Genovese, dark opal, cinnamon, and purple basil

Enjoy your basil garden, and the "fruits" of your labors!

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Ten ways to use basil, because you can never have too much!

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  1. I adore Basil and love your ideas here. I have not started saving seed yet from my garden but this one will be my first. I have so much basil and should be able to collect much. I had Chocolate Basil icecream in Bloomington Indiana a few months ago and it was divine! I need to make some myself. Thanks for all the ideas; my basil is out of control! (in a good way!) Thanks for sharing on our Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.

  2. Oh my, Debbie, that chocolate basil ice cream sounds amazing. I'm going to google for a recipe for that! Thank you for stopping by and for commenting.

  3. I am more encouraged that it is possible to grow enough basil for pesto. Thus Far, I've not accomplished an abundance.

  4. It is possible. Some of my plants did really well, and others not so well. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's where they were located...? Keep trying. :-)

  5. Basil is by far my favorite herb, and lucky for me there's an abundance of it growing in my garden! We've made pesto with our basil about ten times this year!

  6. That was a lot of basil, Margaret! You must have a basil-friendly green thumb.

  7. Oh I LOVE basil! It grows so easy, and smells soooo nice! I had an abundance of it last year that we're still working on, I dried it and also put it in ice cube trays with olive oil and froze it. I've used it in stewed tomatoes, soups, in most recipes actually. The kids enjoy the area where the basil is, it's close to my oregano plants, and we call it my "pizza" garden! LOL!

    Coming over from Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth.

  8. "The Pizza Garden" - I love that! It must smell wonderful, Mrs. Abella. Thank you so much for stopping by.

  9. We use sunflower seeds in our pesto. It's delicious and much cheaper than pine nuts!

  10. What a great idea, Angel! Thank you.

  11. Our basil didn't do well this summer. It's going to seed now, so I will be saving some for next season. Did you know that you can make a pesto without any nuts. It's called Pistou (it's French) and it's delicious!
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful outdoor post on The Maple Hill Hop!

  12. I didn't know that. Thank you for sharing, Daisy!

  13. Just stopped in from Tuesdays with a Twist. We love homemade pesto. I like to make fresh tomato soup with frozen pesto cubes melted in it. It makes the soup so rich.

  14. That does sound rich and delicious, Jan!

  15. Great post - just love basil! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  16. What a beautiful dog and post, I actually had a herb garden this summers lots of different basils. Love if you share this on Fabulous Friday Party


  17. Thank you for the invitation, Maria, I'll check it out.

  18. I think I like it with the mozzarella best of all!! Thank you for sharing at the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week :)

  19. I agree, Jes, it's delicious with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes!

  20. Love this post - so many great tips and thanks for sharing at Tuesday's with a twist - I'll be featuring it this week at Garden Up green. Hope to see you there!

  21. Thank you, Carole! I'll stop by - thank you for the feature!

  22. So happy your shared the amazing basil post on Fabulous Friday Party

  23. I enjoyed the party, Maria. Thank you for hosting it.

  24. Anonymous6:12 PM

    I've grown basil for the first time this year and over time my plant has grown fairly big. I actually know fairly little about herbs and was wondering if you could give some advice. Since I live in Australia we still have a few months of summer growing left. Can I cut down about half my bush to use for pesto and the remainder survive? Also if it starts flowering or goes to seed do the leaves still taste the same? I also planted a rosemary plant this year and was wondering if I should do anything special to it other than take cuttings when needed. I do get some frosts over winter but am hoping it will continue to grow over the winter for the next season.

  25. Hi Therese, Yes, do cut down your basil plant. Cut it down about 1/3. The rest of the plant will continue to grow and you should be able to cut it again before winter. It's best to harvest it before the plant blooms; you can cut or pinch off all those flower spikes. It will grow better if you keep those cut off. After you harvest it the second time, before frost, let the plant bloom and produce seeds and then save those seed pods for next spring.

  26. Just this morning, I was wondering if I should do something to the flowers (?) on the top of my basil. And then I read this. Sounds like I should pinch them off.

    1. You can do one of two things: pinch off the flowers so your plant will continue growing leaves and you can harvest them, or let the plant flower and produce seeds. I usually pinch the flowers until late summer and then let the plant flower so I can harvest some seeds before the first frost.

  27. Anonymous10:26 PM

    To freeze you can simply lay leaves on cookie sheets in the freezer. When they are frozen put them in a zip lock bag and crush the leaves. You might need to leave the bag in the freezer and then crush a couple more times to get the leaves crushed up fine enough. No water, not ice cube trays. We use so much basil that I usually have a couple of gallon bags.

  28. Your Basil looks amazing, Kathi. You've got such wonderful plants! Love your ideas for using it as well. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party Community. I’m featuring this post at the party this week. Hope to ‘see’ you there! Take care, stay well, and I wish you a wonderful week!

  29. What an awesome and comprehensive post about basil, thank you so much for sharing your know-how and great ideas for the kitchen and garden!


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