The Best Way to Keep Basil Fresh

20 Sep


Not only does basil add spark when used in caprese salad, pesto, and soup, but it’s also full of disease-fighting antioxidants and essential oils.

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For the biggest health boost, savor it fresh, researchers recently found that a third or more of basil’s polyphenols may be lost when the herb is dried. Of course, dry basil is still a healthy choice if the fresh version is out of season.

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From Memorial Day to Labor Day, basil is constantly on hand in our kitchens. We blend it into garlicky pestos, sprinkle it over grilled pizzas, and toss whole leaves into our fresh salads. It’s hard to find a dish that isn’t improved by a handful of this bright green, fragrant herb.

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The best way to store basil may not be the prettiest way, but it can keep a bunch fresh and green for up to a week or two. Give this a try!

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To keep basil fresh, trim the stems and place them in a glass or jar of water, just like cut flowers. Loosely cover it with a plastic bag and leave it on the counter. Although certain herbs, such as parsley and cilantro, can be stored this way in the fridge, basil does better at room temperature. Refrigeration can turn the leaves black.

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No, this won’t win any kitchen decor awards, but in my experience the plastic bag really makes a difference. I’ve had basil stay perky for a week or even longer, especially if I change the water frequently.


If you have a monster haul of basil, the top way to use it all up is definitely pesto. This blend of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil is one of the most versatile condiments around. Tossing pesto with warm pasta is always a win, but I also love spreading it on flat breads, as well as tossing it with salads and drizzling it over grilled fish. A little pesto mixed with mayo also gives a sandwich like a BLT some serious flavor! If you have some left over at the end of the week, pesto will freeze beautifully for months when sweet basil is less abundant.

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But if you do one thing this summer with your basil stash, try infusing it into your next cocktail. You truly can’t go wrong with a batch of Strawberry-Basil Margaritas; they’re a guaranteed party win.   I also just love the sweet and savory two-punch combo of pairing whole leaves of basil with summer fruit — Cantaloupe Salad with mozzarella and basil is one of my favorite dishes this time of year.

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Have you found another great method for storing and using basil?

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One of my favorite basil recipes:

Strawberry Basil Dip

Fragrant basil combines with strawberry and honey for a dip that’s good enough to eat by the spoonful.

Start to finish 10 minutes.

6 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled (1 1/4 cup)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (1/4 cup)

3 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. packed fresh basil leaves

In a blender container or food processor combine strawberries, cream cheese, and honey.  Cover; blend or process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary.  Add basil; pulse until just chopped.  Serve immediately.  Makes 12 servings.  Make ahead: Chill dip up to 8 hours.  Serve at room temperature.


One Response to “The Best Way to Keep Basil Fresh”


  1. EAT, DRINK, & BE HEALTHY over the Long Weekend | ENGAGE Fitness - October 12, 2013

    […] The Best Way to Keep Basil Fresh ( […]

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