One of the most classic ways to use basil is in pesto. We love pesto, but during the summer when basil is at its peak there is so much more that you can do with the bright, refreshing herb. We’ve rounded up our favorite non-pesto uses for basil.
Caprese is a wonderful way to use basil. It’s a simple dish that demands the best ingredients—use firm, in-season tomatoes, the freshest burrata, and dress with pristine olive oil and top-quality balsamic vinegar. For a briny variation, try adding fried capers. Basil is great fried, too.
It’s not just Italian cooking that makes use of basil. It’s a wonderful garnish for dishes from all over the world, such as lamb meatballs are simmered in a harissa-spiked tomato sauce, served over peppery arugula, and drizzled with bright yogurt-thickened aïoli and or Shanghainese stir-fry with beef and plum tomatoes.
Basil is a savory ingredient, but it adds a wonderful herbal note to desserts. Basil pairs well with plums to make a compote for serving with grilled pound cake. For an even more intense herbal flavor, try kicking up a basic gelato base with fresh basil for a vividly colored treat.
Basil is an exciting addition to cocktails. A classic margarita gets a summery twist from fresh basil and blueberries. For a delightfully complex drink, try the Green Thumb—a mix of muddled basil and tarragon, Pernod, and champagne.
Find all of these recipes and more in our collection of great basil recipes.
Herbal flavors have a natural affinity for gin, so we’re using basil in this martini riff. It’s a real illustration of how dramatically an herb garnish can affect a drink—there’s no basil in the drink itself, just a good gin, dry vermouth, and the aperitif Cocchi Americano—but the bright burst of basil scent on the nose brings an herbal element to the entire cocktail.
Get the recipe for Basil Martini »
Tomato Salad with Green Beans and Basil
A bright dipping sauce made of lime juice, shallot, and basil enlivens delicately breaded and fried calamari and shrimp in this Cambodian appetizer.
Get the recipe for Crispy Calamari and Prawns with Pepper–Lime Sauce »
This white wine-based cocktail from Brooklyn, New York’s Café Moto starts off summery, with the aromas of fresh basil and mint and an effervescent topper of club soda.
Get the recipe for The Saint »
In this salad red wine vinegar balances the sweetness of ripe fruit, while cilantro and basil add a floral note.
Get the recipe for Peach and Plum Salad »
Sliced, grilled vegetables served in a simple marinade or vinaigrette are a fixture at many Tuscan meals.
Get the recipe for Grilled Eggplant With Basil Vinaigrette »
A dish as simple as caprese salad demands the best ingredients: Use firm, in-season tomatoes, the freshest burrata, and dress with pristine olive oil and top-quality balsamic vinegar.
Get the recipe for Caprese Salad »
Exceedingly well-balanced, this juicy cocktail from John Karangis of
Union Square Events gets its sweetness from yellow watermelon, herbal freshness from Chartreuse and basil, and an astringent kick from tequila. While red watermelon will work in a pinch, you won’t get the clarity of color unless you spring for the yellow. Get the recipe for Watermelon-Basil Cocktail »
Sweet, ripe, summer tomatoes dressed in olive oil, vinegar, and basil are tossed with garlicky, toasted bread cubes to soak up the delicious juices in this classic Italian salad.
Get the recipe for Summer Panzanella »
Cantaloupe is marinated in honey and spices then tossed with basil and sea salt in this refreshing summer salad.
Potato, Spinach, and Red Pepper Frittata
Moroccan Meatballs with Arugula
Briny and slightly crispy fried capers punch up the flavor of this classic Italian tomato and mozzarella salad.
Get the recipe for Caprese Salad with Fried Capers and Basil »
Roasting cherry tomatoes in an oven brings out their natural sweetness; salty salami is a perfect counterpoint.
Get the recipe for Salami, Oven-Roasted Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Omelette »
Creamy, mild eggplant pairs with briny capers, floral basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction for a knockout appetizer or side dish.
Get the recipe for Pan-Fried Eggplant with Balsamic, Basil, and Capers »
This most iconic of pizzas is topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves, the colors of the Italian flag.
Get the recipe for Pizza Margherita (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pizza) »
This salad is topped with a bright thick sweet-tart pickled beet dressing.
Get the recipe for Farmer’s Salad with Beet Vinaigrette »
The best of summer comes together in this satisfying dessert of grilled pound cake topped with a fruity, herbal compote.
Get the recipe for Grilled Pound Cake with Basil-Plum Compote »
Vividly green and intensely flavored, this smooth basil gelato is a perfectly unexpected dessert.
Get the recipe for Basil Gelato »
Typically steamed in intricately folded banana leaves, these Thai fish custards are baked in leaf-lined ramekins set in a water bath.
Get the recipe for Steamed Thai Fish Custard »
The warming kick of curry lends depth and zing to this creamy chilled soup; ice cubes made of lime juice and Thai basil add acidity and a light anise flavor as they melt.
Get the recipe for Cold Curried Summer Squash Soup »
Fresh basil garnishes this classic Shanghainese stir-fry with flank steak, soy sauce, and plum tomatoes.
Get the recipe for Homestyle Tomato Beef Stir-fry »
Fresh blueberries and basil add a summery twist to a classic margarita.
Get the recipe for Blueberry and Basil Margarita »
In this refreshing spring cocktail, muddled basil and tarragon add freshness and intensify Pernod’s green hue, while a squirt of fresh lime juice and splash of champagne cut through the sweet anise flavor.
Get the recipe for The Green Thumb »
Deep and sweet, this cocktail is an ideal vehicle for summer’s juicy red plums.
Get the recipe for Plum-Basil Gin Fizz »
Cola-like, bittersweet, effervescent, and herbal, this cocktail is perfect for a hot summer afternoon.
Get the recipe for Sotto Chinotto »