How to Cut Fresh Basil for Recipes

This handy guide offers all you need to make the most of your fresh basil! Learn how to cut, chop, mince and julienne fresh basil with all the tools, helpful tips and storage suggestions.

framed wooden bowl of basil
Basil is a staple of Italian cooking

Fresh basil is one of the best ingredients and to me, a cornerstone ingredient (next to tomatoes) in Italian cooking. Basil brings a peppery, herby, fresh flavor to Italian recipes with an almost mint-like note. And you there wouldn’t be caprese without basil.

What does basil taste like?

Fresh basil is bright, sweet, and slightly peppery. Some might even say it’s a little spicy. And dried basil is all those things but with more of a slightly bitter undertone. Whenever possible, I’d choose fresh basil.

I mean fresh tomato marinara would be completely different with dried basil in it. I’d be hard-pressed to call it fresh, right?

Tools needed

knife on wooden cutting board with slices of basil
A sharp knife is perfect for cutting basil
scissors on a wooden board cutting basil leaves
Use scissors to finely mince basil leaves
mezzaluna on granite background
The curved blade of a mezzaluna helps to gently cut basil leaves

A sharp chef’s knife

Pretty much one of the top tools in the kitchen. There are 3 knives your kitchen needs. And they all need to be sharp. [Hint: they are the paring knife, a bread knife and a good chef’s knife.] My favorite chef’s knife comes from Shun.

Kitchen shears

Essential for cutting chicken breasts, kitchen shears are an indispensable tool in the kitchen and make cutting basil a breeze!

Mezzaluna

This tool is a little different but I have to include it. All over Tuscany, they sell olive wood cutting boards with little hollowed divots in them that are made for chopping herbs with a mezzaluna.

A mezzaluna is curved blade that has a handle attached to each end and you rock the blade back and forth over the herbs. One of my favorites is this double mezzaluna from Williams-Sonoma because you can make quick work of chopping basil and other fresh herbs.

Three methods for cutting basil

hand pinching leaves of basil
Tearing basil leaves helps preserve the flavor
hand mincing basil with a knife on a wooden cutting board.
Roll stacked basil leaves into a cigar and slice thinly to julienne
hands cutting basil with mezzaluna
Use a mezzaluna or scissors to quickly chop a lot of basil

Tearing Basil

Truly the best method! Tearing basil preserves the flavor of basil leaves which are actually quite sensitive. Grandma Nina used to take a few leaves at a time and gently tear them into small pieces with her hands. This method is perfect for cooked spaghetti sauces like Italian red sauce.

Rolling basil into a cigar

Used to chop, julienne and mince basil. This method produces perfect delicate strips of basil perfect for garnishing dishes.

To roll and slice basil

Stack several leaves together and roll them tightly into a cylinder. Then, use a sharp knife to slice the rolled basil into thin strips.

You can slice the cigar in half lengthwise before cutting across for smaller pieces.

Cutting basil with a mezzaluna or scissors

My other favorite method for cutting basil is to use a mezzaluna or kitchen shears. Similar to julienning basil above, using either of these produces finely and evenly chopped basil quickly which helps you save time.

To chop basil with scissors:

Stack leaves of basil on top of each other and make small snips vertically and then long snips across the leaves onto a board or into a bowl.

To chop basil with a mezzaluna:

Stack basil leaves on a cutting board and holding the ends of the mezzaluna handle with your hands, gently rock the blade (or blades if you have a double mezzaluna) over the basil leaves back and forth, forward and backwards.



Guide to choosing a basil cutting method

If you’re going to use the basil in a cooked sauce or soup, then chopping or mincing is the way to go.

If you’re using the basil in a fresh, uncooked dish, tear the basil leaves for a rustic look and fresh flavor.

For salads, use the cigar method to julienne basil for a pretty presentation.

Tips for how to store and freeze fresh basil

Have a bunch of basil in the garden or a bunch was on sale at the grocery store? Follow these easy tips to store and freeze fresh basil:

TIP #1. Do not refrigerate basil! Store basil leaves just like they do at the grocery store – at room temperature. You can wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag.

If you must, place basil the ends of basil stems in a glass with water like you would a bouquet of flowers.

TIP #2 Don’t handle basil too much because it bruises and will darken quickly.

TIP #3 Can’t use all your basil? Freeze it!

  1. Lay basil in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze it for 30 minutes. Remove to a freezer safe bag and store for up to 3 months.
  2. Use the cigar roll method to cut the basil and place in clean, dry ice cube trays. Pour over olive oil and freeze until firm. Pop out and use in recipes as needed!

Recipes that use fresh basil

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


wooden bowl filled with fresh basil leaves on dark background
5 from 3 votes

How to Chop Fresh Basil for Recipes

Everything you need to make the most of your fresh basil! Learn how to cut, chop, mince and julienne fresh basil with all the tools, helpful tips and storage suggestions.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Total Time:5 minutes

Equipment

Instructions

Tearing Basil

  • Truly the best method! Use clean hands and tear the basil into small pieces for use in salads, spaghetti sauces and soups.

Rolling basil into a cigar

  • Stack several leaves together and roll them tightly into a cylinder. Then, use a sharp knife to slice the rolled basil into thin strips.
  • You can slice the cigar in half lengthwise before cutting across for smaller pieces.

Cutting basil with a mezzaluna or scissors

  • My other favorite method for cutting basil is to use a mezzaluna or kitchen shears. Similar to julienning basil above, using either of these produces finely and evenly chopped basil quickly which helps you save time.

To chop basil with scissors:

  • Stack leaves of basil on top of each other and make small snips vertically and then long snips across the leaves onto a board or into a bowl.

To chop basil with a mezzaluna:

  • Stack basil leaves on a cutting board and holding the ends of the mezzaluna handle with your hands, gently rock the blade (or blades if you have a double mezzaluna) over the basil leaves back and forth, forward and backwards.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

Leave a Comment or Ask A Question

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.