Skip to Content

Why Is Basil Bitter? Tips On Removing The Bitterness

Sharing is caring!

Basil is an awesome-tasting herb, but sometimes it can get bitter. In this article, we will talk about why basil is bitter and how to remove the bitterness.

We all love basil taste in sauces like pesto or tomato-basil sauce and more, but for sure, we don’t think of a bitter taste when we think of basil.

basil bitter

Why is my basil bitter?

Basil can taste bitter when it starts flowering, so if you regularly prune the basil plant, it should not happen.

That being said, flowering basil is the most common reason for the bitter taste in basil leaves, but it’s not the only one. The bitter taste can come from the bad storage of your basil, the variety of your basil, growing conditions, and so on.

Basil is sensitive to cold temperatures, so storing it in the fridge is not recommended, you should keep the plant at room temperature and make sure you water the plant as well. We are talking about the plant, if you have already taken the leaves, you should wrap them in a paper towel and put them in an airtight container in the fridge.

Basil leaves can last up to two weeks kept in the fridge this way, but you should expect a change in taste and texture after the first few days. This might be one of the reasons basil leaves taste bitter.

If the basil is store-bought, it can have a bitter taste due to the insecticides and other chemicals that were used to make the basil resist better to transportation. Make sure you wash the leaves thoroughly before eating them.

There are also a lot of basil varieties, and some of them may be more bitter than others. The most common one that we know as sweet basil it, should not be bitter but holy basil, for example, is a bit more bitter. It is not as common, but a few people are growing it and using it in cooked food.

Are basil stems bitter?

Basil stems can be bitter, especially if you go far from the leaves and reach the thicker part of the stem. We have an entire article about eating basil stems, check it here.

Usually, we take the leaves out without the stems, but that doesn’t mean that you can not eat the stem, it is not looking as great as the leaves when you put it on your food, and also, the texture can be a bit annoying, but you can eat it. If you want to know more about what you can use the basil stems for, check the article linked above.

Is it safe to eat bitter basil?

Basil with a bitter taste is generally edible, but it depends on why it got bitter. If it is because it starts flowering, it’s still edible, however, the bitter taste is off-putting for most people, but that doesn’t mean that you will get sick from eating it.

If the basil is bitter because it is going bad, it might not be safe to eat it anymore.

How to know if basil is going bad?

It is very important to check if the basil is going bad before eating or buying it. I will give you a few things to check before buying basil to make sure it is not going bad.

-Soft and mushy stems and wilted leaves. The texture of the basil is the most important indicator that it is going bad. The leaves and the stems should be firm and have a healthy look. If the leaves are wilted, that basil will not last for long, and if the stems are mushy is most probably already going bad.

-Brown spots on the leaves. If you see any other color except bright green on the leaves, you should avoid that basil.

-Sour smell. If somehow the basil has a sour smell, it signifies that it has gone bad already.

How to remove the bitterness from basil?

There are a few ways of removing the bitterness from basil, but as I said before, it is really important to make sure that the bitter taste is not from the fact that the basil is going bad.

So if you have basil that has a firm stalk, firm leaves, and a bright green color with a fresh smell, but it still tastes bitter, you can try one or more of the next tips on removing the bitterness from it.

-Wash it very well. I said it before, but this step is the first step to make sure that the basil doesn’t taste bitter. The bitter taste can also be from the dust and dirt from the plant. If it still has a bitter taste after washing it, go to the next tips.

wash basil

-Blanching the basil. Blanching vegetables work well in removing the bitterness out of many vegetables like kalecabbageeggplantginger, and so on. All you have to do is to boil water in a pot, toss your basil leaves for 1 minute or so, take it out, and let it cool.

-Adding some sugar or honey. Adding some sugar or honey to a bowl full of basil leaves should work in removing the bitterness from the basil, but I would not use this as the first option since it changes the taste drastically. It really depends on what you are planning to do with the basil.

-Mixing it in a salad with other ingredients. This works in covering the bitter taste rather than getting rid of it, but it can be an option and is better than throwing away the basil.

-Cooking it. Cooking with basil most of the time will reduce or remove the bitter taste.


We found out that basil can be bitter for many reasons, but flowering is the most popular reason for the basil that tastes bitter.

I hope this article helped you know what to do with basil that tastes bitter and how to make sure you choose one that is not going bad.

Removing the bitterness out of the basil leaves should work if the basil is not bitter because it has gone bad, so I wish you good luck and enjoy your fresh basil.

Sharing is caring!