Using up (NOT freezing) lots of basil without lots of fat?
June 29, 2021 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I buy basil to make caprese salads and margarita pizzas. There's always too much basil left over. I don't want to store it (freeze it), I don't want to make pesto - what low-fat things can I do with it?

I typically buy 4 oz packs of basil. I probably use 1 or maybe 2 ounces for my pizza or caprese.

I'm looking for ways to USE UP (not store) a good 2-3 ounces of basil that don't involve a lot of fat.

Pesto is out; I love pesto, but it uses way too much oil.

I've tried potato basil salads, and I'm thinking of trying basil watermelon salad.

Salads and vegetable dishes are probably what I most want.

(Also, growing my own basil so I can just use a little at a time is probably not going to happen; and I've tried the methods for storing basil for longer than a week with not much success.)

So, please give me all your best ways to regularly use up LOTS of basil, without a lot of fat.

posted by kristi to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Not a salad, but I love a basil and lemon infused water. Can't get much more low-fat than that.

You can also replace up to half the lettuce in your green salad with basil leaves.
posted by Knicke at 9:46 AM on June 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you love pesto, you could try a completely oil-free version that’s also vegan. Here’s another non-vegan one (with parmesan), or an even simpler one. Can’t vouch for the result but they sound like compromises worth a try if you want to skip the oil.
posted by bitteschoen at 9:55 AM on June 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ooh, I bet a BLT sandwich but with basil for the lettuce would be amazing! If you aren't into bacon, maybe avocado/basil/tomato?
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:56 AM on June 29, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Basil is a frequent ingredient in Thai-style stir fries.
posted by Leontine at 9:57 AM on June 29, 2021 [6 favorites]

Also, growing my own basil so I can just use a little at a time is probably not going to happen

Sure but just so you know, you don't need a garden or anything. You can just buy a basil plant at the supermarket and water it on your windowsill. You don't need to be a farmer!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I love it in couscous salad. Chop a bunch of veg (I like cherry tomatoes, peppers, quick pickled red onion, cucumbers), and I usually toss in 1/2 a bunch of basil, sliced thin. My dressing is olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, sugar. I don't like it greasy so I use maybe a tbsp of oil for 2 cups of couscous. Not sure if that's low fat enough for you.
posted by Ftsqg at 10:06 AM on June 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Years ago I used to buy work lunches in London from a place that only did two types of sandwich: Fresh bread rolls, with either tasty Swiss cheese, or prosciutto-style ham, absolutely stuffed with basil leaves in the way you’d usually add salad. Maybe fresh tomato too. So good.
posted by penguin pie at 10:12 AM on June 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Agreed on Thai-style cooking. I know it's supposed to be Thai basil but I can't reliably find it where I am so I use sweet basil and it's still delicious. I regularly make this recipe, plus tofu, to mimic a dish I got at a restaurant years ago, and I can use the entire grocery store pack of basil in it - it just wilts down and disappears.
posted by pierogi24 at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just throw it in your salad, it's a leaf after all and the more herb-leaves in a salad the tastier it is IMO.
posted by Hypatia at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Roughly tear it and add to mixed green salads with a simple vinaigrette. Herbs transform the most basic salad, but basil (and also lemon verbena) are pure magic.
posted by 10ch at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

I use the NYTimes's recipe for Thai larb, only using lean ground turkey instead of pork. I'm sure purists will scoff but it's super delish. (This is one of their pandemic recipes so you don't need to subscribe to their Food section to access it.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:33 AM on June 29, 2021 [6 favorites]

I just made a massive pasta salad that would be enhanced by a handful of thinly sliced basil, though it does tend to be wilty and is better added fresh when served (I will be eating pasta salad for days). My store sells a bag of hydroponic basil plants that keep well in a glass of water. They are sold to be used as an herb, but I did buy a bag to plant; 75% survival rate and a nice pot of basil plants, way cheaper than buying them at the nursery when I neglected to plant seeds on time. I am too lethargic from warmth and humidity to pick some for my pasta salad, maybe later.

