Basil is a great herb to grow indoors or out, and the abundance of leaves often leaves us wondering what to do with them all. There’s much more to basil than tasting great with tomatoes or being turned into a pesto, and here’s 20 ways you can use up your extra basil leaves.
As a Food Ingredient
1. Classic Pesto
Pesto has to be one of the best-known basil-based recipes, and is great on pasta, pizza and salads, or with meat and fish. The classic pesto uses fresh basil, raw garlic, parmesan, pine nuts and extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Marinades and Dressings
Basil can be used in different marinades and dressings. A great salad dressing is to mix basil with lemon juice and honey, and a perfect marinade for chicken is a basil, balsamic vinegar and garlic marinade.
3. Oils and Vinegars
This is a great way to preserve the flavor of your fresh basil leaves, without the need for any fancy kitchen equipment. Basil oil can be used as a tasty drizzle over cooked vegetables, or as a dipping sauce for breads, while basil vinegar can be used in salad dressings and marinades.
4. Herb Butter
Herbal butters are a tasty addition to your fish, meat, veggies, pasta, potatoes and bread. Make your own flavored butter using up your extra chopped basil leaves.
5. Basil Salt
Basil salt is very easy to make, and adds a wonderful burst of flavor to your food.
6. Sauces and Soups
Tomato and basil are a classic pairing, which is why adding some fresh or dried basil to tomato-based pasta sauces is a great idea.
Basil is also great when added to soups. The obvious choice is tomato soup, but try adding basil to carrot, zucchini, pea, broccoli, vegetable or chicken soups.
7. Sandwiches and Salads
Caprese salad, made of tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil is the classic basil salad, but it also works well with other greens, and cucumber too. Try pairing basil with feta cheese, or making a summer salad with strawberry, cucumber and basil.
Use basil as a garnish for sandwiches too for a burst of flavor.
8. Pasta and Bread
If you make your own bread, try mixing basil into the dough before cooking it. For a quick and easy pasta sauce, mix garlic with basil in a light butter or olive oil base.
Basil does lend its strong flavor to some desserts too, such as lemon basil yogurt cake, mint and basil syrup, strawberry basil shortcake, basil ice cream, basil lime sorbet, or strawberry galette.
Cocktails get zing from the addition of a few torn basil leaves. Try adding to gin and tonic, vodka and soda, or even a mojito.
For a more complex flavor, try a strawberry and basil margarita, basil and lime vodka cooler, strawberry, rhubarb and basil Bellini, or cucumber and basil vodka.
If non-alcoholic is more your style, try making sweet basil lemonade, or cucumber, mint and basil soda. If you love smoothies, try a banana and basil shake.
11. General Cooking
You can add basil to all kinds of dishes, from scrambled eggs to curries and stir fries. All it takes is some experimenting to find the right taste combinations.
As an Herbal Medicine
12. Basil Essential Oil
You can make your own basil essential oil from your homegrown plants, which can help relieve nausea, motion sickness, indigestion, constipation, stress, insect bites and poor circulation, among other things.
To make a less potent massage oil for sore muscles, you can infuse basil leaves in a carrier oil such as jojoba or olive oil for three to six weeks. This oil can also be used to soothe insect bites.
Basil is a muscle relaxant, and has analgesic properties, so inhaling steam infused with basil leaves is said to be effective for tension headaches.
Add a tablespoon of dried basil leaf, a handful of fresh leaves or a few drops of basil oil to three cups of water and bring to a boil. Transfer to a large, heat proof bowl, and drape at towel over your head. Lean over the bowl and breathe in the vapors for up to ten minutes, positioning the towel to keep as much of the aromatic steam in as possible.
14. To Calm an Upset Stomach
Drinking basil tea can help soothe an upset stomach or help your digestion. Steep three basil leaves in a cup of boiling water, and drink when it has cooled down. Drink this three or four times a day, between meals.
If you suffer from acid reflux, try mixing basil with a spoonful of raw honey.
15. Bites and Stings
Basil oil is antimicrobial and antioxidant, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, which makes it a good addition to a topical healing salve.
Basil is also a pain reliever, and as a salve can help reduce the pain and itching from insect bites or bee stings. Apply basil oil to the affected area, or chop up a basil leaf and apply to the bite for quick relief.
16. Bath Soak
Basil leaves or oil can be added to your bath with a cup or two of Epsom salts or Himalayan pink salt for a calming bath. The antiseptic properties will also help your skin remain soft, supple and infection-free.
17. Ease Congestion
Steaming to relieve nasal congestion has been used since ancient times, and by adding a little fresh or dried basil to your steam, you’ll increase the decongestant effect.
18. Natural Deodorizer
Commercial deodorants and antiperspirants contain a lot of chemicals, and if you want to try a more natural way of staying fresh-smelling, try eating more basil! Herbs like parsley, mint, basil, sage and rosemary are all said to be natural body deodorizers, and they taste great.
19. Lower Blood Pressure
The majority of high blood pressure cases in the US are believed to come from poor diet. Extract of basil has been shown to lower blood pressure, although only for brief periods. Eating it regularly could make a difference to your health.
20. Regulate Blood Sugar
A specific variety of basil, (holy basil, which is an Asian variety) has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in normal and diabetic laboratory animals, and diabetic humans.