Growing fresh basil in your garden or in pots? Here are our top basil recipes for using that peppery herb that puts any dish over the top!
Fresh green leaves of peppery basil are one of our favorite things about summer! There’s nothing that evokes the carefree days of summer more (except, maybe peaches!). Adding fresh basil brings an herbaceous hint to any recipe that’s irresistible. Basil is can be used in both traditional and unique ways: from classic Margherita Pizza and Basil Pesto to interesting spins like Peach Crisp with Basil or Basil Strawberry Popsicles. Here are some of our very favorite basil recipes: and a little on how to grow this popular herb!
How to grow basil
But before our basil recipes, a few tips on how to grow basil at home! Growing your own basil is much cheaper and easier than buying it from the store. How to grow basil at home? can plant it either in a raised bed garden or in pots on a sunny ledge. We recommend buying a start plant at your local farmers market or garden store. Then plant it in a pot with plenty of drainage (or your garden) — and make sure to prune it regularly by removing branches back to the first set of 2 leaves. Pruning the plant makes it grow large and bushy! For more on how to grow basil, see our posts How to Grow Basil and How to Harvest Basil.
How to store fresh basil
Another great tip on basil is how to store fresh basil! Storing fresh cut basil inside can be difficult, because cut basil wilts within a few hours. Alex and I have a found a great way to store branches of cut basil. Find a large ball jar and add a bit of water in the bottom: then place the basil stems in cut side down and cover with a lid. Store in the refrigerator and it will last for 4 to 5 days, instead of just hours on the counter! For more, see How to Store Fresh Basil.
And now, our top basil recipes!
At the absolute top of our basil recipes is the Italian classic: Margherita pizza! After falling in love with artisan pizza on our honeymoon in Rome Italy, Alex and I have perfected our homemade artisan pizza over the past 12 years. And there’s no pizza we love more than the margherita. It’s the ultimate combination: stretchy mozzarella cheese, tangy tomatoes, and of course peppery fresh basil, all piled on a chewy charred pizza crust. Here are all our secrets!
A list of basil recipes must have a homemade pesto recipe, right? This is our best pesto recipe, resulting in a bright green color and savory flavor. In the spirit of staying on a budget, you can use either cashews or walnuts as a sub for the traditional pine nuts; they’re a fraction of the price and give pesto a fantastic texture. Basil pesto is perfect for using up an end of the season basil plant: it freezes well and you can have pesto all winter long! Want a vegan version? Try our Vegan Cashew Pesto.
And to round out the must-have basil recipes: how about a caprese salad? This one is a unique spin on the traditional. But the elements in this peach & burrata caprese salad all work together to make magic. First, juicy, succulent ripe peaches and vibrant red, yellow and violet tomatoes that taste literally like summer. Then, burrata: fresh mozzarella cheese filled with shreds of mozzarella soaked in cream. Add some peppery garden basil and some crunchy, salty peanuts, and it’s one of those first bite “Whoa” moments.
The flavor in this spaghetti is out of this world! The fire roasted tomatoes and peppery fresh basil leaves make for a flavor-popping but quick-to-make sauce. The recipe you'll see is for the Instant Pot, and it cooks in 5 minutes! Don't have an Instant Pot? You can use the same ingredients but do it on the stovetop: simmer the sauce in a saucepan while you boil the pasta, then combine for a quick and tasty dinner!
This grilled cheese with tomatoes & basil isn’t just any old grilled cheese. Tomatoes are roasted just long enough until they’re starting to burst, then mashed to extract the juice. It’s mixed with a bit of mayo to become a sort of roasted tomato mayonnaise that totally makes the sandwich! Then of course, you’ll add to that the peppery bite of fresh basil: an essential component that takes it over the top. The combination of the savory tomatoes, silky mayonnaise and fresh basil on crunchy grilled bread is a little bit of heaven.
A list of basil recipes wouldn’t be complete without some fruit recipes too! These strawberry basil popsicles feature Greek yogurt for creaminess. They’re refreshing and delicious, and naturally sweetened using maple syrup or honey. For some added flair, we added some basil from our garden: it makes for an herbaceous, sweet popsicle that tastes both familiar and a little gourmet!
And why not use basil...in a crisp recipe? This peach crisp so satisfying: the filling perfectly highlights ripe peaches, scented with a hint of peppery basil. And the topping is delightfully crunchy, featuring oats and almond flour. It's naturally gluten free and can also be easily made vegan using coconut oil instead of butter! We've made it both ways and it's excellent either way.
This tortellini soup with basil is savory and hearty, with a lightly sweet depth that makes you want the bowl to be never-ending. Sauteing the onion with tomato paste and paprika before adding the rest of the ingredients gives just the right complexity to the broth. And a bit of carrot and celery add texture and crunch. Basil leaves are added right after the tortellini cooks, which meld into the beautiful velvety broth. Add a bit of Parmesan cheese and it’s a little bit of heaven.
This homemade pasta recipe is fabulous; it’s a bit like a vodka sauce but uses Greek yogurt instead of vodka. It coats the pasta perfectly with just the right amount of creaminess. Add some torn basil as a garnish and it’s the most perfect pasta for a summer evening on the patio.
This tomato basil gnocchi soup is easy to make and incredibly cozy and delicious. The secret to the creamy tomato basil base is after sauteing onion and garlic, deglaze the pan with white wine vinegar. The tangy vinegar brings out the brightness in the tomatoes. We’ve paired the tomatoes with their best partner: peppery fresh basil, which brings a delightful savory undertone. And the pillowy gnocchi are bites of chewy delight! It’s become a fan favorite recipe.
Another great option: our Easy Tomato Basil Soup.
Pesto is an obvious choice for a basil recipe, but what about bright fluorescent green basil oil? It’s simple to put together, easier and cheaper than pesto, and darn tasty. The basic concept is: blanch the basil by boiling it for only 1 minute. Then plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking and keep that brilliant green color. After squeezing out all the water, blend the basil with olive oil. It yields a beautiful, verdant green sauce that tastes like summer. Use it on sliced tomatoes, as a dip for bread, on pasta, or crostini with goat cheese.
A unique idea for basil recipes is using it in…water! Looking for a beautiful drink for entertaining? Or just a healthy drink that’s an alternative to sugary soda? This fruit infused water recipe has your back for both! That Alex and I love about this recipe is that it looks so stunning — and tastes just as fun — but takes only a few minutes of hands on time. This one features an orange, strawberries, and fresh basil.
And finally in our list of basil recipes: egg salad with basil! Here, Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard make for an excellent substitute for mayo, mixed with our easy hard boiled eggs. Using Greek yogurt helps the healthy egg salad to taste fresh and nourishing, versus overly rich. And the highlight: fresh basil! It adds a delicious peppery element to the sandwich.
Looking for more basil recipes?
Looking for a few more ideas? Here are a few more basil recipes:
- Tomato Basil Soup with Ricotta Dumplings
- Tomato & Peach Salad with Basil
- Mediterranean Pizza
- Walnut Pesto with Basil
- Watermelon Salad with Feta & Cucumber
- Grilled Shrimp Marinade
- Easy Vegan Pesto
- Italian Pizza with Pesto
- Gemelli Pasta with Fire Roasted Tomatoes
- Veggie Pizza with Avocado
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.