My Basil Plant Is Flowering. Are Basil Flowers Edible, or is it over?

Do not let the flowers go to waste. Using basil flowers to flavor vinegar, oils, herbal butter, pesto, salt, dressings, and marinades is easier than you think. 

And remember, flowering herbs attract pollinators and beneficial insects. So it’s a win-win.

But of course, we all grow basil for the aromatic leaves. 

And then, all of a sudden, the plant flowers.

What now?

This is a great opportunity to bring out your inner chef and create flavor profiles unique to your needs, wants, and desires. And no, I will not tell you to make potpourri sachets. 

Here are my top 7 ways to use the flowers:

  1. Basil flower-infused vinegar
  2. Basil flower oils
  3. Basil flower pesto
  4. Herbal butter
  5. Herbal salt
  6. Dressings and marinades
  7. Enhance your salads

The bottom line: when the plant starts to flower, you are entering a new type of harvesting.

Buds and flowers on pruned basil plant
Buds and flowers on a basil plant

How do I use the flowers on my basil plants?

It is difficult to prune a plant “back to life” when you see flowers on your plants. From my experience, it is better to go with nature and make the most of the situation.

You can bring the plant "back to life", but it is easier to grow a new plant. Take a cutting or start from seed. You will have a new plant in a couple of weeks.

The quantities listed below work for me, but I encourage you to experiment. Let’s dive in and get specific.

1. Make Basil Flower Vinegar

This is my absolute favorite way to use basil flowers. Vinegar is inexpensive, and making your herb-infused vinegar is easy and oh-so rewarding.

  1. Heat the vinegar, but do not let it simmer or boil. I find heated vinegar does a better job of extracting the flavors. 
  2. Place the flowers in a jar or bottle. If the flowers are fresh, I fill 1/3 of the container. If the flowers are dry, 1/4 is enough.
  3. Pour the warm vinegar over the flowers, shake and seal
  4. Place at room temperature for about a week

Use vinegar to flavor sauces and salads, or gift it to someone interested in cooking. 

Mix with other dried herbs
Be bold and mix with other dry herbs

2. Infuse Oil With Basil Flowers

A good quality olive oil is my preferred choice, but you can use any neutral-flavored oil.

Infusing oils is as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Fill half your container with fresh basil flowers.
  2. Fill the container with oil, seal and shake. 
  3. Leave at room temperature for about a week. 

Again, it’s a great gift and oh-so-good to drizzle on salads. Or try dipping fresh or lightly charred bread into the vinegar. It’s a winner.

3. Make Basil Flower Pesto

Basil pesto is everyone’s favorite and since basil flowers are edible, why not use them? 

Use the recipe below as inspiration, and feel free to add and remove to create your signature pesto. 

  1. Mix basil flowers, pine nuts (or almonds), garlic and Parmesan Cheese in a food processor.
  2. Taste and adjust quantities as needed. 
  3. Drizzle olive oil into the mixture with the food processor running to get your desired texture and consistency.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pesto is great with pasta and sandwiches, or use it as a marinade.

Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan Cheese as we often call it
It is hard to beat real parmesan cheese

4. Herbal Butter

Herbal butter is quick and easy to make using my proven method. This perfect summertime condiment goes equally well with meat and grilled vegetables like eggplants, carrots and squash.

  1. Mix finely chopped flowers with room-temperature butter
  2.  Add chopped garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and other herbs like chives to taste
  3. Place mixture on wax paper and form into a roll.
  4. Place in fridge to set and serve in slices on top of steaming hot vegetables or meat.
I use 1 cup of flowers, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tsp of lemon juice, and 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese for my ideal herbal butter. Salt and pepper to taste. 

5. Herbal Salt

Herbs are great for giving salt another dimension when it is used to season a dish just before you serve it.

Sea salt vs regular fine grain salt
Sea salt flakes absorb more aroma

I have a fast and slow method of making herbal salt. Here, I will stick to the fast method.

The recipe below says “herbs” and not “basil flowers”. Add tarragon, parsley, chervil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary to make your unique blend. 

  • 6 tbsp / 3 oz of herbs 
  • 2 dl / 7 oz of sea salt

Put ingredients in a food processor, mix and store in a sealed, airtight container.

Tip! Use a pestle and mortar with dry herbs if you are making small quantaties.

6. Basil Flowers Make Great Dressings and Marinades

Dressings and marinades are two sides of the same coin.

  • Dressings are often dairy or soy-based with a milder, creamier flavor profile. Especially delicious with warm dishes.
  • Marinades are often oil-based and pack a stronger punch to infuse flavor into meats and vegetables. 

These are my favorite recipes.


