Published on 05 Jun 2024

30 Best Summer Basil Recipes: Fresh and Flavorful Ideas for Warm Weather Cooking

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Summer’s abundance of fresh-picked produce makes preparing healthy meals easier than at any other time of year. Basil, the leafy green herb, is one of the signature tastes and scents of the season. It has a lightly spicy, fresh flavor with a hint of sweet licorice that brings out the best in tomatoes, zucchini and other summer favorites.

Basil is the king of herbs. It adds an unmistakable essence to anything it’s added to, and pairs especially well with tomato-based dishes. We’re cooking 30 basil recipes that are sure to be the star of your summer! Learn more about this classic herb below, and get tips and recipes for incorporating it into your cooking.

Basil Health Benefits

Fresh basil is in season now, with fragrant bunches of it available at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. It’s an unlimited Free Food on the Nutrisystem weight loss plan, and has great health benefits like anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. It can even aid eye health!

Like all herbs, basil has almost no calories, fat or carbs. It contains antioxidants, which help protect your immune system, plus a small amount of potassium, a key mineral for keeping your metabolism working.

Buying and Growing Basil

Basil thrives in hot, sunny conditions, so it is at its peak in summer. You can find it in bunches in farmer’s markets and grocery stores, but it will be even fresher if you grow it in a garden or small pot, which you can place in a brightly lit windowsill if you don’t have room outside. It’s easy and fun to grow it yourself.

There are more than 60 different basil varieties, each with slightly different flavors. Whichever you choose, start with little seedlings you buy at the garden center and be sure to put them in a spot that gets a lot of sunshine. You can start trimming off leaves to eat as soon as the plant is about six inches tall and has more than five leaves. In fact, regular cutting the top leaves encourages new branches to form, producing a bushier plant with more foliage for you to eat.

If you’re growing basil, harvest it just before you’re ready to use it. You can keep bunches from the store or farmer’s market fresh by putting the stems in a glass jar with a few inches of water like a flower bouquet. Put a clear plastic bag on top to keep in the humidity and change the water daily.

Cooking with Basil

Basil is a standard ingredient in many Italian-style dishes, and it’s also often used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, too.

The fresh herb is typically added to dishes late in the cooking process because the leaves are fragile. To release flavorful oils and fresh fragrance, gently rub the leaves between your fingers before adding them to your dish.

Fresh Basil Recipes

We love making summer basil recipes because they’re full of bold flavors. You can use the herb to make basil-infused drinks and even desserts. To help you take advantage of the basil season, we gathered many of our favorite fresh basil recipes for your warm weather cooking plans.

Tomato Basil Flounder

Flounder is high in protein, low in saturated fats and mild-flavored, so it lets other ingredients shine in this healthy meal. The dish features the summery taste of fresh tomatoes and basil, along with savory garlic and tart lemon juice. Cooking the fish in a tomato basil broth ensures that it stays moist and perfectly flaky.

Get the Tomato Basil Flounder recipe.

Fire Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

This flavorful lunch dish is made entirely with Vegetables and Free Foods from the Nutrisystem grocery list, so you can enjoy as much of it as you want. Along with the tangy tomatoes and zesty basil, the recipe calls for onions, garlic, low-sodium chicken stock and fresh salsa for a pop of flavor. You can make it as spicy or mild as you like.

Get the Unlimited Fire Roasted Tomato Basil Soup recipe.

Blackberry Basil Coconut Water Mocktail

Freshly picked blackberries are abundant in summer. Their balance of sweet and tart flavors complement the light spice of basil in this colorful and refreshing basil-infused drink.

It also features coconut water, the fluid that’s found inside the fresh fruit, which is high in potassium and electrolytes, so it helps you stay hydrated on hot days and nights. Add plain seltzer for a bit of fizz, garnish with a sprig of basil and you’re ready to sip your cool summer drink.

Get the Blackberry Basil Coconut Water Mocktail recipe.

Nut-Free Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Pesto

Pesto is an all-purpose topping that you can use as a sauce for pasta, as a sandwich spread or as a dip. We make this version with the traditional ingredients of fresh basil, garlic and olive oil. However, we add sun-dried tomatoes for sweet, tangy flavor and hemp seeds instead of pine nuts.

Make a double batch and store the extra in ice cube trays in your freezer. Then you can pop out a serving any time you want to add nutritious flavor to your meal.

Get the Nut-Free Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Pesto recipe.

artichoke basil hummus. healthy dip recipes

We make classic hummus even tastier by adding two warm-weather favorites, artichokes and basil, to the dip. It’s so easy to make; all you do is put chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, tahini, cumin and oil in a food processor or blender, then whip until smooth. Stir in the artichokes and basil and you’re ready to swipe through it with crunchy vegetables or whole grain crackers.

