Fresh basil is the summer herb that goes so well with fresh tomatoes, and here are my tips and recipes for Cooking with Fresh Basil. And if you’re growing basil and have an abundance of it, don’t miss my ideas for making pesto, making basil vinaigrette, and freezing fresh basil!

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Cooking with Fresh Basil collage of featured recipes

On this site there’s a series of posts about Cooking with Fresh Herbs and I’ve shared tips for growing and using Mint, Parsley, and French Tarragon. But today I’m excited to be talking about Cooking with Fresh Basil because even though I’ve been growing fresh herbs for many years, basil is the herb I look forward to the most every summer!

And it’s clear that I’m not the only one who loves fresh basil. It’s an ingredient in the most popular zucchini recipe on my blog and there are so many more popular recipes featured below where fresh basil is a star ingredient.

Of course fresh basil is amazing with summer produce like fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and summer squash, but it’s also a wonderful ingredient to add to pasta sauce, soup, and stew. And any time of year you come to my house you’ll always find frozen basil in the freezer.

You can also tell basil is a popular herb by the way basil plants show up every spring in Trader Joes and many other grocery stores! And the plants are often available all through the summer months, so it’s not too late to grow basil inside if you don’t have an outdoor garden space.

This post will give you tips for growing basil, freezing basil or preserving it on the counter, and of course my favorite recipes using fresh basil from Kalyn’s Kitchen and some ideas from my food blogging friends. If you’re someone who hasn’t cooked with basil that much I hope I can inspire you to try it!

Cooking with Fresh Basil - basil growing

Tips for Growing Basil:

Basil is quite easy to grow from seeds, and when I had a big garden I’d always buy some basil plants to get me started, and then plant seeds for later in the summer. Be sure to plant it in a spot that gets full sun. Let the basil plants dry out between watering. And the most important tip for growing basil is to trim the basil regularly!

See in the photo above how my plants look when they’ve been trimmed. I use the basil that’s trimmed off to make Basil Pesto with Lemon, Basil Vinaigrette, and to Freeze Fresh Basil to use during the winter.

What does Fresh Basil taste like?

If you’ve tasted pesto, you’re familiar with the flavor that makes basil so popular. But for those who have never tried fresh basil, I will attempt to describe. It’s definitely a slightly peppery herb, with a bit of licorice or anise flavor. There are many varieties of basil, and the type often used in Italian food, summer tomato salads, and to make pesto is often called sweet basil. Thai Basil and Lemon Basil are both quite different.

What foods does fresh basil go well with?

  • Basil is amazing with fresh tomatoes!
  • It goes well with any creamy mild cheese like fresh Mozzarella, goat cheese, Parmesan, or Ricotta.
  • It’s definitely the most common herb used with pasta or pasta sauces.
  • Basil is good with chicken, fish, pork, and most any kind of sausage.
  • It’s great with zucchini, summer squash, green beans, cucumbers, olives, and many other vegetables.
  • It combines well with lemon, capers, oregano, fennel, garlic, mustard, parsley, rosemary, and vinegar.
  • There are also many more options than the ones I’ve listed here; let us know in the comments if you have a fun idea for using basil!

Favorite Recipes using Fresh Basil:

Basil Pesto with LemonBasil Pesto with Lemon

If you’re growing basil in your garden I hope you’re making Basil Pesto with Lemon! I’ve been making this homemade pesto for years and freezing it in ice cube trays. And if you don’t have quite as much basil but want to try making pesto there are recipes on the blog for Kale and Basil Pesto and Spinach and Basil Pesto.

Basil Vinaigrette is a treat with basil that I’ve been making for many years, and it’s a sign of summer when this shows up in my fridge. The Basil vinaigrette is amazing just drizzled over fresh tomatoes or grilled veggies, chicken, or fish. I’ve also used it as a dressing for so many favorite salads; see the big list of salad ideas below for ways to use this tasty dressing. And you can enter “basil vinaigrette” into the search bar on the blog for even more recipes using it.

Close-up photo for Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stacks

Grilled Zucchini Caprese Salad is one of my favorite things to make when I have zucchini and fresh garden tomatoes, and the Basil Vinaigrette makes this a real wow!

Close-up photo for Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini and Basil Strata

Cheesy Zucchini and Basil Strata is a recipe where zucchini and basil go together in a delightful way!

Crustless Three-Cheese Tomato-Basil Quiche close-up photo

Crustless Three-Cheese Tomato-Basil Quiche is an amazing recipes that uses fresh basil! I’ve also got a recipe for Crustless Tomato-Basil Breakfast Tarts if you’d like individual servings. I use my beloved Herb Scissors (affiliate link) to get those nice thin strips of fresh basil!

Cauliflower Rice with Basil, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts edited image of finished dish in serving bowl

Cauliflower Rice with Basil, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts is a think-outside-the-box idea for using fresh basil, and this is really delicious!

Green Bean and Tomato Salad finished salad on serving plate

Basil adds an extra flavor punch to this amazing Green Bean and Tomato Salad.

Roasted Summer Squash with Feta Cheese and Basil close-up photo

Roasted Summer Squash with Feta Cheese and Basil uses strips of fresh basil to add even more flavor to summer squash that’s roasted with Feta Cheese!

Barely Steamed Asparagus with Basil Vinaigrette found on

Asparagus with Basil Vinaigrette is quick and easy to make for a low-carb side dish, and this is absolutely a wow!

Low-Carb No-Noodle Lasagna with Sausage and Basil found on

And recipes like this No-Noodle Lasagna with Sausage and Basil are one of the reasons I love to freeze basil to use it during the winter!

Tips for Preserving Fresh Basil

How to Preserve Fresh Basil on the Countertop

If you’re buying bunches of basil you’ll want to read this post on How to Preserve Fresh Basil on the Countertop.

How to Freeze Fresh Basil collage photo

My post on How to Freeze Fresh Basil is popular every simmer, and the frozen basil is great to use for basil vinaigrette, pasta sauce, soup, and stew! If you have lots of basil growing in your herb garden, I hope you’re freezing it!

Fresh Basil Recipes with Beans, Grains, and Pasta:

Fresh Basil Recipes with Eggs:

Fresh Basil Recipes with Meat, Poultry, or Fish:

Recipes for Fresh Basil in Salads:

Recipes for Fresh Basil in Sauces, Dressings, or Dips:

Fresh Basil Recipes with Tomatoes:

Fresh Basil Recipes with Vegetables:

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