You could add some basil and maybe cucumber to ice water for a refreshing beverage.
posted by theora55 at 10:36 AM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I haven’t tried the specific no-oil pesto recipes that bitteschoen links above, but I make pesto regularly, adding the oil in at the end. I usually add some, but a lot less than a typical recipe calls for, and I con confirm it is still delicious. It doesn’t have the amazing silky texture of “regular” pesto, so maybe not perfect as a star ingredient, but you can add it to soups or pasta or anything like that without the oil. And honestly, it probably is almost just as good as a main ingredient. Just remember without the oil it will be a lot stronger, so you need less!
posted by sillysally at 10:48 AM on June 29, 2021

I always plant too much basil.

My go to dish to use it up is this chicken dish.

I've also made basil jelly, much like a mint jelly and great with meats. I've also made a basil strawberry jam which was pretty good and a basil and tomato jam which is amazing on sandwiches.
posted by wwax at 10:50 AM on June 29, 2021 [6 favorites]

I love basil in everything but particularly with cucumber.

cucumber peach basil salad

chilled cucumber basil soup

Yes do the watermelon salad thing (watermelon, basil, fresh lime juice, feta, black pepper) because it's outstanding.

Also since you like caprese salad, try one with some peaches. Peaches and basil are great together.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

bruschetta especially if you can get someone to cough up some home grown tomatoes. could go over fish if you aren't a bread person.\

We put basil if we have it in spring rolls also.
posted by domino at 10:58 AM on June 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can use it in lieu of pesto - for pasta sauce purposes anyway - by just making a rough paste with it - chop it as best you can with a knife and finish by mashing with a fork on the cutting board, and if you drizzle a little lemon or lime juice it should stay fairly bright green. That and a little splash of pasta water will give you a nice bright basil flavor for pasta. You can also cook down a lot of basil in some canned tomatoes (plus seasoning) for a basil-y tomato sauce - I think this is especially good with some squash and/or eggplant.

Also it is just about Peak Tomato Time, and a salad of truly good summer tomatoes and big shreds of basil with salt and pepper is pretty divine You may want a tiny drizzle of vinegar for zing.

This watermelon basil salad calls for a quarter cup of basil, which is kind of a lot.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

Gazpacho can be made with a fair amount of basil in it.
posted by joeyh at 11:03 AM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

How to Make Basil Salt ("Use this herb-flavored salt to season & finish foods that naturally pair well with basil or mix it into DIY personal care products like salt scrubs & bath salts")
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:12 AM on June 29, 2021

yes do the watermelon salad, it's fantastic.

I made a cold tortellini salad that had a bunch of basil in it on the weekend and it was really good!

Also, frozen watermelon cubes blend up into a great slush texture, and are delicious with some lime juice, some rum, and either basil or mint (basil for you!)

Do you make your own pizza sauce for your pizzas? you could make the sauce pretty heavily basil-y - cooked basil is kind of a different flavour than fresh, so I think it'd be a nice duality on a margarita pizza.

I don't have a recipe for this, but I had a basil zucchini soup at a restaurant once which was very good!
posted by euphoria066 at 11:34 AM on June 29, 2021

Best answer: Here's a recipe for zucchini basil soup that I've made and enjoyed. There are many variations out there.
posted by expialidocious at 11:50 AM on June 29, 2021

Best answer: There is a SUPER, SUPER SIMPLE Southeast asian stir-fry I've had that could help. I make it in "serves-one" quantities, and I think four times with it would knock that much basil out - if you're a "serves-two" home, all the better.

For one serving, you will need:

1/4 of ground beef (or pork or turkey, whatever you want)
1 skinny Japanese eggplant
20 basil leaves
a small minced garlic clove
some red pepper flakes to taste, or a small chile
A drizzle or two of soy sauce

Chop the eggplant and set aside. Chop the basil and set aside. If using the small chile, mince that and set aside.

