Basil Vinaigrette

I absolutely cannot keep a plant alive. Not even the easy ones, like aloe, even though I really try. The only plant that survives my path of destruction is basil, which is really a yearly tale of resilience.

Now it’s mid-August, and for those of us who don’t know how to care for plants, this is generally when our basil becomes out of control. Two weeks ago, it was a sweet little houseplant, but on Monday I woke up and it was basically human-sized.

I’m all for big batches of pesto, especially to store away in my freezer for later in the year. But my go-to recipe for using up basil is actually even more basic.

Basil vinaigrette is as versatile as a recipe gets. It’s not fancy: just basil, garlic, salt, mustard, oil, and vinegar. But once you make a batch, you’ll find yourself reaching for it over and over, for just about everything!

Here are things I’ve drizzled with basil oil this summer:

  • Pasta salad
  • Leftover polenta
  • Bread
  • Broiled salmon
  • Grilled chicken thighs
  • Gigante beans
  • Tomatoes and corn
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Butter lettuce
  • Chicken soup
  • Hummus

Herby and tangy, basil oil brightens up the saddest of leftovers and the most boring kitchen-sink dinners. It hits the same spot as a chimichurri, but is easier to make and holds up great in the fridge. You can use it as a salad dressing, an all-purpose marinade, or even just a dipper for crusty bread or warm pita.

I make my basil vinaigrette with a mortar and pestle, because I'm a pasta granny at heart, but you can hand chop your garlic and basil or blend it in a food processor.

White wine vinegar is neutral, but I’ve made this same recipe using balsamic, cider, and red wine vinegar.

This recipe makes about 1 cup of vinaigrette, but you can absolutely double or even triple it, as needed.


  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • 2 loosely packed cups basil leaves, from about 1 oz
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup olive oil


  1. In a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic and a pinch of salt. Crush until a paste forms. Add about half of the basil and crush until smooth. Add the remaining basil and crush until a uniform paste forms.
  2. Transfer to a bowl with the vinegar and mustard and stir to combine. While whisking, slowly steam in the olive oil. Season with salt, if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

- Posted by Laura, DISH Editor