BASIL Does It All- Culinary, Cosmetic, Medicinal

Posted by on Aug 3, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Green Living, Herbs, Recipes | 49 comments


Genovese Basil – Best for Pesto

Basil is one of my favourite herbs. I love the many different ways to use it – as a culinary herb, invigorating tea herb and, in a minor way, a cosmetic/medicinal herb. 

Most everyone knows that basil and tomato are an unbeatable combination and that basil is the main ingredient for the traditional pesto sauce. But not everyone is aware that basil can also be used in omelets and scrambled eggs, salads, rice dishes, mushroom dishes and any chicken dish. It perks up many soups, and adds pizazz to pizza.


Sweet Basil

Some General Information. A useful fact to remember for all herbs is that 3 measures fresh herbs = 1 measure dried herbs. Tearing the leaves releases more flavour than chopping them, which is fine for adding to salads or sliced tomatoes, but for some foods, like soup, butter or dips, I much prefer to bruise them before cutting them into very small pieces. Basil, garlic and parsley are three terrific mix and match herbs. Any two – or even all three – go well together. Most herbs should be added to cooked foods at the end of cooking – basil is one of those herbs.

Basil Culinary Uses:

  1. A great way to flavour pasta or rice – heat a small amount of olive oil in a saucepan, remove from heat, stir in some finely chopped basil; add the cooked pasta or rice to the basil-oil, stir well and serve;
  2. If lemon basil is available, make up lemon basil-oil mix as above and stir in cooked rice – this is excellent served with fish;
  3. Use either of the basil-oil mixes as a dipping sauce for freshly baked bread. Use this basil-oil to replace butter on crusty rolls or bread;

    Lemon Basil

  4. Add basil to cold rice or pasta salads;
  5. Finely chopped basil is terrific when added to a ham quiche or a tomato pie;
  6. Mix low-fat cream cheese with finely chopped basil and use on baked potatoes. Garlic or chives can be added to the cheese-basil mix. Make it a frugal product by using yogurt cream cheese, which actually makes it even healthier;
  7. Add to chicken stuffing;
  8. Add to any ground meat mixture, such as meatballs or meatloaf;
  9. Add to omelets or scrambled eggs – for each egg, add 1 Tbsp. fresh, finely chopped basil;
  10. Add a snippet to steamed zucchini or carrots. Always add basil at the end of the cooking;
  11. Add some finely cut basil to sauce for cauliflower;
  12. For a very simple dip, blend 2 Tbsp. fresh finely cut basil with 1 cup yogurt.
  13. To make the best basil vinegar for salad dressing – use ¼ cup fresh, torn basil to ½ cup red wine vinegar. When working with herbs and vinegars, glass containers should always be used – no plastic or metal. Give it time to steep and flavours to blend (a week or more is great) – strain and use as is – not necessary to add oil or anything else. Or use purple-leaved basil with white vinegar to make a beautiful red salad vinegar.

    Boursin – French Cheese Spread

  14. French Herbal Boursin: Boursin is an easy-to-make mild French Cheese Spread, which is delicious when used as an appetizer and spread on crusty bread or crackers. Can also be served as a dip with breadsticks.

To make the Boursin: In a food processor, combine 2 or 3 peeled garlic cloves with 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup fresh chives and 1/4 cup fresh parsley. Blend in 1 cup (8 oz./250g) cream cheese  – yogurt cream cheese may be used – until mixture is well blended and smooth. Chop 1/4 cup black olives (pitted) and add to the cream cheese mixture. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least six hours for flavours to blend. For serving, transfer mixture to a pretty small bowl and garnish with a sprig of fresh basil or parsley.

