What would a summer garden be without basil? It has a fresh taste, is aromatic, and is the perfect herb to add to any dish. This year I had a hard time keeping up with my basil plant. It had never looked better- the leaves were the perfect size, they had that gorgeous bright green color, and the flavor was insanely fresh. As exciting as this was, the plant was producing more basil than I could eat, and the last thing I wanted was my delicious basil going to waste. The question on my mind was, can you preserve fresh basil?
I wasn't sure, and once summer started winding down, I began trying to make the most out of my summer basil plant to use it up, making copious amounts of basil pesto, salads, pizzas, stews and pastas with fresh basil. However, I knew that I wouldn't be able to use all of it, so I had to figure out if it was possible to preserve fresh basil leaves before summer ended. By preserving it, I could make it possible to use my basil year-round to continue enjoying its fresh flavor no matter the season.
What Are Some Ways to Preserve Fresh Basil?
The good news is that you can indeed preserve fresh basil, and it's easy to do at home. There are a number of different ways to preserve your basil, each with its own advantages. Check out these creative ways to preserve your basil all year long so it won't go to waste.
1. Freeze Basil Leaves
One of the easiest ways to preserve basil is to freeze the basil leaves. You can simply freeze the whole basil leaves or chop them and store them in a container or freezer bag, but keep in mind that they might shrink a little, so the frozen basil will be a smaller amount. You can also try blanching them:
- Remove basil leaves from the stem and toss them in a pot with boiling water for 3-5 seconds.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately transfer the leaves to a bowl of ice cold water.
- Dry the leaves completely and store basil leaves in a freezer-safe container or plastic bag.
Now you'll have that delicious fresh basil flavor to finish off tomato sauce or a soup year-round.
2. Make Basil Cubes
Want to add fresh flavor to a winter soup? Toss in a basil cube. This is one of my favorite ways to preserve basil or any other fresh herbs. To store fresh basil in an ice cube, cut basil leaves in the food processor and drizzle in enough olive oil to form a paste. Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray, freeze, and store the delicious flavor cubes in a freezer-safe container or plastic bag.
If you don't want the basil to turn into a paste, you can roughly chop the basil leaves with a knife, place a pinch or two in each cube, cover with olive oil, and freeze. Basil cubes add fresh flavor to any dish all year long and will have you dreaming of summer!
3. Make Pesto Cubes
I crave fresh pesto during the wintertime and pesto cubes are a happy reminder of summer right from the freezer! Make your favorite pesto recipe in a food processor or mortar and pestle and pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. You'll have pesto cubes year long to bring flavor to a pasta dish, fish, or chicken, making this one of the best ways to preserve fresh basil!
Here's the perfect pesto recipe to get you started.
4. Dry Basil Leaves
There's nothing like fresh basil leaves, but dried herbs like basil have a lot of use in the kitchen. Skip the spice aisle and dry it out yourself. The easiest way is in the oven:
- Remove basil leaves from the stem, wash, and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Set your oven to the lowest temperature and place the basil leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Bake the leaves for 2-4 hours until they're completely dried out and crumbly.
- Crumble the leaves with your hands and store in an airtight container or mason jars.
You can also dry out clean basil leaves the old school way by gathering a bunch and tying them together at the stem with a twist tie. Hang up the bundle of basil leaves on a hook in the kitchen or in a room with sunlight to help with the drying process. In about two weeks you'll have dried basil to crumble into any dish.
5. Make Basil Vinegar
If you want the perfect start to a homemade salad dressing and you have a few leftover basil leaves to use up, try infusing a bottle of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar with fresh basil. Place 3-4 basil springs into a bottle of vinegar and let it sit at room temperature for about two weeks, gently shaking the bottle every couple of days.
You can even add in garlic cloves, peppercorns, or red pepper flakes to the basil-vinegar mixture for some extra flavor.
This post was originally published on October 23, 2020.