If you love to grow your own herb garden then you will more likely than not be growing the family favorite of basil. It is so versatile and healthy, but what to do with leftovers to minimize waste?
We love to grow our own basil and have an article here if you want to learn more, or alternatively we also have an article about getting the most out of your supermarket bought basil. Either way you will have an abundance of basil pretty soon! Then you will be able to plan what to do with your leftover basil.
Vegetarian Basil Recipes
- Spicy Basil Guacamole – You will need to mash two avocados, then add 1/2 cup of chopped basil, one chopped spring onion, 1/2 diced red chili. A squeeze of lime juice and a crack of black pepper will make the whole dish zing. If you don’t have a spring onion, try half a red onion, but finely diced! If you want to avoid the spice (or have a fussy eater in your home!) Replace the chili with a tomato that has been deseeded and roughly chopped.
- Moroccan Inspired Basil Hummus – If you are going to the effort of making your own hummus you may as well go for it in a big way. Using baharat spice mix to give that gorgeous warm color and a handful of leftover basil leaves this is actually the ultimate store cupboard dish.
- Caprese Salad – thought to be named after the island of Capri the vibrant colors represent the flag of Italy. Green basil, sliced red tomato and the white of Buffalo Mozzarella. It is usually served with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, however we prefer to substitute this dressing for a Sicilian lemon and olive oil infusion. The zesty flavor really pulls the basil into the spotlight.
- Margherita Pizza With Basil– This is a great weekday family meal. The recipe we use is flexible and you can use a shop bought base or make your own. We were inspired by the Caprese salad and have chosen to use basil in the sauce, in the pesto and as fresh leaves on the topping. This may be a bit extreme for many, so you can play around with the herbs you use.
- Basil Pesto – You will need 3 handfuls of basil leaves, 2 handfuls or mint leaves, one clove of garlic, juice of half a lemon, 25g pine nuts, 25g of grated parmesan cheese, 125ml of olive oil. Put the dry ingredients into a blender and mix until you have the pine nuts roughly chopped. Slowly add the olive oil as you carry on mixing. Take out and then add the lemon juice to taste. For an extra special depth of flavor, toast your pine nuts first until they are just colored. This will be a real winner I promise! If you do not have as many basil leaves leftover you can look at suitable substitutes here.
- Basil And Mango Sorbet – you will need to puree the flesh of 2 mangoes with 4-5 basil leaves. Heat up 150ml of water with 100g of sugar, once it is all dissolved combine with the mango and basil mush. You are ready to add to the freezer, stir every two hours to avoid crystals forming. At around 6 hours it should be ready for taste testing!
- Tabbouleh With Fresh Basil – Tabbouleh requires fresh parsley, mint and basil to make it really special. An otherwise bland bulgur wheat will be great for a side dish or as the star of the meal with a little added vegetables. We follow the Epicurious recipe found here. But then we bulk it or change it depending on what we have in the fridge or store cupboard on any given day.
- Basil Olive Oil Drizzle- This really is a good recipe for using up leftover leaves and little bit of stem as well. You will need 1 cup of basil leaves to 1/2 cup of olive oil. This ratio of 2:1 means that you can adjust to fit the recipe to the amount of basil you have spare. Make sure that you pack the basil into the cup though!! We love the flavor and want to get a taste filled dressing. You will also need to add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice as well. Simply blend it in a mixer and secure in oil drizzling bottles that have been cleaned and dried. You can buy a sealed high quality oil bottle drizzler here.
- Stilton and Basil Quiche- This recipe is a real family pleaser. If you don’t have small children do add more stilton to the topping, to your taste really. It is a great quiche for picnics and packed lunches alike. Follow the link for the full recipe. Use a few leftover basil leaves to make it look a little bit posh as well!
- Feta and Basil Scones. – These are ideal for packed lunch boxes! The feta is used to give a tangy cheese flavor as well as replacing the butter. Your leftover basil will go into this recipe with any variation needed. For example if you only have a half dozen leaves left, mix it with parsley or chives. Even a little sorrel for a more grown up high tea scone! Basically this recipe will take all of your leftover fresh herbs!
- Classic Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Pasta– You will need a thinly chopped onion sautéed in olive oil until golden, then add two cloves of chopped garlic. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper, reduce it down. Then add 2 cups of halved cherry toms. Choose a mix of red and orange cherry tomatoes to give a depth of color. Then add 10-12 basil leaves roughly chopped, toss it through with one cup of mozzarella that has been cubed. Warm the mozzarella and basil, don’t cook it and then add the cooked pasta, enough for a family of four. Toss it all through and eat as a mid week family meal.
- Roast Mediterranean Vegetables –Using this recipe from Suzy at The Mediterranean Dish, you will have all the tips you need. She is clear that the key to fabulous roasted vegetables is in the seasoning. She uses the basics of Oregano and Thyme with some fresh garlic cloves thrown in for good measure. So we are suggesting you also add to your olive oil mix your leftover pesto. You know the little bit that is left in the bottom of the jar? What makes this idea perfect is that you can prepare it before work, then come home and chuck it all in the oven. Add two tablespoons of olive oil into your pesto jar as well as the oregano and thyme leaves. Close the lid and shake well. Leave in the fridge and return to make a family meal with a truly infused taste of the Mediterranean!