Get the Artichoke Basil Hummus recipe.

Healthy Lemon Salmon Pasta

Salmon is an ideal centerpiece for a summer dinner because it powers you up with lots of protein and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids without weighing you down. In this easy dish, the fish is seasoned with fresh basil and lemons to give it a bright and sunny flavor. It’s paired with asparagus (or your choice of non-starchy vegetables) and whole wheat pasta to make a complete meal.

Get the Healthy Lemon Salmon Pasta recipe.

Penne Pasta Primavera

You may have heard that you should stay away from pasta when you’re trying to lose weight. But at Nutrisystem, we’re all about helping you enjoy the foods you love as you shed excess pounds. This colorful bowl of penne, for instance, comes with a serving of healthy vegetables, including zucchini, yellow summer squash, cherry tomatoes, green peas and red onion. Garlic, Italian herbs and fresh basil provide a pop of flavor without adding on calories.

Get the Penne Pasta Primavera recipe.

Easy Melon Prosciutto Skewers

Whether you’re hosting or going to a party, or you just want a snack that’s high in flavor and satisfaction, make this tempting appetizer. There’s no cooking involved because all you do is thread layers of cucumber slices, melon cubes, mozzarella balls, prosciutto and fresh basil leaves onto toothpicks. Drizzle with balsamic glaze for a little extra sweetness and serve.

Get the Easy Melon Prosciutto Skewers recipe.

green pea ricotta pizza for spring with fresh vegetables

A healthy pizza is easy to prepare at home if you use whole wheat naan, the traditional Indian flatbread, for the crust. In summer, we like it topped with a green sauce made by blending peas and basil with creamy ricotta cheese. After spreading the sauce on the crust, top it with sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion and parmesan cheese for a savory flavor and colorful appearance.

Get the Green Pea Ricotta Pizza recipe.

Crispy Garlic Smashed Potatoes with Creamy Feta Sauce

You and your family will go wild for this reimagined version of plain old mashed potatoes. These spuds are golden brown on the outside and fluffy inside. They get a flavor boost from a rich sauce made with real feta cheese, tangy Greek yogurt, zesty garlic, green onions and the spark of fresh basil.

Get the Crispy Garlic Smashed Potatoes with Creamy Feta Sauce recipe.

Summer Panzanella Salad

Traditional Italian cooks turned stale bread into a beloved dish by pairing it with juicy tomatoes, onions and basil, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Our version starts with whole wheat baguette or ciabatta, baked until crisp. Plus, we add a medley of summer favorites, including nectarines, plums, cherry tomatoes and red onion.

Add a few dollops of creamy burrata cheese and sprigs of fresh basil for the finishing touch. Then watch what happens when you show up with this instead of ordinary potato salad at your next summer party.

Get the Summer Panzanella Salad recipe.

Caprese Stuffed Avocado

On hot summer days, a cool and simple lunch hits just right. This recipe starts with the classic Caprese salad ingredients of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. They are loaded into avocado halves, then it’s all drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The avocado is filled with healthy fats, so you’ll be fueled up for whatever your afternoon brings you.

Get the Caprese Stuffed Avocado recipe.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Hasselback Chicken

Hasselback potatoes are made by making thin slices in a potato without cutting all the way through and filling the spaces with other ingredients. We used the technique to prepare a chicken breast stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. A creamy sauce seasoned with fresh basil keeps it all moist and savory.

Get the Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Hasselback Chicken recipe.

Roasted Beet and Basil Pesto

Brighten up your meals with this brilliant variation on the standard pesto. The roasted beets give it a naturally sweet and earthy flavor, as well as a vibrant color. You use all the other usual ingredients, including nuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic and basil. It will add a pop of color, flavor and nutrition to pasta, sandwiches and more.

Get the Roasted Beet and Basil Pesto recipe.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Salad

Orzo is the pasta that looks like grains of rice, and it makes a filling foundation for this salad. Grilled chicken provides protein, while vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, arugula and red onion add crunch and nutrients. A simple lemon vinaigrette dressing ties it all together, while parmesan cheese and fresh basil punch up the taste.

Get the Lemon Chicken Orzo Salad recipe.

Roasted Tomato Ricotta Toast

Toast can be so much more than a dull breakfast side dish. We love crisp whole wheat bread with a creamy spread of whipped ricotta cheese topped with tangy tomatoes and zingy shallots. Basil gives each bite a little burst of spice.

Get the Roasted Tomato Ricotta Toast recipe.

Eggplant Margherita Pizza

With this version, you’ll never have to think twice if you can have pizza while you’re losing weight. The “crust” is a crisp slice of eggplant. It’s topped with the margherita essentials of tangy tomato sauce, gooey mozzarella cheese and fragrant fresh basil. Best of all, you can enjoy four slices of this pizza and stay on track with your weight loss plan.