Brown the meat in a wok or a frying pan. Remove the meat and set aside in a small bowl. Then dump in the garlic and saute for like a minute tops, then dump in the eggplant and saute until just tender. Then dump back in the meat and add the basil and red pepper flakes or chile, and add a drizzle of soy sauce. Saute until heated through. Serve over rice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:55 AM on June 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

I love this green soup; it's a very flexible recipe--I don't see any reason you couldn't sub in a lot of basil for the spinach or chard.
posted by carrienation at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2021

If you like egg salad, basil makes an AMAZING addition.

I keep hoping Grand Central Bakery will bring their Basil Egg Salad sandwich back to the menu. :(
posted by hydra77 at 12:09 PM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Basil-infused simple syrup. Tastes amazing in (homemade) lemonade. Could use in other beverages, including alcoholic drinks/cocktails. Probably delish drizzled on some ice creams/sherbets or pastry items.

Or a drinking shrub made with basil and your choice of fruit(s).
posted by dancing leaves at 12:15 PM on June 29, 2021

Basil in tabbouleh isn't traditional, but it is tasty, and can use up obscene quantities of fresh herbs.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:23 PM on June 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Basil chiffonade + strawberries + balsamic vinegar is DIVINE. I put a little sugar in, too, to balance the vinegar but it's not necessary for it to be delicious.
posted by cooker girl at 12:31 PM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you really want to use it up, you can add it to pasta sauce. (It reduces in both volume and flavor when cooking/heating so you can use a lot this way.)

But have you tried offering it to friends/neighbors first? I would never say no to someone offering me a bit of surplus fresh basil.
posted by splitpeasoup at 1:02 PM on June 29, 2021

Best answer: One answer is to just use more basil, or use it in cooked dishes where it will reduce down more. Roasted green beans and cherry tomatoes is an example dish that I usually will mix the whole bunch of basil into, half before and half after roasting.
posted by Lady Li at 1:21 PM on June 29, 2021

Wouldn't it be great in summer rolls? I think I'd prefer it chiffonaded
posted by mumimor at 1:32 PM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can use it to make a salsa verde. Chop it up super fine, add the zest from a lemon or two or three (depending how much basil you're doing and how big your lemons are; you want it to be mostly basil with the zest as an accent). Add just enough olive oil to stick it together. You can also mince some garlic finely and add it; again it's an accent rather than a main ingredient. It is also fine without the garlic. If you have other fresh herbs you want to use you can also add them.

You can use the salsa verde on nearly anything. Soups, pasta, bread, fish, chicken. I haven't tried it with potatoes (mashed? baked?) but I bet it would be great.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:28 PM on June 29, 2021

I make this Thai Basil Chicken recipe at least once a month. I use these jarred chilis since the fresh ones aren't everywhere. Serve with jasmine rice.
posted by bgrebs at 4:27 PM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I recently made skewers of prosciutto, melon, and mozzarella with basil that were a big hit in our house.
posted by sm1tten at 11:27 PM on June 29, 2021

Corn, basil, tomato salad!
posted by Pax at 5:06 AM on June 30, 2021

Fried basil - the flavour deepens and you get an interesting texture (slightly crispy) effect.

Since its not battered, it's not oily. As a bonus, you get a bunch of basil-flavoured oil that you can use in other dishes.

I love it as a component of leafy salads or as a part of dishes like fried beef or chicken. Great with dry-fried garlic tofu.

It really cooks down so you can "use up" quite a lot of basil.
posted by porpoise at 9:50 PM on June 30, 2021

Response by poster: These are ALL great answers - I mostly marked the ones that I feel like I'm more in the mood for right now, or that seemed simplest (since I'm kind of in the mood for simple).

Thank you ALL, so much, for all the great ideas!
posted by kristi at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

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