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How to Keep Basil Fresh For Endless Pesto Pasta Dishes

With its recognizable, floral aroma, basil is one of the most ubiquitous herbs used today. Incorporated into a wide variety of dishes - from rich marinaras to verdant pestos - basil can be purchased from supermarkets and farmers' markets. But what happens after a few leaves are cut in a chiffonade and stirred into a sauce, or pulverized into a walnut-studded pesto? While the herb is so beloved, it can be a finicky ingredient to work with; after only a few days, the leaves can discolor, morphing from a viridescent green to a dark, unappetizing color.

Of course, purchasing the freshest basil imaginable is ideal, but in some cases, you may not be able to deduce the precise freshness when merely plucking a container from a grocery store shelf. However, don't fret; there are multiple tricks and tips to help keep that basil as fresh (and green) as possible. Also, note that regardless of storage method, basil will naturally be kaput after 5-6 days - you really won't want to use most basil after you've had it for a good week.

How To Keep Basil Fresh

pesto sauce in a spoon, jar with pesto sauce

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To keep your basil fresh you want to avoid refrigeration or moisture, two things that will hasten the process of making your basil discolored and flaccid. Also, basil should be well dried - any extra moisture will cause quicker wilting. Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep your basil as green as possible. 

Paper Towel

According to The Spruce Eats, one great option would be plucking each basil leaf off of the stem and placing the leaves onto a paper towel in a single layer. Roll the basil paper towel burrito up tightly and place in a plastic bag and transfer it to the refrigerator and use it when needed. The baggie and paper towel helps keep the basil protected from undesired oxygen, which would quickly wilt the leaves.


Conserve your delicious basil from the garden.

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Another option? You can quickly puree fresh basil with some oil and then place it in ice cube trays and freeze. You can then just pop a basil ice cube into whatever dishes may call for fresh basil flavor, and voila, you have immediate basil on hand for at least a year. blanching basil is also an option as well, dunking the leaves for a quick 15 seconds can also help to lock in the bright green flavor, which comes in handy prior to pureeing.


Arguably the best method and one that doubles as a fun little decoration, too! Grab your favorite glass or mason jar, fill it with water, trim the ends of the basil bunch, and place it in the jar. A digestible bouquet of fresh basil is pretty unbeatable.

Food52 notes, though, that this method does require some attention: it's important to change the water, keeping it as fresh as possible - just as you would with a bouquet of fresh flowers.


you can also dry basil. Set your oven to the lowest temperature, add basil in a single layer, and cook for up to 4 hours, until the basil is fully dried out. Crumble and store - you've made your own dried herb!

This method can also be achieved by using a dehydrator or even mother nature herself. For a cottage feel, tie the basil bouquet up with twine and hang until the basil is dried. 

Growing an Endless Supply of Basil 

fresh basil herb in pot

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EatingWell notes the pretty simple trick of purchasing potted basil, to begin with - keep it on a windowsill in a sunny spot, pluck as you need, water, and tend to the plant, and you'll have fresh basil for weeks. Don't fret if the basil droops periodically- the plant is pretty finicky when watered and should pop right back up after a few hours. 

Basil is a wonderful ingredient that adds a bright, herbaceous flavor and fragrance to whatever it's added to - utilize these tips to prolong your fresh basil and you'll be able to incorporate its wonderful flavor into any dish you make.

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