Meat And Fish Dishes With A Little Basil Magic
- A little goes a long way with basil and in this Baked Fish with Garlic and Basil it is such a family favorite! Leaving the delicate fish to marinate in the dressing before baking is the key. The recipe we love is from The Mediterranean Dish . It can be quick to prepare but lovely as a Friday night family meal or as a dinner party classic.
- Classic Bolognese Sauce– we have a recipe for those weeknights when the kids have swimming to rush to and then one for a luxury weekend meal. More of a ragu and following the Italian traditions it is luxury at it’s finest as you make it the day before. So kind of perfect for a real life, rather than a ideal world where we can devote 4 hours to cooking an evening meal.
- Roast Leg of Lamb With Basil and Mint Pesto – We follow the BBC Good Food version of this recipe and i lifts your Sunday roast to a whole new level! Top tips include – do it the night before! Scoring the lamb and allowing the pesto to drizzle over it the night before cooking will seal in those flavors. Cover the leg an pop it in the fridge until you are ready to take it out to cook. We also recommend not letting it dry when cooking, more of the marinade is needed if it starts to look like the pan is drying out. We also change the timings depending on the size of the leg and who is eating – the kids like it well done!
- Parmesan, Chicken and Basil Risotto – You will need ; 2 pints of chicken stock, knob of butter, 1 medium onion, 275g arborio rice, 2 cooked chicken breasts, 1 cup of parmesan, 1/2 cup of fresh basil. Method; soften the chopped onion in the butter, then add your rice and coat with the butter. You will then add the stock a ladle at a time, until it has been absorbed by the rice. Shred the chicken breasts and once the final ladle is added to the rice pop it into the mix and stir through along with the chopped basil leaves. Once it has cooked and been absorbed add 2/3 of the parmesan. Stir through then sprinkle the rest on top. This serves a family of four. IF you want to make it vegetarian substitute the chicken for cooked butternut squash.
Using Basil In Drinks – Alcoholic and Alcohol-Free
- Basil and Lime Ice Cubes are such an easy way to use up both leftover basil and if you have half a lime that won’t get used. Simply put water into the ice cube tray to be around two thirds full. Then add a squeeze of lime and some basil leaves that you have rolled and roughly chopped. Make sure to cover the leaves within the ice cube, push them under with your finger if they start to pop out. You can make half a dozen at a time and then use in a Summer cordial or cocktail as you please.
- A traditional muddle using basil– You will need a cocktail muddler, like this one available here. It is a traditional process of mixing sugar and herbs like basil or mint, thyme or rosemary. By crushing not mushing you can release the essential oils and therefore aroma and flavor, without damaging the leaves too much. A gentle twist is all that is required, not smashing the herbs just bruising. You can then use this as the base of a basil Mojito.
- Basil Mojito – Take around 10 basil leaves and 4 teaspoons of castor sugar. Muddle them together and then add 1/4 cup of lime juice to 1/2 cup of white rum and 1/2 cup of soda water. Add more soda water for a longer drink and then add the ice cubes you made earlier.
- Basil Bloody Mary – You will need to make the muddle slightly differently to a mojito mix. You don’t want that sweetness. This really is a grown up cocktail. 10 basil leaves to about the juice of one lemon, muddle them together and then add to the bottom of a cocktail shaker. 100ml of vodka to 500ml of tomato juice, shake together with the basil muddle and add a pinch of celery salt and black pepper. Add drops of Worcestershire sauce to taste, but use a little less than you may do when not using the basil muddle. Then you can add an olive or a chive flower. For more on growing edible flowers for cocktails have a look at our recent article. Make this into a virgin Mary by leaving the vodka out. We have an alternative recipe using basil vodka here.
- Basil And Strawberry vegan milkshake – is lovely on a hot Summers day, equally so when you add to rum to it as a virgin cocktail. We like to think of it as a healthy option as well! You can use frozen strawberries or fresh and leftover basil leaves as and when you have them available from harvesting.
- Basil and Raspberry Pimms – This Summer classic uses leftover basil in a very Classic way. Use a pitcher with cucumber, raspberries, oranges and chopped up basil leaves. Add plenty of ice cubes and then mix the Pimms to your taste.
- Gin and Tonic – With a twist, use your leftover basil to make a muddle with some lemon or lime juice, add this to the bottom of a tall glass of gin and tonic.
- Fresh Basil Tea – nice and simple to make using ten fresh basil leaves and around 6 chamomile flowers. We have a teapot with an internal infuser, so just gather your ingredients and pop them inside. Pour freshly boiled water over and simmer. The longer you simmer the stronger the flavor, I would recommend around 3-5 minutes. The chamomile brings sweetness, but if you do not have any to hand honey will lighten the herbal tea naturally.
