I don’t have a garden but I always have basil growing out on the back deck during summer. When it comes to planting basil, I go with sweet basil (which is what you’ll need for these recipes). Basil isn’t just for summer though. I can always find both Thai basil and sweet basil at the grocery store all year round.
When buying basil in the store, look for bright green leaves and green stems. Browning means that the basil is past its prime. If the basil is from your garden, look for undamaged bright green leaves. To harvest it, start at the the top of the plant and clip the stem 1/4 inch above where the next cluster starts.
Speaking of stems, basil stems are edible. Thin, soft stems are more enjoyable to eat, whereas the tough, woody stems are best left out. Just the leaves are called for in these recipes but feel free to experiment with chopping stems and including them in salads or whirling them along with the leaves in pesto or vinaigrette.
Once you have your basil, what do you do with it? Have no fear, basil is a versatile herb that complements many different flavors. You’ll find an assortment of mains, sides, salads, and condiments below to use all of your fresh, abundant basil.
Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwich
Turn a light summer salad into a hearty sandwich for a weeknight dinner. Basil is used twice in this sandwich: fresh basil leaves and pesto spread on the toasted ciabatta bun. Use beefsteak tomatoes or heirloom when in season.
Caprese Salad With Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella
I make sure to have a caprese salad at least once every summer. It’s a perfectly simple, yet stunning dish that takes only minutes to put together. I like using fresh buffalo mozzarella when I can.
Caprese Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is a summer staple. The simple olive oil dressing lets the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil shine. I like using pearl mozzarella balls and serving with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken with Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Capers
Sheet pan chicken is a weeknight winner and this one is no exception. If you have time, season the chicken the night before and let it rest uncovered in the refrigerator and enjoy the extra crispy chicken. Add the torn basil right before serving.
Easy Cucumber, Peach, and Basil Salad
Basically summer in a bowl, plus it couldn’t be easier. Chop cucumbers and peaches, then mix with the herb vinaigrette. Make sure to use the food processor for the dressing for the best flavor.
Strawberry-Basil Moscow Mule
Have you started putting basil in your cocktails yet? If not, then here’s your nudge to do so ASAP. Use a 16-ounce cup in place of a copper mug if you don’t have one.
Ultimate French Bread Pizza
When you don’t have time to roll out dough, make pizza on French bread instead. You’ll need a sprig of basil to top this easy pizza bread. Though, if your family is like mine, then you’ll be making more than one.
Simple Summer Tomato Salad
In this salad, tomatoes and a red onion mingle a 4-ingredient vinaigrette and thinly sliced basil. If your knife skills are a little rusty, feel free to tear the basil into small pieces.
No-Cook Tomato Basil Pasta
Whether it’s because it’s too hot to cook or I just don’t want to, either way, this no-cook pasta dish is just what I need. If you have the time, mix all the sauce ingredients together and let it sit in the refrigerator for the fullest flavor.
Creamy Basil Artichoke Mac and Cheese
Rich and creamy mac and cheese is always a good idea. An even better idea? Blend basil with the cream before making the sauce and add marinated artichokes.
In 10 minutes you can use a whopping 1/2 cup basil and turn it into a dreamy vinaigrette. Spoon it over grilled vegetables or toss it in a salad. Plus, it keeps up to 7 days in the refrigerator so you can use it throughout the week.
Fried Polenta Panzanella with Tomato, Basil, and Burrata
Store-bought polenta stands in for the bread in this fresh take on panzanella. Make sure to use ripe tomatoes and to salt them to draw out the juices.
Mozzarella and Basil Stuffed Tomatoes
Sturdy tomatoes on the vine are the perfect vessel for holding the mozzarella and basil filling. Serve as a vegetarian main or sizzling side dish. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you could grill them on a grill-safe pan.
Chicken Panzanella Salad
Put your day old bread to good use and make a quick and easy dinner salad with it. Rotisserie chicken saves you from turning on the oven and means dinner is ready in a snap (which is 30 minutes in this case). Tear 1/4 cup basil and sprinkle it on top to finish the salad.
Fresh Basil Pesto
Bunches and bunches of fresh basil call for making your own pesto. You’ll go through 2 whole cups of basil leaves in this recipe. If you can’t use all the pesto within a couple days then freeze it in ice cube trays and store in a freezer bag.
Shrimp Cobb Salad With Creamy Basil Dressing
This recipe lightens up the traditional Cobb salad with shrimp, crumbled feta, crunchy cucumber, and sunny mango. The bacon remains! An easy basil dressing that’s kissed with Greek yogurt sets it all off.
Grilled Pizza With Red Peppers, Broccoli, and Onions
Grilled pizza is one of my favorite summer meals. But if grilling isn’t an option take this pizza indoors and use your oven. Add the basil just before serving to preserve its flavor.
Caprese Corn Salad
Crank up the grill because this summer salad uses grilled corn instead of raw for a bolder corn flavor. You can use up to a full cup of basil and whatever tomatoes you have on hand. This is best eaten the same day.
Easy Chicken Caprese
This 30 minute skillet chicken recipe uses only one pan and is loaded with flavor. It’s tempting to use a nonstick skillet but it’s not the best option for this recipe. Instead, use stainless steel or an enamel coated skillet with high sides.