Basil in Beverages:

  1. Basil Tea tastes more like a broth than what we think of as tea. It’s most enjoyable as a pick-me-up after a tiring, stressful day. Using ½ Tbsp. fresh basil and ½ Tbsp. chamomile flowers to make the tea will relieve a mild stress headache. To make: Start with cold water and bring to boil. Use 1 Tbsp. fresh basil (1 tsp. dried) and add to tea ball or wrap in cheesecloth and place in a pre-warmed, non-metallic teapot. Pour the boiling water over the herbs, cover and let steep 5-10 minutes. This may be sweetened with honey;
  2. Green Tea by itself is very bland. Adding a basil leaf or two will greatly improve the flavour and, if taken just before eating, will aid digestion;
  3. Tomato-based juices can be spiced up just with the addition of a basil leaf.
Basil bath Vinegar

Basil Bath Vinegar

Basil in the Bathroom:

Basil Vinegar. To make this vinegar you fill a clean, sterilized, wide-mouthed jar with chopped fresh basil leaves, cover with vinegar and let it steep for at least a week. Then strain into a clean jar and cover with non-metallic lid or rubber stopper.

  1. When added to bath water basil vinegar revitalizes and softens the skin by balancing the skin’s pH level. It stimulates blood circulation which re-energizes the body. To use, add 1/2 a cup of bath vinegar to a tubful of water.
  2. The vinegar can be used as a final rinse after shampooing to give hair extra shine.
  3. It is an effective antiseptic and is good to use for relieving itch from insect bites. This morning I also discovered that it takes away the rash and sting caused by a stinging nettle plant. I saw one of those plants growing where it shouldn’t and, without thinking, I pulled it out to throw it away. I was surprised how much that hurt. Fortunately the vinegar relieved it within a minute. Isn’t great to learn new things?

 Basil as a Mosquito repellant:

  1. Placing a few stalks on the grill when barbecuing will keep mosquitoes away.
  2. Bruising a basil leaf and rubbing it on the skin will repel the nasty critters.
  3. Bruising a leaf and pinning it to your shirt sleeves or hat will also do the trick.

Isn’t this just the most wonderful herb? It truly does do it all.

Talk to you again next week,



  1. I absolutely love basil. Thanks for the recipes. There is nothing better than farm fresh tomatoes,some mayo and basil on top. During the summer I buy them at the local green market and eat them during the week. Better than dessert. I’m buying more tomatoes tomorrow at the market. Also love pesto sauce which I used to make from fresh basil at the market. But I’ve gotten lazy and not done that in a couple of years.

  2. Wow !!! You know so much Lenie ! Great post .. Loved all this info and I had so much pleasure reading it ! Best wishes .. Biljana xx

  3. I didn’t know you could do so much with Basil.

  4. Hi Lenie,

    My wife grows basil in the garden and is a chef by trade. She uses it a lot of our meals and I love both the smell and the flavor.

    I didn’t think I would initially like it, but a little basil with chicken and most fish is fantastic!!!!

    Thanks for the recipes. I’ll be sharing with my wife and looking forward to it!

  5. Wow, thanks so much fir sharing this, I had no idea about all the uses for basil. I cant wait to try some of these ideas, like using basil to soothe bits and as a mozzie repellant! I love basil in omelettes too! 🙂

  6. Wow Lenie, I have always loved basil and use it frequently in cooking, salads and food in general but I have learned so much by reading this! I’m going to try Basil tea next time I need a healthy pick me up and basil vinegar sounds like a fabulous potion! And let’s not forget Boursin.. I’m French after all! Thanks for all the great info!

    • You’re very welcome Valerie. I’m so glad you learned more about basil. Appreciate your comments.

  7. This is very timely! I just planted a basil plant and was wondering what we would do with it once it grows. All I knew was pesto, so thanks for widening my horizons!

    • Have fun with the basil Meredith – it is so easy to work with that you really can’t go wrong.

  8. In the old days they used to use Basil to ward off evil, old wives tale. Maybe it came from being such a good insect repellant 🙂

    • Hi Claire – did you know that in the olden days, it was believed that you “had to curse vigorously when planting basil in order for the seeds to germinate”. For such a great herb, there were some weird tales connected with it.