Get the Eggplant Margherita Pizza recipe.

Summer Fruit Caprese Salad

Here’s a sweeter version of the popular summer side dish. Along with the tomatoes and mozzarella pearls, it includes fresh apricots and blackberries. They’re glazed with balsamic vinegar, while basil gives it a zingy finish.

Get the Summer Fruit Caprese Salad recipe.

Lemon Ricotta Spaghetti

This is another diet-friendly pasta dish that is sure to satisfy your cravings. Whole grain spaghetti is tossed in a creamy sauce made with ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic. A garnish of basil adds color and a fresh scent to the finished meal.

Get the Lemon Ricotta Pasta recipe.

Spring Quinoa Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Quinoa is the high-protein grain that has nutty flavor and chewy texture. In this salad, it’s paired with walnuts, creamy feta cheese and your pick of in-season vegetables. Basil, shallots, garlic and lemon juice flavor the light homemade dressing.

Get the Spring Quinoa Salad with Basil Vinaigrette recipe.

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, goat cheese, veggies and balsamic

Many families love stuffed peppers because they’re simple to make and loaded with flavorful ingredients. We like them Mediterranean style, which means using lots of fresh vegetables, olives, orzo pasta and tangy goat cheese. The aroma of the fresh basil on top infuses every bite.

Get the Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers recipe.

Creamy Avocado Pasta with Vegetables

Give your everyday pasta a fresh taste with a simple and creamy sauce featuring avocados and basil. You make the sauce in the blender in minutes with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss it with your favorite seasonal vegetables and whole wheat pasta for a meal that will satisfy your appetite without weighing you down on a warm evening.

Get the Creamy Avocado Pasta with Vegetables recipe.

Open-Faced Grilled Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich

If you love the summery taste of bruschetta made with tomatoes and basil, this dish is sure to become a new favorite. The base is half of a whole wheat roll, toasted until crisp. It’s topped with smoky grilled chicken and creamy mozzarella cheese along with the tomatoes and basil, finished with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Get the Open-Faced Grilled Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich recipe.

Grilled Green Tomatoes Caprese Salad

Many gardeners know that green tomatoes may not be fully ripe, but they have a tart flavor that sweetens up when they’re cooked. We think their taste pairs well with creamy mozzarella cheese and fragrant basil in this take on Caprese salad. It’s easy enough to make on a weeknight but looks so appealing you can serve at a party.

Get the Grilled Green Tomatoes Caprese Salad recipe.

15-Minute Tomato Basil Shrimp

Succulent shrimp are loaded with protein, low in fat and light enough for dinner on a warm evening. Try simmering them in your favorite brand of low-sodium tomato sauce, along with sundried tomatoes, spinach and fragrant basil. Top with parmesan cheese, garnish with basil and dig in.

Get the 15-Minute Tomato Basil Shrimp recipe.

Air Fried Toasted Ravioli with Fresh Green Sauce

Give Nutrisystem’s Bistro-Style Toasted Ravioli a delicious, seasonal twist with a savory sauce made from summer’s freshest produce. This sauce is made with lightly cooked zucchini and onions, along with spinach and basil. It’s blended with cream cheese and parmesan cheese. After the ravioli are cooked in the air fryer until crisp, they’re tossed with the sauce and you’re ready to eat.

Get the Air Fried Toasted Ravioli with Fresh Green Sauce recipe.

Zucchini and Sweet Corn Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a summer staple that we’ve given a fresh and healthy upgrade. Our version stars seasonal favorites like sweet corn, zucchini and basil, along with garlic, black pepper and olive oil. They’re mixed with whole wheat pasta and part-skim ricotta cheese to make a filling dish that’s delicious warm or chilled.

Get the Zucchini and Sweet Corn Pasta Salad recipe.

Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce

This classic basil pesto recipe is perfect for your favorite pasta. Featuring healthy and rich ingredients, such as parmesan cheese, fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, it’s packed with plenty of flavor and nutrition.

Get the Homemade Basil Pesto Sauce recipe.

creamy Tuscan chicken with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

Indulge in our healthy Creamy Tuscan Chicken recipe, a delightful twist on the trendy dish. Featuring lean chicken breast seasoned with black pepper and Italian spices, each bite captures the essence of Tuscan cuisine. Sun-dried tomatoes add a sweet and tangy complexity, while fresh basil brings a burst of freshness to elevate this dish. Perfect for those craving Tuscan-inspired dishes with a nutritious touch.

Get the Creamy Tuscan Chicken recipe.

Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes and baby mozzarella cheese

Indulge in a delicious and healthy Classic Caprese Salad recipe with cherry tomatoes, perfect for any occasion. Creamy mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar create a delightful dish packed with protein and veggies.

Get the Classic Caprese Salad recipe.



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