an overhead shot of thinly sliced strips of basil in a small white bowl

how to: chiffonade basil and other leafy greens

an overhead shot of a cheese pizza topped with chiffonade basil

Learning how to chiffonade basil and other leafy greens is one of those super simple techniques that can make even the most beginner-y of beginner home cooks feel like a chef. Chiffonade is a French cooking term that literally translates to “little ribbons” or “made of rags.” In the kitchen it refers to a technique used to thinly slice delicate leafy greens into thin ribbons for garnishing, mixing into dishes, or even when making salads.

an overhead shot of thinly sliced strips of basil in a small white bowl

Chiffonade might be a French word, but learning how to chiffonade basil is a skill that comes in clutch whether you’re making a Thai dish like pad krapow gai (which calls for a full cup of thinly sliced basil leaves) or just trying to add some freshness to a frozen pizza or dress up a scrambled egg. Those delicate ribbons of green basil sprinkled over even the most basic dish is enough to make it feel like something you could get in a restaurant.

(Oh and just a fun note for any grammar nerds out there, chiffonade is both a noun and a verb. Thinly sliced basil is a chiffonade and you can chiffonade basil. It might sound a bit clunky to conjugate, but you would be entirely correct to say “chiffonaded,” “chiffonading,” or “chiffonades” when referring to this technique.)

a close up of the surface of a plain cheese pizza garnished with thinly sliced basil

how to chiffonade basil

To chiffonade basil, first pluck all the leaves off the stem. Then, stack the leaves inside each other, with the largest leaf on the outside. Next, roll the leaves up into a log. Finally, slice the log into thin little strips. Then, the big reveal: unfurl the rolled up leaves into long thin ribbons.

Ready? Let’s do this.

1
Remove basil leaves from the stems.
2
Layer smaller leaves inside the biggest leaf.
3
Roll the stack of leaves up into a log.
4
Slice!
5
Unfurl your perfectly sliced thin ribbons of basil!
6
Garnish away!
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tips for the perfect chiffonade

  • Wait until the last possible moment to chiffonade the more delicate greens. Basil oxidizes quickly when the cut sides are exposed to air. If you chiffonade your basil too far in advance it will have turned a deep dark green — almost black — by the time you’re ready to use it.
  • Basil bruises easily. Be gentle but firm once you’ve rolled it up into a log. Try not to pinch it or smush it against your cutting board. Use a super sharp knife to slice through the log in quick, decisive strokes to minimize bruising the leaves as you make your cuts.
  • Other herbs and leafy greens that are ideal to chiffonade: large leaf lettuce, collard greens, kale, sage, and spinach. And that’s just to name a few!
  • Basil is extremely easy to grow at home. It grows quickly and its roots don’t take up a ton of space. Many grocery stores sell small potted basil plants in the produce section, or you can grow it from seeds in a hydroponic or windowsill garden at home. I always have fresh basil growing at home because it’s so nice to be able to pull just 2-3 leaves off the plant to chiffonade to garnish a dish or add to scrambled eggs. And of course, the fresher the basil, the brighter and fresher your chiffonade will be.

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how to chiffonade basil

Chiffonade is a French cooking term that literally translates to "little ribbons" or "made of rags." In the kitchen it refers to a technique used to thinly slice delicate leafy greens into thin ribbons. This simple technique will make a perfect chiffonade easy for even the most beginner-y of beginner home cooks.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time5 mins
Cuisine: French
Keyword: basil
Author: The Practical Kitchen

Equipment

  • sharp knife

Materials

  • fresh basil (or other leafy greens)

Instructions

  • Wash and dry your greens, then remove the leaves from the stems.
  • Take the biggest leaf and layer smaller leaves inside of it. Try not to do more than 5-7 leaves at a time.
  • Roll the stack of leaves up into a log. Gently press the seam of the log against your cutting board.
  • Use a very sharp knife to slice the log into thin slivers. Unfurl the leaves to reveal the thin strips of chiffonaded leaves.

Video

Notes

  • Wait until the last possible moment to chiffonade the more delicate greens. Basil oxidizes quickly when the cut sides are exposed to air. If you chiffonade your basil too far in advance it will have turned a deep dark green — almost black — by the time you’re ready to use it.
  • Basil bruises easily. Be gentle but firm once you’ve rolled it up into a log. Try not to pinch it or smush it against your cutting board. Use a super sharp knife to slice through the log in quick, decisive strokes to minimize bruising the leaves as you make your cuts.

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