How to counteract too much basil?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much basil?”. We will further elaborate on the different approaches that will help you counteract too much basil in food.

How to counteract too much basil?

Basil is a herb that can go well in different recipes. It can enhance the taste of a wide variety of savory foods, particularly those that involve tomatoes but when added in moderate amounts. The main constituents of the essential oil of basil are methyl chavicol, eugenol, methyleugenol, methyl cinnamate, linalool and geraniol. Oils extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and the flowering tops which are used to flavor foods, in dental and oral products, and in fragrances (1).

Just like most herbs, the properties of basil can instantly ruin a dish when it is added in abundance. An excess amount of basil can make the dish bitter and unsavory. 

If you have accidentally added too much basil to your dish and are desperately searching for ways to counteract it, do not fret, here we have prepared a long list of approaches to help you counteract too much basil in your recipe, and to make it suitable to serve.

  • Physically remove the basil 
  • Try adding a fresh bell pepper
  • Add cayenne pepper powder
  • Cook for some more time
  • Add more garlic
  • Counteract with cheese

Physically remove the basil 

If you have added too much basil to your dish, the first thing you can do is to remove the excess directly. However, this strategy will not work if you have added dried and crumbled basil to your recipe. The flavoring of the food by the release of the essential oils of the basil needs the action of heat and solvent (water) with time (1). Therefore, if the herb has not yet been cooked enough, it will not have spiced the food. 

Directly extract the basil from the tomato or pasta sauce using a ladle-sized slotted spoon just when you have realized your blunder. If the basil is on the surface of the salad, you can simply wash it off prior to seasoning again.

In case the basil has flavored your dish by the time you realize your blunder, you will then have to implement any of the several approaches from the list we have provided but you must still try to remove it first. Keeping it in will add more flavor to your dish. 

Try adding a fresh bell pepper

Cut fresh bell pepper and add it to your dish. The flavor of the bell pepper can counteract the extra basil. Keep in mind that this strategy will work only if you used a little bit too much basil. If you have used way more than the recipe demanded, a bell pepper may not be sufficient to counteract it.

The bell pepper (Capsicum annum L) is a fruit well known for its high content in bioactive compounds and strong antioxidant capacity and it is among the most popular of fresh vegetables worldwide due to its combination of color, flavor, and nutritional value (2). These phytochemicals are responsible for the aroma of the fruit, which may counteract the aroma of the basil.

Add cayenne pepper powder

A pinch of cayenne pepper powder may divert the taste buds from too much basil in the recipe. Keep in mind that every individual has a different resistance to spicy foods, so you should be cautious when working on this approach. Start with a little cayenne pepper powder and increase gradually, tasting after every addition. 

Cayenne pepper contains high amounts of Capsaicin, which is the major active compound responsible for the pungent taste of peppers. The pungency will counteract the basil aroma in the food (2).

Add cheese

Among the cheese varieties, parmesan is a perfect addition to many recipes that require basil and can be an efficient approach to offset too much basil. Other cheeses can work too. Based on the recipe, mozzarella cheese can also be useful.

Aroma is an important component of the sensory property of cheese and is one of the first stimuli to be perceived before consumption. Cheese aroma consists of volatile compounds with a range of functional groups, which can interact with the food and prevail over the basil aroma (3).

Add more garlic

The strong flavor of garlic can help to counteract the bitter flavor of basil. If your recipe already includes garlic, use more extra of it. Though your recipe will taste too garlicky, its flavor is generally more pleasant as compared to basil when added in abundance.

Garlic is used as a spice in cooking due to its unique aroma. The cloves contain large amounts of sulfur‑based substances, which as a consequence of their reactive properties, are converted easily to a variety of volatile compounds during processing. Fresh garlic contains alliin [S‑3‑(2‑propenylsulfinyl)‑L‑alanine‑], an odorless  derivative of cysteine. When fresh garlic is crushed, alliinase can convert alliin to allicin (S‑allyl 2‑propene‑1‑sulfinothioate), which represents the characteristic odor of crushed fresh garlic (4). The rich aroma of the garlic will prevail over the basil aroma.

Cook for some more time

Fresh basil can tolerate moderate cooking periods, but it will still dissolve if you cook it for some extra time. If your recipe can manage some additional times of cooking, you can cook out the excess basil flavor. 

This is more suitable to work if you added fresh basil instead of the dried herb. The dried herb is extra strong and hence may proceed to deliver its flavor for an extended period.

Dilute the dish 

You can dilute the flavor of basil by multiplying other ingredients. This approach helps to reduce the bitterness and unpalatable flavor caused by too much basil.

For example, if you are making pasta sauce and the recipe requires one tin of tomatoes, add one more tin of tomatoes but do not add any basil this time. 

Mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for some more time so the flavors blend well. Diluting the basil will dilute other flavors too, so taste the dish to have an idea of what else is needed.

Continue to add the ingredients as needed. Start with the main ingredients first, then add the spices, mix thoroughly and try in between every addition.

You may have to add additional flavorings, but by doubling the number of tomatoes, you have directly distributed the amount of basil in the dish, counterbalancing its taste moderately. You may then keep the extra amount for a separate dish or store to use later.

We hope these suggestions will assist you. Still, if nothing goes for you, don’t be troubled. Learn from your blunders and try again.

Other FAQs about Basil that you may be interested in.

Can you eat basil seeds without soaking

Can I freeze fresh basil?

What are 3 ways to preserve basil

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much basil?”. We have further elaborated on the different approaches to help you counteract too much basil in food.

References 

  1. ÖZCAN, MUSA, and JEAN-CLAUSE CHALCHAT. Essential Oil Composition of Ocimum basilicum L. Czech J. Food Sci., 2002, 20, 223-228.
  2. Hernández‐Pérez, Talía, et al. Capsicum annuum (hot pepper): An ancient Latin‐American crop with outstanding bioactive compounds and nutraceutical potential. A review. Comprehen Rev Food Sci Food Safe, 2020, 19, 2972-2993.
  3. Niimi, Jun, et al. Sensory interactions between cheese aroma and taste. J sens stud, 2015, 30, 247-257.
  4.  Abe, K., Hori, Y., Myoda, T. Volatile compounds of fresh and processed garlic (Review). Experim Therap Med, 2020, 19, 1585-1593.