Adding basil to tomato sauce for canning

Seems to be fairly common knowledge that fresh basil will either lose its flavor or become bitter if overcooked.

I am trying to make a very basic tomato sauce, without much seasoning, (so we can season when we use it). Since fresh basil is not in season all year, I’d like to at least have the fresh basil flavor.

What if I throw a couple fresh basil leaves in each jar right before/when I fill, before I drop them into the canner (water bath or pressure canner)?

Will be amount of time the basil is in hot sauce during the canning process still be enough to turn it bitter or flavorless?

Or am I better off just breaking down and using dried basil at the time of preparation?


Basil retains its flavor (but loses its color) if you freeze it. I would just freeze a big freezer bag of it and take out as needed. Dried basil is worthless imo.


What Kevin (@GeorgiaGent) said.

1 Like

Do you need to freeze it in ice cubes? That’s a method I’ve seen.

I cook my sauce with the basil, let it cool and freeze the sauce without any flavor lose. I’d think canning is the same.

In regards to freezing, I personally rinse it (just a quick dirt and or small bug removal), let it drip dry for a few minutes and then manually dry it off the best I can with a couple papers before stuffing a bunch into freezer bags. I’ve never had an issue with this process, not to say there isn’t a “better way”.


1 Like


Random thought…I wonder if Blanching would help it retain its color much like beans or peas etc. I’d have to experiment. Since it is so thin, a 15-30s dip might be enough. :thinking:

Hmm, I just use it when I make my sauce and the sauce tastes great. I haven’t noticed bitter flavors. I would think if you want true fresh basil flavor, then the only option is to garnish with it.

@BG1977 @GeorgiaGent @marknmt
@AngelOreo @cis4elk
I am going to try putting basil in quart jar with olive oil and salt, then refrigerate for a month or two, waiting for tomatoes.
Every year when my tomatoes are ready to can the basil starts developing a fungus unless I trim it way back. So this is my way of preserving it till the tomatoes come in full force.
Seems this approach is tried and true based on several independent online results. Where I am slightly different is that I’m jamming the basil pretty tight and then mixing olive oil in and topping it off with about a half inch olive oil.
I’m also going to do what others have suggested put fresh basil in freezer bags and freeze it till I need it.
Anyone else try the jar with olive oil and basil?

1 Like

I’m going to throw up an alarm here: your basil/oil mixture could be creating an anaerobic, low acid, salt-free environment, which makes me think of botulism.

I’m not saying it is necessarily dangerous, but I would make sure I knew for sure before doing it!


Make basil pesto…

In your blender lots of fresh basil, some olive oil, and a few cloves of garlic.

Enough olive oil to make it pourable once blended… and once blended pour it into ice tray cubes… and freeze.

Pop them out once frozen and you can store in a freezer bag in the freezer… When you make soup, or sauce, or whatever… you want to add fresh basil flavor too, just toss in a cube or two.

This is of course instead of including it with your canned sauce. Can your sauce without basil… but when you do use your sauce, toss in the basil cubes.

PS… I make some big batches of roasted creamy tomato basil soup… and freeze that in wide mouth pint jars. During the roasting process, I roast the tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic with some olive oil… when done, put all of that in a big pot on the stove and heat, and blend with immersion blender… and add heavy whipping cream and fresh basil then… once it taste just right I pour into wide mouth pint jars, and freeze.

When I thaw them out and eat months later… that basil flavor is still there.



I have found adding basil in my tomato sauce when canning is ineffective. The sauce has zero basil flavor. I would recommend you add it after opening the canned jar, when prepping your meal.


@TNHunter @AngelOreo
thanks for input.
I have to agree the times I’ve added basil before canning I didn’t notice any more basil flavor.
So I will add when I’m ready to eat the sauce, either by freezing basil or making the pesto.
What about parsley?
I currently add the parsley pre-canning and it seems to hold some of its flavor. Would you recommend doing the same method as the basil?

This has nothing to do with canning. But, to match my basil with my tomatoes ripening time I hold off on seeding my basil until mid June. That way, when tomatoes start coming in I have premium young beautiful basil to match my tomatoes. Of course you are a zone ahead of my so the timing will be different but you get the idea.
Do you dry any basil? That’s another option. Our house smells fabulous when there is bundles of basil hanging all around. Someday I will do the pesto cubes also, there’s just not enough time in a day!


I have never made parsley pesto… but there are recipies out there… see the food network one link above.

It has other ingredients… like walnuts… but I am sure you could make it with just parsley and olive oil.


1 Like

@TNHunter @AndySmith
progress pics
messy, but ready to put ice cube tray in freezer.
I hope each cube will pop out of tray.
Used just 1/2 cup olive oil and salt.


That olive oil… they will pop out easily.

Looking good.

1 Like

Looks great !

1 Like


My plan this year was to do just as you suggest…except my timing off by about 1 month. I planted May 26, so I should also wait till mid June.
Never tried drying, I will though.
What’s your method?
Oven, dryer, sun?

If I’m not making sauce right away, I gently rinse it with really cold water dry it very, very well, and get it in the freezer. I try to do this all within 20m from picking to freezer. Seems to work OK. The basil doesn’t retain the bright green color and it gets soft when thawed, but when cooking it, it does not seem to have any negative effect.

Another angle is just to keep some basil growing in a southern window. They are very easy plants to manage and in some pro-mix type medium with some 90 day Osmocote kept up to date, the plants remain vigorous indefinitely as long as you remove flowers.

I’ve stopped drying basil since I started keeping plants inside and even a small pot will produce enough even for an occasional pesto sauce.

1 Like