Pizza with salami, mozzarella, and basil.

When To Put Basil On A Pizza

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Basil is one of those flavorsome herbs that perfectly complements a slice of fresh pizza. From a herby slice of margarita through to a zingy chicken pizza topped with fresh basil, this herb can be used to flavor pizza in many different ways.

But when should you put basil on a pizza? Fresh basil leaves are best added after the pizza is cooked, as they will wilt (or crisp) and take on a slightly bitter flavor if cooked. Dried basil should be mixed with the marinara sauce and cooked with the pizza to bring out its delicate herbiness.

If you’re creating beautiful artisan pizzas at home, you’ll want to make sure you’re adding your toppings at the right time to get the best flavor! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about when to put basil on a pizza.

Why Put Basil On A Pizza?

Fresh and dried basil in glass jar.

Basil is one of those herbs that is all too easy to take for granted.

It is a key ingredient in many different types of cooking and in so many recipes that we forget how important this flavoring really is.

Basil has a fresh and pungent flavor and aroma that is quite unlike any other herb. It is hard to describe exactly what it tastes like, but it adds a hint of summery flavor to salads, sauces, and of course, pizza!

This delicious herb also has an intense aroma which will enhance the flavor of your pizza.

There is nothing quite like the smell of a freshly cooked pizza, as the aromatic herbs combined with zingy marinara sauce and bubbling golden cheese tantalize your taste buds!

How Is Basil Used On Pizza?

rustic italian pizza with mozzarella, cheese and basil leaves

Basil can be used in many different ways on pizza.

This herb is readily available in both fresh and dried forms and also as a flavoring in basil-infused oils.

Dried basil can be used alone or mixed with other dried herbs. It can be blended with the marinara sauce that is spread over the base of the pizza or sprinkled over the toppings on the pizza.

Fresh basil can also be chopped and added to the marinara sauce. Alternatively, whole or torn basil leaves could be used to garnish a pizza before serving.

Basil-infused oils are commonly drizzled over the top of pizza, to add a delicate but very decadent flavor.

When creating the perfect pizza is important to understand which type of basil to use, and when is the right time to put it on a pizza.

Basil is one of the key ingredients in many different types of pizza, but it needs to be used in the right way to fully appreciate it.

What Does Basil Taste Like On A Pizza?

The flavor and texture of basil on a pizza will depend on the type of basil you use and whether it was added before or after the pizza is cooked.

Fresh basil leaves are commonly added to a pizza after it has been cooked as a garnish.

They will wilt slightly as a result of the heat of the pizza but generally retain a fresh flavor and texture. When used in this way, fresh basil leaves work perfectly with a rich marinara sauce and cheesy topping!

If fresh basil leaves are added to a pizza before it is cooked, their flavor and texture will undergo some considerable changes in the oven.

Basil will lose some of its natural sweetness when cooked and may taste slightly bitter. It will also become soft and wilted — it may also lose its vibrant green color.

Dried basil also has a slightly bitter flavor, and this is particularly noticeable when it is used as a topping rather than blended with the marinara sauce.

For this reason, it is often preferable to use fresh basil as a garnish and dried basil when combined with the sauce.

When To Put Basil On A Pizza

If you are feeling confused about when to put basil on a pizza, don’t panic!

Here is the ultimate guide to when to put basil on a pizza, including when using fresh or dried basil, as well as basil-infused oils.

Fresh Basil

Basil leaves in closeup.

In our opinion, there is only one way in which fresh basil should be added to a pizza, and that is as a garnish after the pizza has been cooked.

This is the optimal way to retain the fresh zingy flavor of basil as well as the slightly crunchy texture and vibrant green color.

Whether you use your basil leaves whole or not is entirely up to you. A garnish of whole basil leaves gives a vibrant splash of color to a cooked pizza. Alternatively, you can tear them into smaller pieces and scatter them over the pizza.

If you want to cook basil with your pizza, the best way to do this is to chop it and combine it with the marinara sauce. This will infuse the sauce with a delicious herby flavor!

Don’t be tempted to add whole or chopped basil leaves to the top of your pizza before cooking it.

When fresh basil is exposed to heat, it wilts quickly within a matter of minutes. This can bring out an unpleasant bitterness to the leaves, which will not compliment your carefully prepared pizza.

The only exception to this rule is if you are lucky enough to have a wood-fired oven to cook your pizza in.

These ovens reach such a high temperature that pizzas can cook in a matter of minutes. This means that you could add fresh basil with your other toppings and its flavor would not be affected by the short cooking time.

This is the way that pizza has been traditionally cooked in Italy for many centuries — we see no reason to change this rule!

Dried Basil

Dried basil leaves isolated on white background.

Dried basil is used very differently from fresh basil when cooking a pizza.

Dried basil has a great herby flavor, but with a slight bitterness that you will not notice in fresh basil.

The best way to use dried basil in a pizza is to combine it with the marinara sauce. The delicate, dried flakes will soak up the juice from the marinara and infuse the sauce with its delicious flavor.

Whilst some dried herbs (such as oregano) taste great when sprinkled on top of a pizza, we would not recommend that you do this with dried basil. The slightly bitter flavor of dried basil will only be intensified as the pizza cooks in the oven.

Basil-Infused Oil

Olive oils in bottles with herbs and spices.

Basil-infused oil is a great way to bring a fresh, herby flavor to your pizzas.

However, like fresh and dried basil, there is a right time and place to use it.

Most infused oils are made using virgin or extra virgin olive oil. These types of oils should not be used for cooking as they can change in flavor at high temperatures.

So, if you want to flavor your pizza with basil-infused oil, this should be drizzled over the toppings either after the pizza is cooked or during the final few minutes of the cooking time.

Here’s a sample pack of infused oils so you can experiment with different flavors on salads, pizza, pasta, and more!

How To Use Basil On Different Types Of Pizza

Confused about which type of basil to use and when? Don’t worry, we’ve got the correct way to include basil in many different types of pizza, as well as some great serving suggestions!

Margherita Pizza

Margherita pizza is the ultimate classic pizza recipe. A thin, crispy pizza base is topped with a fresh marinara sauce, chunks of succulent mozzarella, and slices of sweet, juicy tomatoes.

There is only one way to add basil to Margherita pizza, and that is by garnishing the top of the cooked pizza with whole basil leaves.

They should be scattered amongst the hot, bubbling chunks of mozzarella, allowing them to wilt gracefully into your delicious pizza slices.

Caprese Pizza

Caprese pizza is very much like Margherita, but with the addition of a rich balsamic glaze.

We would suggest that you top this pizza with freshly shredded basil leaves. For a more intense basil flavor, you could also use a basil-infused oil in addition to your balsamic glaze.

Pizza Melanzane

Pizza Melanzane is a decadent and sumptuous treat! This traditional Italian pizza is topped with mozzarella and sauteed slices of eggplant.

We would suggest that you add a sprinkling of dried basil to the tomato base of this pizza to bring out the herby flavor without overwhelming the delicate toppings.

Pizza Prosciutto

Pizza prosciutto is topped with thin slices of cooked ham on a punchy tomato base. This intense flavor can take a good hit of basil, which is why we’d recommend using both dried and fresh basil on this pizza!

Add dried basil to the tomato sauce to bring a herby flavor to every mouthful, and top the cooked pizza with freshly-shredded basil leaves. If you want to go basil-crazy, serve a dipping bowl of basil-infused oil on the side for the crusts!

Pollo Ad Astra Pizza

Chicken and basil make great flavor companions, and adding a handful of shredded fresh basil leaves to a Pollo ad Astra pizza for the last couple of minutes of the cooking time is a perfect way to bring them together.

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