  9. Educational post for me Lenie. I am not much of an activist in the kitchen or with preparing food, but you laid this out quite well for those foodies out there.

  10. Wonderful and unique tips! I found the information about antiseptic properties to be very useful.

  11. Oh how I love basil! my plant is looking pretty poor right now which is unfortunate since everything else in my garden is growing like crazy! I do love incorporating it into many of my dishes, but I had no idea about creating the vinegar and using it in the bath! I love to take epsom salt baths with baking soda and lavender essential oils added. I might have to make some basil vinegar and add to the bath as well! Sounds delightful. I also want to scoop some fresh bread into a big bowl of the Boursin cheese! Yum. Thanks for sharing it all Lenie!

  12. What an impressive list of recipes and remedies! I never would have guessed basil had so many applications, especially the non-dietary ones. Thanks for the detailed breakout which I have bookmarked for near future reference.

  13. Thanks for the suggestions Lenie! I love Basil, it is one of my favourite herbs. I have a small basil cultivation on my vegetable garden. I am a great pesto producer! All homemade, so tasty 😛

  14. Thank you so much for this post Lenie!
    I’ve been guilty of using basil merely with tomato, but not anymore!

  15. I absolutely love basil, but tend to use it in very limited ways. This post is such an eye opener in how many ways basil can be used. I love the idea of adding it to tea and using it in the bath!


  16. Our basil is going crazy this year because we switched to automatic drip lines. It’s so happy we keep on making pesto to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. So many great suggestions here. I just picked my first garden tomatoes today and made a tomato basil salad. Now I’m about to make dinner and I’m thinking I’ll put tomato and basil in an omelette, though in my case, it usually ends up turning in to a scramble 😉

  17. Basil is on of my favorite herbs. I use it a lot. Now that I have moved and once I get settled I want to put some box planters in my backyard (like yours) and basil will be one of my primary herbs. Now I want to make a pesto sauce.

  18. Lenie, you’ve ramped up my appetite and a pot of basmati rice is on the boil!Can’t wait to mix in a bit of basil oil – perfection. So glad I found your blog, it’s visually stunning.

  19. Okay Lenie, so my dinner tonight is going to involve basil. Now all I have to do is go out and buy some stuff to put it on.

  20. Thanks again Lenie. Next time I am in the Brazilian jungle I will be sure to find some basil. It might have prevented a lot of sleepless nights. Besides that your other recipes sound great and refreshing especially the tea. Always informative, thanks.

  21. I love the scent of basel and do use it in my cooking. Thanks for all the additional uses you have listed. I love the idea of using it as a mosquito repellent.

  22. SO many uses here. Almost an overload of options for Basil. Who knew? I feel like an idiot but honestly, I had no idea about some of these. Thank you for sharing, Lenie.

  23. I’m learning so much about herb from you, Lenie! I’m not much of a cook, but I love to eat. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge about basil. I think I might have to try basil on my scrambled eggs.

  24. I think this is really great! A lot of people who aren’t used to cooking get really overwhelmed with recipes. This shows what you can do with just one spice. I will have to try the basil tea. I never even thought of doing something like that.

  25. Hi Lenie,
    We use basil in spaghetti sauce, dried basil when cooking eggs, and in salad dressing, but we have never used it as tea or in bathing.

    Kind Regards,

  26. I never tired basil tea. Your blog now has me thinking about getting some. I also like your other suggestions for basil. I do not like using harsh chemicals, and maybe something like basil is the solution.

  27. Love the tip to try basil in rice! I never considered that. My parents and grandparents grew basil – right outside the kitchen door. You’ve given me pause to think, couldn’t I do that? There is nothing as good as fresh, picked from the garden, herbs. Wow! Does it also really keep mosquitos away??? Thanks Lenie for the great tips.

