Basil Paste Vs. Fresh Basil

Using basil paste in place of fresh basil is a convenient option that still provides lots of flavor.

Basil Paste Vs. Fresh Basil

While fresh basil has its advantages, basil paste makes an excellent substitute in most dishes.

What is Basil Paste?

Basil paste consists of fresh basil pureed into a sauce along with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and sometimes a stabilizer ingredient like cheese or milk. The vibrant green paste packs tons of flavor and aroma into a handy tube or jar. Basil paste has a more intense flavor than fresh leaves. It keeps for weeks refrigerated or months frozen.

Some brands of store-bought paste use basil puree concentrate, which concentrates the flavor even more. Homemade paste starts with fresh basil blended up with olive oil and seasonings. The oil helps preserve the fresh taste and color. Basil paste works nicely for recipes where you want convenience, long shelf life and bold basil flavor.

Benefits of Using Basil Paste

There are lots of advantages to keeping basil paste on hand:

  • Longer shelf life - Basil paste stays fresh in the fridge for up to a month after opening. It keeps for months in the freezer. Fresh basil goes bad within days.
  • More intense flavor - The pureed and concentrated paste packs a bigger basil punch.
  • Convenient packaging - Tubes and jars store neatly and let you squeeze out just what you need.
  • Great for batch cooking - Make a big pot of sauce, soup or dressing and use paste for bold basil flavor.
  • Adds flavor to oil - Steep basil paste into olive oil for a flavored oil to dress salads and drizzle over dishes.
  • Easy to measure - No need to worry about chopped versus whole leaves. Use spoon measurements.

Having a tube of basil paste in the fridge makes it easy to add that fresh summery essence to pastas, sauces, salad dressings, herbed butters, marinades and more!

How Much Paste to Use Instead of Fresh Basil?

When substituting basil paste for fresh basil, you'll generally need less paste. Start with about 1/3 of the amount and adjust to suit your taste preference. Here is a simple guideline:

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil = 1 teaspoon basil paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil = 1 tablespoon basil paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil = 2-3 tablespoons basil paste

For example, if a pasta sauce calls for 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves, start by stirring in 1 tablespoon of basil paste. Taste and add another spoonful if you want more pronounced flavor.

Because commercial basil pastes vary in concentration and potency, do a taste test the first time using a new product in your recipe. If the paste flavor seems strong right away, start sparingly then increase to the desired intensity.

Key Takeaway: Use about 1/3 as much basil paste as you would fresh leaves. Adjust amounts to suit your taste buds.

How to Use Basil Paste

Basil paste works great in most savory dishes that call for basil. The concentrated flavor brings out the best in tomatoes, lemon flavors, cheeses, eggs, chicken and salad greens.

In Sauces and Soups

Stir basil paste into pasta sauce, pizza sauce, tomato soup or minestrone right at the end for a fresh finish.

On Pizza

Dot basil paste over pizza along with mozzarella, tomatoes, prosciutto, veggies or other toppings.

With Cheese and Eggs

Mix paste into omelets, frittatas, baked eggs, and cheese dips or spreads. Stir a spoonful into ricotta cheese as a topping for bruschetta or flatbread.

Over Pasta

Toss hot pasta with a little paste, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest or roasted veggies for an easy weeknight meal. Or thin some paste with olive oil for quick pesto.

In Salads and Veggies

Whisk some into salad dressings, brush over vegetables before grilling, or stir into mayo for a sandwich condiment or pasta salad.

In Compound Butter

Blend basil paste with softened butter then shape into a log and chill. Slice off pats to top fish, chicken, steak or corn on the cob hot off the grill.

To Make Basil Oil

Steep paste in olive oil for a few days then strain out. Drizzle over Caprese salad, grilled bread, soups and more. Or brush on pizza crust or flatbread before baking.

Basil paste works beautifully in so many ways to add delicious flavor without fussing with fresh leaves. Keep some handy in the refrigerator to elevate everyday meals and sides.

Benefits of Using Fresh Basil

While paste makes cooking and baking easier, fresh basil does have some advantages:

  • More nuanced flavor with aromatic notes
  • Appealing fresh appearance as a garnish or topping *Less concentrated flavor blends better with some ingredients
  • Moisture content adds texture
  • No additives or preservatives

So when is it best to use fresh instead of basil paste? Here are some instances where the real thing wins out over paste:

As a Primary Ingredient

In simpler dishes where basil stars, like pesto, basil butter, Caprese salad or basil lemonade, go with fresh. The subtle flavors and aromas come through better uncooked.

For Texture and Appearance

Add whole or torn leaves as a finishing touch to salads, soups, pastas, and pizzas. The pretty green leaves provide visual and textural appeal.

With Other Fresh Summery Foods

Pair fresh sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, stone fruits, zucchini or summer berries and herbs for the ultimate flavor synergy.

To Avoid Additives or Allergens

Paste often contains oil, salt, dairy or preservatives. Use fresh for clean, unprocessed flavor if these ingredients are a concern.

For the closest thing to just-picked flavor and vibrancy, fresh basil is unmatched. But paste makes it possible to enjoy delicious basil intensity any time of year!

Key Takeaway: Both fresh and paste have their advantages. Use fresh when basil is front-and-center, and paste to quickly add big flavor.


How do I make basil paste at home?

  • Blend chopped basil leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic until smooth. Can add cheese or nuts too.
  • Spoon into jars, leaving 1-inch space at top. Freeze up to 6 months.

Can I freeze basil paste?

Yes! Homemade or store-bought paste freezes very well for 6 months or more. Thaw in fridge before using.

How long does basil paste last after opening?

An opened jar or tube should last 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator. Make sure to seal it tightly.

What can I use if I don't have basil paste or fresh basil?

Options include dried basil, pesto, or an Italian herb blend. Use about 1/3 as much dried basil as the fresh amount.

Is there a non-dairy basil paste?

Some brands offer dairy-free options without milk or cheese. Check labels for additives if needed to avoid. Or make your own paste.

Can I use basil paste in Italian meatballs or meatloaf?

Yes! Basil paste adds tons of flavor to ground meat mixtures for meatballs, meatloaf, burgers, stuffed peppers and more.


While nothing compares to the taste of fresh, homegrown basil straight from the garden, keeping some basil paste on hand means you can enjoy that sweet, aromatic flavor all year round.

Add it to sauces, salad dressings, soups, vegetables, eggs, meat and more.

Unlimited Recipes
Unlimited Recipes

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