Basil: Tips and Tricks

Follow along with SNAP-Ed NY Nutritionist, Caitlin, as she demonstrates how to buy, store and prep basil as well as how to make pesto!

Cooking with Flavor

Everything we eat and drink matters. Too much saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars can negatively affect our health, so we want to limit these. Luckily, we can still use spices, herbs, and even fruits and vegetables to add flavor in a healthy way. But with so many different seasonings, it can be hard to keep track of how to use each one, so here we’ll be highlighting a fresh herb: basil!

What is Basil?

  • A warm weather, fragrant herb with oval-shaped, bright green leaves
  • Popular ingredient for pastas, salads, sandwiches, and pesto
  • Low in calories, but high in Vitamin K, an important nutrient for blood clotting and bone formation

Save Money

Fresh herbs may seem expensive, especially if they spoil before you can use them. Here are some options to save money and time:

  • Use dried basil–dried seasonings require little preparation, last longer, and are often inexpensive.
  • In the summer, grow your own! 
  • Use SNAP benefits to buy potted herbs and seeds from your local store or farmers market.

In the Kitchen

Here are some tips for optimizing your fresh basil plant:

  • Pick brightly-colored leaves in the morning to preserve the powerful plant oils
  • Treat cut basil with the stems like a bouquet of flowers and place in a glass of water
  • Cover with a plastic bag and leave at room temperature or refrigerate 


Pesto is a great healthy option for using your fresh or dried basil. Here are a few ideas for how to use it:

  • On a whole wheat pasta
  • In a sandwiches or wrap
  • Mixed into a soup
  • Frozen for later

Let’s spice things up a bit!

Aside from pesto, basil is a great complement to other spices and herbs, so don’t be afraid to experiment with some different flavor combinations that might also include these spices:

  • Garlic 
  • Oregano 
  • Mustard 
  • Paprika 
  • Pepper
  • Sage 

Other ways use fresh basil*: 

  • A refreshing twist to a salad
  • A quick bruschetta
  • A boost of flavor to sauces
  • A pizza topping

*Note: Add during the final stages of cooking to preserve its flavor and color.

There are so many reasons why basil is a staple item in many kitchens. Who knew such a small leaf could be flavorful, versatile, and nutritious?! 

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