Storing And Drying Your Leftover Basil
- Store in the freezer. Wash and dry thoroughly, lay out flat on grease proof paper and freeze in single layers. This is not an ideal way to store fresh basil as it will then shatter and need to be popped into a larger zip lock style bag.
- Basil stored in butter will keep fresh in the fridge for up to four weeks, but in the freezer for around three months. Any compound butter will add a real freshness to a dish. Melted over steaks, chicken, fish and roast vegetables.
- Store fresh basil in water, but not chilled. Basil will develop those horrible black spots on the leaves if you put it into a cold environment. So by all means keep cutting the stalks and refresh the water every other day but do not put into your fridge next to the more hardwood herbs like rosemary and thyme.
- Basil frozen in oil in ice cube trays. This looks a bit gross but it works. The only issue is I don’t have that many recipes that call for basil to be added at the start. This means it would wilt and deteriorate so instead it is ideal to melt on to fresh pasta. Just like herb butters and better yet they can also be used on a simple jacket potato to pack a real punch. Add the chopped fresh basil to ice cubes with a squeeze or lemon or lime, hen top up gently with olive oil. They can freeze reliably for around 6 months.
- Air dried. Is not how we would recommend drying soft, tender stem herbs like basil. This is because of the tendency towards mold inbetween those leaves. If you only have a few sprigs and it is the height of British Summer time, perhaps you can do this with relatively low levels of threat. Hang loosely in bunches of 6-8 sprigs, tie with an elastic band to allow air flow between stems. Use a paperclip to loop through the band and hang in a place with airflow, but that is also cool and dark. No direct sunlight as this will fade the color and degrade the flavor.
- Basil dried in a dehydrator is quick and easy, the article I linked to has all the timings and heat setting you need. Storage is not an issue and a clean dry glass jar is all you need. Store in a cool cupboard and the flavor will last for a year easily. There are conversions to bare in mind when cooking with dried herbs vs fresh herbs and I put together a free printable to help, available here.
- Oven Dried Basil is a slower process to using a dehydrator but equally as good. Turn your oven to the lowest setting. Wash and thorough dry your basil leaves. Set on to parchment on a tray and pop into the oven, with the door slightly ajar. This is not a great method if you have a lower oven and pets or smaller children. The other thing to remember is that herbs can burn and ovens don’t tend to have timers that cut the oven when they go off, so do not leave the kitchen unsupervised when drying herbs in the oven. They will take between 2-4 hours to dry and you should check back to see if the leaves are papery to the touch.
- Microwave Dried Basil. Wash and thoroughly dry your basil leaves. Lay on to a paper towel in the microwave and set to medium heat. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove the leaves and allow to cool. Feel to see if they are papery and crumble. If not try for 10 seconds at a time. This method is quick and seemingly ideal for smaller numbers of leaves, however some of the taste seems to be lost.
What Can You Do With Leftover Dried Basil
When using dried basil in recipes that give quantities for fresh basil use a ratio of 3:2. If the recipes calls for 3 cups of fresh basil you will use 2 cups of dried basil. The key to success is when to add your dried herbs. You need to use your cooking process to rehydrate the herbs.
- Pizza Sauce As you are frying off the onion you can add a mixture of traditional Italian herbs and then add some dried basil into teh mix as well.
- Focaccia– with rosemary and garlic actually does well with the addition of olive oil when being baked. So mix your dried basil in with the oil prior to making your dough and then you will have infused oil to drizzle and the dried basil will be plumped up by the oil.
- Basil Herbal Tea – Herbal tea is a very good way to use leftover dried herbs and get the most out of them in terms of nutrition. We love peppermint tea and mixing some dried peppermint leaves with basil leaves will give you a deeply relaxing cuppa. Go for 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves to 2 teaspoons of dried basil leaves. For how to make the perfect herbal infusion we have a free guide here.
- Potato Wedges– Make your wedges as you would normally and then just add your leftover dried basil when you are seasoning with olive oil and any other herbs of your choice.
- Dried Basil Pesto – Nobody is pretending this is as lovely as fresh basil, however when needs must it is a helpful and quick way to make a family friendly meal. Head on to A Couple Of Cooks For full recipe. You can substitute the cashew nuts here for pine nuts and even toast them a little first. This distracts from the dried basil, but it does rehydrate well and is not claggy.
- 14 Ways To Use Leftover Pesto this is ideal if you have shop bought pesto or homemade.
- Top Tips For Propagating Basil – so that you can have too much basil to know what to do with!
- What Is A Good Substitute For Basil for those times when you do run out of the good stuff.
- Cocktail Lovers Herb Garden Planting Guide A good project for the weekend!
There are lots of ways to make the most of your basil and avoid it going into the compost bin. Hopefully some of these ideas will make it into your family favorites and you can start to enjoy fresh flavors all year round.
For us the ultimate solution to leftover herbs is to grow our own and harvest as we go. Soft stem herbs like basil are not perennial in the UK they will die off outside in Winter. A solution we have found is with a hydroponic kitchen worktop system. We have have a year round supply of fresh herbs, no more leftovers.
Not that this means we don’t use all of the recipes above as they just help to keep us reminded to use our fresh flavors.