Basil leaves usually get all the attention for their tenderness, flavorful taste, and strong aroma. However, most people don’t realize that basil stems are also useful when it comes to cooking! They have the same taste as basil leaves and can bring just as much flavor to any dish to which they’re added.
Can you eat basil stems? While usually discarded after removing the leaves, basil stems are just as edible as the leaves! They bring the same flavor to anything they are combined with and can be found in a great supply among the leaves of the plant. You can use them just as you would fresh basil leaves.
While cooking with basil stems may be something you are not familiar with, it is just as easy as using basil leaves! Read on for some great ideas and tips on how to use basil stems in your everyday favorites like salsa, pesto, pizza, sauces, and more!
10 Ways To Use Basil Stems
When chopped finely, you can’t tell the difference between freshly chopped leaves and stems! Be sure to use the tender new-growth stems as opposed to the mature woody stems, or they won’t be soft enough to cut. After harvesting your fresh basil, try one of these 10 fantastic ways to use basil stems in your everyday cooking!
1. Use When Making Pesto
Making pesto requires a lot of basil leaves. Using stems as well as leaves can be a great way to increase the amount of pesto you can make. Don’t even bother removing the leaves from the stem; simply toss it all in with the rest of your ingredients!
2. Add to Salsa
Basil stems are a great way to add a hearty bite as well as a fresh kick to your salsa! Chop the stems into whatever size you prefer — larger pieces will pack more of a bite with flavor while finally chopping them will add a subtle basil taste throughout any dish.
3. Use in Tossed Salads
Adding basil leaves to your salads is a great way to add flavor, but they can become wilted quickly and don’t store well. Instead, try adding basil stems. They add texture and still deliver that fresh basil taste while not looking as wilted as basil leaves do.
4. Add to Salsa Verde
Green basil stems will fit right in when making salsa verde! Most recipes call for fresh herbs, and basil stems can be used in the same measurements as basil leaves. The stems pair well with cilantro, parsley, and garlic to make a delicious salsa.
5. Blend Into Sauces
While making any of your favorite sauces, use basil stems in the same way you would use basil leaves. You can add the entire basil stem with leaves into the sauce and blend it all together. Alternatively, let the stems simmer in the sauce while whole and remove them after to add flavor without turning your sauce green!
6. Use When Making Basil Paste
Making basil paste is a great way to utilize all of the basil you have now to store it for later. Combining all of the stems as well as the leaves will allow you to make abundant basil paste that can be canned or frozen for later use in pesto, sauces, and other dishes.
7. Add to Marinara and Pizza Sauce
Nothing goes better together than tomatoes and basil! Gather all of the stems and finely chop them with the leaves to cook into your tomato sauce. You can also add them to any store-bought sauce to give it a fresh flavor and add extra texture.
8. Use as a Garnish
While not being used in a dish, a basil stem with leaves makes a beautiful garnish that brings a strong aroma of basil to your plate. Chopping them finely and sprinkling them on top of any dish adds a great fresh basil flavor and pop of color as well!
9. Basil Aioli
Some recipes work only with fresh leaves, but basil aioli isn’t one of them! Mixing basil stems into your basil aioli is a useful way to make aioli and save your fresh basil leaves for dishes that require only the leaves.
10. Try It in Any Dish You Use Basil
Since basil stems tastes just like basil, they can be used in almost every way you normally use basil! Be sure to chop them finely, and you won’t be able to tell that you used stems and not leaves. Simply use basil stems in the same ratio that a recipe calls for basil leaves.
How Long Does Fresh Basil Last?
Since the leaves are tender and do not store well off the plant, it is best to use fresh basil within 3 to 5 days after harvesting. Gently rinse the basil, let it dry, and then store it in the refrigerator to help it remain fresh for longer.
What Is Fresh Basil Good For?
Fresh basil leaves are preferred in certain cooking applications, sometimes added whole or chopped. Fresh basil is a great addition of flavor to dishes like pasta, Caprese salad, chopped green salads, pizza, and Mediterranean recipess.
What To Do With Fresh Basil Before It Goes Bad
If you can’t use all of your basil quickly enough, share it with friends and neighbors! Drying it is the easiest way to save it for later, but making pesto, sauces, and salsas to freeze are also great ways to use it now and have it later!
Can You Use Basil Stems in Pesto?
Basil stems are a great addition to pesto since they will be chopped finely and still bring a strong basil taste! Feel free to skip separating the leaves from the stems, and throw it all in as one.
Can You Use Wilted Basil for Pesto?
Wilted basil works just as well as fresh basil for pesto! Since the pesto is chopped finely or blended, it does not matter if the leaves are wilted or firm when added to the recipe.
Basil stems are the unsung hero of the basil plant since they are edible and can be used right along with your fresh leaves! Stop throwing your stems away after removing the leaves, and use them in one of the 10 suggestions above, or come up with a new recipe of your own!