What to Do With Fresh Basil When Your Harvest is Too Big

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One year I planted basil in every corner of the garden, and come harvest time I needed to know what to do with fresh basil in a hurry. If you’re like me and end up with big harvests without much of a plan to deal with the crop, this article is for you. In this article, we’ll explore what to do with fresh basil, offering creative ways to incorporate its vibrant flavor into your dishes, and use up that crop that you weren’t expecting!

A large sprig of fresh green big leafed basil against a bright white background.

There are many types of basil, but the most commonly grown variety is sweet basil. Its notable flavor is frequently used in Mediterranean dishes, and it contains many antioxidants and other nutrients. Lots of people use dried herbs in their dishes, but fresh basil will take any dish to an entirely new level.

If you’re growing basil in your garden this year, you may be surprised at just how much you have to harvest before the weather turns! Now, while some people may see that as a problem, I see having “too much” of this herb as an opportunity!

Bright green, healthy, basil plant in a terracotta pot. Smaller purple basil plants are seen in the background and edges of the image.

Table of Contents
    Fresh garden herbs and lemon on a cutting board.

    Make Pesto

    Making pesto is at the top of the list for most people when it comes to using up basil because pesto requires a large number of fresh leaves. Plus, just like the herb, pesto is versatile and delicious! 

    If you end up with more pesto than you can use, you can always preserve it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

    Jars of bright green homemade pesto on a rustic wooden cutting board with a linen napkin. Fresh basil can be seen in the background.

    Make Infused Olive Oil

    This only takes a few minutes and will make any dish you create with the oil extra delicious! If you’ve never made infused oil before, try this easy recipe.

    A jar of infused olive oil with a sprig of fresh basil against a bright white background.

    Infuse Condiments

    Similar to the idea of infusing oils, you can add herbs to condiments such as butter or mayo to spice them up.

    To make basil butter, simply cut up fresh basil and mix it into ¼ cup of butter. Toss it into pasta or steamed veggies for a delicious twist.

    Making basil mayo is a very similar process. Chop up a handful of fresh basil and mix it into ¼ cup of mayo. Add a dash of fresh garlic, and you’ll have your new favorite condiment for sandwiches!

    A rustic wooden cutting board with a bowl of basil infused butter.  The image contains random sprigs of basil and fresh slices of lemon.

    Add Basil To Your Salads

    The herb’s flavor naturally pairs well with a huge variety of veggies, so adding a bit of chopped fresh basil leaves to your vegetable salads is a simple way to use up some extra supply while also elevating your salad.

    Don’t even get me started on Caprese salads because the combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves is my favorite!

    Want something a little sweeter? Try tossing fresh leaves into your watermelon salad or pair it with other melons.

    Fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato on roasted zucchini.

    Infused Water

    Have you ever tried adding basil leaves to your water? Or better yet, infuse your water with strawberries, basil, and a touch of lime. Refreshing! Plus, it’s a way to get some fruit, vitamins and add delicious flavor to bland water.

    A clear water jug filled with fresh water and springs of fresh basil against a bright white background.

    Throw Some Into Other Drinks

    Basil tastes great in a huge variety of drinks. Try adding some to your mojitos – basil is actually a type of mint, after all. Of course, if you’re making mojitos growing mint plants is a perfect partnership. For a family-friendly option, make a refreshing basil lemonade or a berry basil smoothie. Now that’s a delicious way to cool down on a hot summer day!

    A glass and jug of light pink lemonade infused with strawberries, basil and fresh lemon.  Lemon wedges and basil can be seen on the table in front of the jug.

    Basil On Pizza

    Still, wondering what to do with fresh basil? Pizza will come to the rescue! Adding fresh leaves to pizza is probably my favorite way to enjoy this herb. It adds that perfect distinctive flavor that takes your pizza to the next level, whether you made it yourself or ordered in. 

    Even if you’re gluten-free, you can enjoy basil on pizza. Try adding it to your gluten-free or cauliflower crust pizza!

    A fresh homemade pizza with melted mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and sprigs of fresh basil.

    Finger-Lickin’ Good Appetizers

    Make a few easy finger foods for guests the next time you host a gathering. Whip up a batch of caprese skewers by threading cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and fresh basil leaves onto toothpicks, drizzling them with balsamic glaze for an elegant yet simple treat. Alternatively, try bruschetta topped with a flavorful mixture of diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and chopped basil on toasted baguette slices for a burst of Mediterranean flavor.

    Rustic white bread with cheese, tomatoes, avacado, cheese and big fresh leaves of basil.  Infused olive oil is being poured over the bread.

    Take Your Soups Up A Notch

    Almost any tomato or veggie soup can benefit from adding some chopped fresh leaves. Tomato and basil were just meant to go together, but this herb would also taste amazing in squash, zucchini, or minestrone soups too!

    Fresh basil used as a garnish on tomato soup.

    Preserve It For Later

    Even with all these ideas for using up basil, you may find that you want to store some to use and enjoy over the winter. You can preserve herbs in a dehydrator and store them in a glass jar for up to a year.

    But, my favorite way to use fresh basil over the winter is to chop up fresh basil leaves, add them to olive oil, and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then, when I’m cooking over the winter, I simply pull out an ice cube or two and throw it into my recipes for that fresh taste I crave!

    Dried Basil being sprinkled into a mound against a bright white background.

    Give It Away

    When you’ve tried everything else and still have too much basil to use up (with all these ideas, that won’t happen), a super-easy way to reduce your fresh supply is to share it with friends, family, or neighbors. 

    A lovely rustic grey wooden pot with fabric bow filled with a healthy bright green basil plant.


    Can I Freeze Fresh Basil?

    Freezing fresh basil is a great way to preserve its flavor. Wash and dry the basil leaves thoroughly, then chop or leave them whole before freezing them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the basil to a freezer bag or container for long-term storage.

    How Do I Keep Fresh Basil Fresh?

    To keep fresh basil fresh for longer, trim the stems and place the bunch in a glass of water, similar to how you would care for fresh flowers. Cover the basil loosely with a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. Alternatively, wrap the basil loosely in a damp paper towel and store it in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer.

    What Are Some Creative Uses for Basil Beyond Cooking?

    Besides culinary applications, fresh basil has various other uses. You can make homemade basil-infused body scrubs, facial toners, or even herbal sachets for aromatherapy. Basil leaves also make beautiful garnishes for floral arrangements or decorative accents for serving platters and cocktails.

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    Final Thoughts

    Go ahead and grow basil this year! When it comes to harvesting a large amount of this versatile and delicious plant from the herb garden, the hard part isn’t figuring out what to do with fresh basil. Instead, the hard part is deciding just how you want to use it first!

    Author: Laura Kennedy

    Writer & Owner of Little Yellow Wheelbarrow

    Laura is a highly skilled gardener and fervent flower enthusiast. Despite her playful battle with plant spacing guidelines, Laura’s work inspires gardeners to create thriving, beautiful spaces that reflect both creativity and sustainability.

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 1, 2021. It was updated on February 18, 2024, to remove unrelated information, and to add FAQs.