  • 4 finely grated garlic gloves
  • 2 dl / 7 oz chopped fresh herbs
  • 1 dl / 3-4 oz of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of sea salt
  • juice from 1 lime


  • 3 dl  / 10 oz of sour creme or soy-based alternative
  • 2 dl / 7 oz finely chopped fresh herbs
  • 1 finely chopped small red onion
  • juice from 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Different but similar. Add hot peppers like cayenne, habanero or scotch bonnet for a bit of kick. 

7. Enhance Your Salads

Basil flowers come in different colors and sizes and are not only beautiful but can also add a dimension of flavor to your salads:

Basil flowers are beautiful and enhance any salad
Purple flowers on a basil plant
  1. Sprinkle fresh flower bouquets over a fruit salad to add a subtle hint of basil.
  2. Mix basil flowers into your salads for a fun and delicious twist.
  3. Use flowers and leaves in a basil vinaigrette for an extra zing in your salad.

Homegrown basil can be used in many ways, and the flowers should not be forgotten.

Why Is My Basil Flowering?

Your basil plant is designed to flower and self-seed before it dies. 

If your plant is flowering, you have managed to care for it all the way to the end of its natural life cycle. Kudos.

Pruning the plant can delay the process, but the plant will most likely flower eventually. 

Is it all bad when basil flowers?

Not at all. But it is the beginning of the end of the plant.

When your basil plant flowers, it prepares to self-seed and play its part in the circle of life. 

And that is why we prune basil.

We try to postpone the inevitable to have more fresh leaves and a longer harvest. And it works. You can harvest a properly pruned and fertilised basil plant all season long.

You will hear that the taste of the leaves changes and may even turn bitter and unpleasant if the plant flowers.

I leave it up to you to decide if this is always true. If you ask me, old plants lose their flavor profile, flowers or not.

But there are also benefits to letting some of your basil plants flower.

Basil Flowers, Beneficial Insects, And Pollinators

Beneficial insects and pollinators are vital for the success of your garden and the ecosystem as a whole.

Letting some herbs flower is a great way to give back to nature.

Pollinators love herbs in bloom
Pollinators love blooming herbs

Pollinators are essential if you have a home garden, and as you now know, some flowers are even edible.

I always let some basil, thyme, lavender, and oregano plants flower in my garden. It smells wonderful, helps attract pest-fighting insects, and looks beautiful. 

When and How Do I Harvest Basil Blooms?

You want to harvest the flowers early when they have just started to bloom. Inspect your plants daily; when you see buds forming, you are close to harvest time. 

How to Harvest Basil Flowers?

  1. Gently cut the flower heads using clean, precision scissors.
  2. Leaving the flowers attached to the stem makes handling much easier.

FAQs About Basil Flowers

Can I use basil leaves and flowers together in recipes?

Yes, and I think you should. The leaves and flowers are edible and work beautifully in pesto, infused oil and vinegar, marinades and dressings. 

Aromatic basil leaf
Combine leaves and flowers in pesto

How can I store dried basil flowers?

Dried basil flowers are best stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Heat and light will ruin the flavor.

Are there any special care tips for purple basil flowers?

Not really. Purple basil flowers have a slightly different flavor but can be used in the same way as white basil flowers.

Is it difficult to make basil flower potpourri?

It’s not difficult, but it does take a bit of work. You must dry the flowers and mix them with other aromatic herbs for a fragrant potpourri. 

Can I extract seeds from basil flowers?

Yes, you can extract seeds from basil flowers. Wait for the flower heads to dry and brown before collecting the seeds. Store harvested seeds in a dark, cool place with good ventilation. 

How do I collect the basil seeds?

Rub the dry flower heads over a clean container between your fingers. Basil seeds are tiny, and placing a piece of white paper in the bottom of the container may be helpful. 

Will removing the flowers affect the growth of my basil plant?

Removing flowers from a plant will have a positive effect on growth. Pinching flowers will allow the plant to direct its energy towards producing more leaves instead of flowering.

Buds starting to form on mature basil plant
Buds forming on mature basil plant

Can I use basil flowers to make infused water?

Add a few fresh basil flowers to a water pitcher and let it infuse for a couple of hours. 


Basil flowers have always been a bi-product for me. I grow basil for the aromatic leaves. But I also firmly believe in getting the most from each and every plant. It is a greener way to live. And it makes sense. 

Harvesting and using basil flowers is easy, and if you are interested in cooking, it is an inexpensive way to add new dimensions to your dishes. 

For me, infusing oils and vinegar and making pesto, marinades, dressings, and herbal butter has become second nature. 

So, why not let a basil plant flower next season? Use half the flowers to cook and leave the rest for the insects and pollinators. 

Remember These Key Points:

  • Harvest basil flowers early when they begin to bloom.
  • Infuse oil and vinegar, and create pesto with basil flowers for unique flavors.
  • Basil is a great ingredient for marinades and dressings.
  • Add basil flowers to salads for an aromatic twist.
  • Leave some flowers on the plant for pollinators and beneficial insects.

Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.