Five Exciting Ways to Use Basil

A bed of basil varieties in bloom.
We're at the height of the basil season. As long as basil gets enough water, and you remember to keep the flower stalks pruned back (unlike in the photo above where all of the basils are in full bloom) then  your plants will be producing non-stop. The more you prune, the better the flavor. But have you run out of things to do with your basil? Of course you are probably making lots of pesto and freezing it for winter (my recipe for fool-proof frozen pesto is on this page).
Basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, nuts - regular pesto.

Here are 5 great exciting ways of using basil you may not have tried yet.
Dip a big pile of assorted basil cuttings in water and lay on the grill.

1 - Lemon-Basil Grilled Shrimp. 
Cut a big, double-handful of lemon or lime basil, as in the photo above. Dip it in plain water and lay the basil on a medium-hot barbecue grill. Spread 2 or 3 dozen raw shrimp over the basil, pull down the barbecue lid if you wish, and steam the shrimp for 60 - 90 seconds. Flip the shrimp over and give them another minute. The lemon basil flavor will be steamed into shrimp, giving it wonderful flavor.
Basil Lemon Ice Cream

2 - Nutty Basil Lemon Ice Cream
Karen Keb, editor of The Heirloom Gardener magazine told me about making homemade ice cream with basil this past week. She used sweet basil, pine nuts and lemon, and sounds so good I have to make some, too! Here's the link to her recipe, which she posted on the Mother Earth News website. Thanks, Karen, for sharing your recipe!

3 - Basil Pesto Burgers
Combine about 2 pounds of ground chuck with 1 medium onion, finely chopped, 1/4 cup basil pesto, salt and pepper and mix well. Form into burgers and cook on the grill. The pesto gives great flavor, you won't be sorry you did this! (This method works well with veggie-burgers, too).

4 - Banana-Basil Smoothie
Use any kind of basil for this - I like Thai, but lemon, sweet, Genovese, Greek Columnar, Purple Ruffles, it doesn't matter, they all work just fine. In a blender, put 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon honey, 7 or 8 basil leaves (or more, to taste) with 3 cups of milk. I add a few ice cubes, too. Blend it until smooth. For a milk-free smoothie, I use either pineapple or cran-raspberry juice instead of the milk.
Blackberry-Basil Sorbet

5 - Blackberry Basil Sorbet
I especially like Greek Columnar basil or Purple Ruffles for this recipe but any variety works just as well. (The recipe is from my book, Fabulous Herb and Flower Sorbets, on my website).
Begin with 3 cups of blackberry juice (or blueberry, etc.) Add 1/2 cup sugar, 6-8 fresh basil leaves, 1 cup of water and the freshly-squeezed juice of 1 lemon. Blend well in blender and chill the liquid for at least an hour. Pour into a sorbet maker and freeze until firm.
36 pages of herb and flower sorbet recipes.

There you have it, 5 ways of using up some of your excess summer basil you may not have considered.

Of course, there's always the old stand-by, plain basil pesto toasted on sourdough bread, too!

Fresh or frozen pesto toasted on sourdough bread, that's not too bad, either!


Terra said...

Yum, basil is one of our favorite plants. You reminded me to go out and pinch the tops of the basil before flowers develop.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

It all sounds yummy as usual. I'm going to be making jelly with mine! Thanks as always for sharing, Jim. xxoo Nancy

susanalbert said...

Jim, I couldn't make Karen's links work. Is it just me?

Jim Longs Garden said...

I reposted the link Karen gave me and tested it so it seems to be working. Thanks!

Popcorn House said...

The basil looks great. We tried it last year and it sure smells good. Unfortunately, we didn't plan how we would use all of it before half of it went bad.

cityslipper (small kitchen garden) said...

I wish I'd seen this post last summer when I had lemon basil overwhelming my herb bed (it was the 1st time I'd grown lemon basil and it proved somewhat over productive). I could have served a lot of lemon basil grilled shrimp without making a dent!

Thanks so much for participating in Post Produce.

Noel Morata said...


Great suggestions, I've had basil on fresh fish and its delicious!

Noel Morata said...


great suggestions, it is a very usable spice in many recipes...my favorite on top of fresh fish like sardines or fresh ahi.

Teresa Byington said...

Pictures are so great I can almost smell the basil!