  28. Basil is my favourite herb and I tend to use it in my cooking especially when I’m entertaining guests. Can’t go wrong with fresh herbs really. Great post and mouth watering!

  29. So many uses for basil! I will try the Boursin. Your tip about the difference in amounts between fresh and dried herbs reminded me of a 4-H cooking class I took when I was about 10 or 11. In one of the early classes, the instructor had us use dried herbs in a recipe that called for fresh. (Fresh herbs when we lived in the winter wouldn’t have been an option) But we didn’t adjust the amounts. We learned the lesson about the difference in measures between fresh and dried herbs. (I don’t think that was the lesson the instructor intended us to learn.)

    • Hi Donna – that lesson on fresh and dried herbs may not have been the one the instructor intended but it was obviously a very effective one since you still remember it.

  30. Love basil and have used it for decades. Fresh basil with tomatoes and mozarella is one of my favourites.

    • Hi Catarina – your tomato, basil, mozarrello combo sounds so good and refreshing, it’s making me hungry and since I have all three ingredients, I think I’ll go for it.

  31. So much to learn about basil. I think I’ll give it a try as a mosquito repellent!

    • Hi Christina – with you photographing out in the field, I can just see you pinning bruised basil leaves to that cute hat you wear. But if you’re going to be trying basil, don’t forget to try the Boursin. It’s yummy.

  32. Hi Lenie; It is an amazing plant. I live near houston texas, and the annual summer fight to keep the mosquitos away is enough to make this herb a hero. I will have to test this out soon. also, i love it on a pizza. thought you were going to leave that one out for a minute there. didn’t know about the basil vinegar for bathing or rinsing after a shampoo. thanks again for these wonderful time money and aggravation savers, max

    • Max, I find it interesting just how many people do love this herb. I just really enjoy learning all I can about these terrific plants and basil is definitely one of my favourites. Couldn’t leave out the pizza.

  33. Wow! What a great looking blog. I love the recipes and clean organized design of your website. It’s a pleasure to read.

    My wife loves to brush her hand over a basil plant and smell the aroma on her hand. It’s one of her favorite herbs.

    • Thanks for the comments on my blog – that is truly appreciated. It is still a work in progress but I like knowing I’m on the right track.

  34. Hi Lenie – Basil is one of my favorites too. Love a good homemade pesto sauce! I didn’t know, however, that Basil made a good mosquito repellent. Interesting.

    • Hi Susan – I love pesto too but didn’t include the recipe since most people identify basil with pesto. Thought I’d include different things, like the mosquito repellant and the antiseptic vinegar.

  35. Oh for the love of Basil!!! I especially love this herb and I always learn so much from your posts Lenie! Mosquito repellent? That’s great to know! I am going to try the French Herbal Boursin ASAP…sounds wicked delicious. I have tried and loved another beverage with basil…a basil martini made with vodka, mulled basil and jalapeno and a ginger liquor.

    • Hi Jacquie, That basil martini sounds fantastic but you probably wouldn’t want more than one with those ingredients. If you have the recipe, I would love to have it. Something else to add to my basil lore. Thanks for sharing.

  36. I love basil and all of your suggestions look tasty. I’m sure you know that produce people put basil by or with the tomatoes because they do so well together and we plant them together too.

    • Hi Beth – you are absolutely right about growing basil with tomatoes, they make great companions but I have not seen any produce departments here where they put the basil with tomatoes. Hope some of the supermarkets pick up on that idea. They’d probably sell more of both.

  37. I have an areo garden and I grow lemon basil and I love it. It is one of the herbs that grows like a weed. Now putting it tea that I will have to try tonight with my chamomile. Anything that reduces stress I am in. Love your other uses.

    • Hi Arleen – you can’t really go wrong using basil in any tea. I’ve already got plans to expand my basil garden with some of the other ones, like cinnamon basil. It’s supposed to be really good. I find playing around with herbs an automatic stress reliever.

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