WHAT IS BASIL?
Basil is a member of the mint family that carries a fresh, green aroma with a hint of sweet licorice. This herb is essential in Italian cooking but also used in a variety of cuisines including Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese. There are over 60 varieties of basil and each has their own distinct flavor.
Basil is an aromatic herb that carries a fresh, green aroma with a hint of sweet licorice. It is native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa, and it is a member of the mint family. Basil has a sweet, pungent, and slightly spicy flavor, and it is widely used in a variety of dishes, including pasta sauces, salads, and soups. It is also a popular ingredient in many traditional medicine systems. Basil is available fresh or dried, and it can be grown easily in a sunny location with well-draining soil.
HOW TO USE BASIL
There are many ways to use basil in cooking. Here are a few ideas:
- Use it as a garnish: Basil leaves can be used to garnish a variety of dishes, including soups, salads, and pasta dishes
- Add it to sauces: Basil is a popular ingredient in many pasta sauces, and it can also be added to homemade pesto or tomato sauce.
- Make a basil infusion: Basil can be steeped in hot water to make a fragrant infusion that can be enjoyed on its own or added to cocktails or other beverages.
- Use it in marinades: Basil can be added to marinades for grilled meats or vegetables.
- Use it in dressings: Basil can be blended into dressings or used to make a basil vinaigrette.
- Use it in desserts: Basil can be used to make sweet basil syrup or basil-infused whipped cream for use in desserts or cocktails.
WHAT TO DO WITH BASIL
Basil is essential in Italian cooking, and it is also used in a variety of cuisines including Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese. Here are several foods to try with basil:
- Tomatoes: Basil is a common ingredient in tomato-based dishes, such as pasta sauce and bruschetta. Sweet and fragrant basil complements tomato-based dishes including pizza, pasta and marinara sauce. We find that basil cuts tomato’s acidity and enhances its natural sweetness.
- Parmesan Cheese: Basil and parmesan cheese are often used together in pasta dishes and salads.
- Olive Oil: Basil is often used in dishes with olive oil, such as pesto and bruschetta.
- Nuts: Basil pairs well with nuts such as pine nuts, almonds, and cashews, and it is often used in dishes with these ingredients, such as pesto.
- Chicken: Basil is a common ingredient in dishes with chicken, such as chicken basil pasta or chicken basil skewers.
- Melon: Basil and melon, particularly cantaloupe, pair well together and can be used in salads or as a garnish for cocktails.
MORE BASIL IDEAS
Tomatoes and cheese, basil and olive oil—two matches made in heaven! Picture the classic Caprese salad of tomato and mozzarella, dressed in olive oil. It’s the flecks of green basil that bring the dish to life. Same with a traditional Greek salad of chunky tomato, cucumber, onion, olives and feta cheese. Basil and olive oil bring the flavors together in perfect harmony.
In a pinch for a tempting but easy vegetarian meal? Basil to the rescue! Select several vegetables—whatever’s in season—say eggplant, zucchini and sweet bell peppers. Sprinkle them with basil, salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Then roast them at high heat until brown. Top them with the best quality Parmesan cheese you can find. Even the meat lovers at your table will ask for seconds!
You’ll also enjoy basil leaves cooked into a spicy Indian curry or a Tuscan beef stew.
Today’s professional chefs are finding many new and interesting uses for basil. You’ll find it in desserts and sweets, and even in ice cream. Next time you make shortbread cookies, try adding lemon zest and a hint of basil. You’ll love it!
BASIL COOKING TIP
Rub the leaves between your fingers before adding it to your dish to release the flavorful oils and superb fragrance.
HOW TO STORE BASIL
Fresh basil should be stored in the refrigerator, while dried basil should be stored in a cool, dry place away from heat and moisture and used within the recommended time suggested on the packaging label.
FLAVORS THAT GO WITH BASIL:
Add some more flavor to your meals with these herbs and spices. They go great with basil.
- Oregano: In Greek, oregano means “joy of the mountain." Even though it's super popular today, it actually wasn't wasn’t widely used in the U.S. until GIs returned from Italy during World War II. Our pure oregano is a delicious addition to any tomato dish, eggs and omelets, chicken, fish and pork, cooked vegetables, vinaigrettes and more. Consider it your go-to herb for that real Mediterranean flavor.
- Thyme: The plant’s tiny leaves—just a quarter inch at most in length—must be carefully harvested, cleaned, dried and milled to retain their rich color, piney aroma and earthy flavor. In the ancient world, thyme was a symbol of courage and bravery. One of the highest compliments to pay a Greek warrior, for instance, was to say he smelled of thyme. And in the Middle Ages, thyme was used to fend off nightmares. Today, our pure thyme holds its greatest place of honor in the kitchen as one of our most popular herbs.
- Black Pepper: Native to the Malabar Coast of India, McCormick Black Pepper comes from the mature berries of the evergreen vine Piper nigrum. From plantation to package, we monitor the process every step of the way to ensure that every bottle delivers consistent sharp aroma and earthy flavor. In ancient times, peppercorns were rare and valuable. They were used as currency to pay dowries and even rent. Although no longer used as money, pure black pepper is still one of the world’s most valued and beloved spices in all types of food.
- Dill Weed: The feathery leaves of the dill plant add fresh green flavor to lighter dishes such as salads, seafood and vegetables. Also great in dips, spreads and homemade pickles.
- Parsley: Parsley is mildly flavored and so versatile. Add to pasta, potato or chicken salad. Mix with melted butter and toss with vegetables or potatoes.
GRAB YOUR BASIL PRODUCTS!
- McCormick Basil Leaves
- McCormick Basil Herb Grinder
- McCormick Gourmet All Natural Thai Basil
- McCormick Gourmet Organic Basil Leaves
AND TRY THESE RECIPES THAT USE BASIL:
- Chicken Marsala with Basil and Mushrooms
- Eggplant Caponata
- Italian Braciole with Pine Nuts, Spinach and Parmesan
- Basil and Garlic Tortellini
- Easy Basil Herbed Peas
- Spicy Thai Basil Chicken
- Basil Shrimp And Pasta
- Sautéed Chicken With Lemon And Basil
- Basil Garlic Green Beans
- Basil And Garlic Vegetable Pasta With Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Gluten-Free Tomato Basil Meat Loaf
LEARN MORE ABOUT SPICES AND HERBS
- 5 (Almost) Magical Spice Pairings You Need To Try Right Now
- Tips & Tricks For Organizing Your Spice Cabinet
- How Long Do Spices And Herbs Last?
- How To Make An Herb Rub Without A Recipe
Ready to use more basil in your recipes? Save your favorite food, dessert, drink recipes and organize your ingredients with McCormick Meal Planner. Create a Flavor Profile to save all your favorite recipes and create grocery lists for easy shopping. You will also get custom recommendations based on your saved items to make your meals!