The Best Way to Slice Basil

published Jun 15, 2023
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wide shot of labeled tools (blade roller, scissors, steel mezzaluna, herb scissors, and a knife) scattered around frame with basil on a marble surface
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Brett Regot

With tender leaves and a sweet, herbaceous flavor, basil is one of my favorite herbs to cook with. It’s delicious in everything from tomato bruschetta to cocktails, and can elevate even the simplest of dishes.

But how do you achieve the perfectly sliced bright-green garnish so often found atop lasagna and margherita pizzas? Turns out there are quite a few options. I tried out some classic methods and a couple of newfangled gadgets, to varying degrees of success.

So, What Is the Best Way to Slice Basil?

If you’ve got a trusty chef’s knife, I’ve got good news for you: Stacking and rolling your basil leaves and slicing them using a sharp chef’s knife is the best way to chop basil and get a great chiffonade. Although some of the methods I tried had their advantages, the chef’s knife is the easiest method that likely requires no additional purchase and is the easiest to clean.

Want all the details? Read on to see how all the methods I tried stacked up.

A Few Notes on Methodology

The goal was to find the quickest, prettiest, most low-effort way to chop basil. Here’s how I made sure the test was fair. 

The tests: I used the same amount of basil (6 leaves) and the same brand of basil for every test.

Criteria: I rated each method out of 10 (10 being the best) on the criteria of practicality, price of special equipment, ease, and time. I also took into account the appearance of the final product: Was it fresh-looking or bruised and inconsistent? 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Basil Slicing Method: Stacked, Rolled, and Chopped with 5-Blade Herb Shears

  • Rating: 0/10

As you can probably assume from my rating, that poor basil never stood a chance against the 5-blade herb shears. Although the shears were sharp and had no issue cutting through my rolled-up leaves, the slices immediately got caught between the blades and only a few pieces fell through to the cutting board below. I had to carefully tap and push as much of the basil as I could from the grips of the shears, and even then I only recovered about 2/3 of the basil before rinsing the rest out into my sink. What remained was a small pile of thin, bruised slices of basil that looked like they were halfway to becoming pesto already.

My guess is that basil is too delicate and easily bruisable to be cut with these shears. Perky fresh scallions, chives, and parsley are probably better bets for this particular tool. Even so, $7 seems a bit steep for a tool that only does one thing, will take up a bit of space in your kitchen, and is quite difficult to clean. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Basil Slicing Method Stacked and Chopped with a Rolling Herb Mincer 

  • Rating: 2/10

This cute herb mincer reminds me a lot of a light-up Pokémon yo-yo I had when I was a kid, but sadly it’s not nearly as fun. With four retractable blades and a sleek round body, it feels high-tech and useful, but sadly its stylish design does not translate into practicality. Although it did produce equally sized slices of basil, it required a bit of pressure to cut through 6 leaves, so it’s not a great choice if you need to chop a lot of herbs. Lining the mincer up with the cut edge of the basil to produce consistent slices each time was a little time-consuming, as was re-cutting bits that weren’t sliced all the way through initially. 

Although it technically delivered on what it promised (except for being easy to clean!) it landed this low on the list because of its $20 price tag. In my opinion, no unitasker should be over $10, and this one’s not worth finding space in your junk drawer for.

Although its blades were very sharp out of the box, they won’t be that sharp forever and seem virtually impossible to sharpen. I do think it could come in handy for cutting pie dough into perfect slices for a lattice, though.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Basil Slicing Method: Stacked and Chopped with a Mezzaluna

  • Rating: 4/10

The sharp blade of this mezzaluna sliced through my basil like butter, creating crisp cut edges with very little bruising. Due to the rocking movement required to use this tool, it’s not easy to get consistently shaped/sized pieces of basil, so if it’s a perfect chiffonade you’re looking for, this is not the tool for you.

Although the mezzaluna works well enough, it does take some practice to use effectively. This, along with the cost and its size (not the easiest for storing) landed it squarely in 3rd place. If you find yourself roughly chopping large amounts of herbs frequently, it may be worth investing in a mezzaluna. Otherwise, I don’t think it would earn its drawer space.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Basil Slicing Method: Stacked, Rolled, and Chopped with Kitchen Shears

  • Rating: 8/10

Just as speedy as our winning method, kitchen shears surprised me with their efficiency. I liked the amount of control I had when it came to the width and consistency of my basil strips. This method is ideal if you’d like to add sliced basil directly onto a dish before serving, like on top of a pizza or a caprese salad.

I had two somewhat minor issues with this method. First, I found the blades of my shears to bruise the edges of the basil more than my kitchen knife did, even though they were very sharp. Second, there’s a much higher chance you’ll already have your chef’s knife out, so what’s the point of using another tool you’ll ultimately have to wash? I say if you’ve got a sharp chef’s knife already out and in use, there’s no reason to break out the shears too.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Basil Slicing Method: Stacked, Rolled, and Chopped with a Chef’s Knife

  • Rating: 10/10

Luckily you likely already have all the tools you need for this method. All it takes is a sharp chef’s knife and a good cutting board to quickly slice basil into perfect strips. If you’re not confident with your knife skills this could take some practice, but because it’s an essential knife cut, it’s definitely worth mastering.

I found these basil pieces to be the least bruised of any technique (although the mezzaluna was a close second), and that using the knife worked just as quickly as the kitchen shears. The best part? I didn’t have to purchase anything additional, and it’s easy to clean up after. That’s a win-win in my book!