5-Ingredient Basil Citrus Granita Recipe

Move over, ice cream. Step aside, sorbet. This recipe is all about granita, a frozen treat that rivals all others. Originating in Sicily, granita has long been a simple but sweet mixture of sugar, water, and flavoring, frozen in a specific way so as to produce a smooth, slightly icy texture. The granita texture is not unlike sorbet or shaved ice, but instead of being shaved before serving, the granita mixture is agitated as it freezes and served as a smooth scoop.

While we tend to think of frozen sweets as desserts, granita is actually the opposite. Granita is a breakfast food eaten with brioche, which, according to Italy Magazine, is said to have been invented around the same time. If you'd rather not tempt the kids (or yourself) with ice cream before noon, don't worry – granita is still enjoyed as a snack and dessert by many outside of Sicily.

That being said, traditional granita flavors are those that pair well with espresso and pastries, such as almond, chocolate, mulberry, and lemon. This granita recipe shared by developer Michelle McGlinn is a simple variation on a classic Sicilian flavor, combining tart lemon with zesty lime and savory basil. The basil complements the bright flavors, giving the granita a sophisticated taste behind all the sugar. Plus, it pairs perfectly with pancakes –- come on, we know you want to try it.

The 5 ingredients you need for basil citrus granita

Granita is supposed to be easy, and like many Italian dishes, made with as few ingredients as possible. Because of this, be sure to choose high-quality, fresh ingredients. Basil, for example, should be bright green, large, and fragrant. We like Genovese for this, but you can also use sweet or even lemon basil for a slightly different flavor. From there, you'll need about two limes and one lemon; grab extra if your citrus looks a little small. The last two ingredients are just water and granulated sugar, which may already be in your kitchen. Who doesn't love a short grocery list?

Make the simple syrup

To begin granita, you'll just need a simple syrup. This is much better homemade, where you can control the sugar content. Plus, it only takes a few seconds to make. Bring the water to a boil and drop in the sugar, then stir until dissolved. Once dissolved, remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool completely. The syrup saves for a month in the refrigerator, so you plan to make granitas all summer long, consider making an extra large batch.

Combine the citrus, basil, and simple syrup

Once the syrup is cooled, strain the lemon and lime juices into the mixture. Straining through a fine strainer prevents pulp and seeds from mixing into the granita. Once the citrus is mixed into the syrup, add the chopped basil and stir. Pour the mixture into a shallow, freezable container, such as a sheet tray, a plastic Tupperware, or a glass Pyrex. 

Freeze the granita

Once your granita mixture is combined, seal the container either with a lid or plastic wrap, then store flat in the freezer.

Granita is supposed to be agitated as it freezes to prevent large ice crystals from forming. The best granita will be very smooth and look almost like ice cream, but with a more crystalline texture. To do this, freeze until the granita begins to solidify, then scrape the sides towards the middle of the container. Depending on your freezer, this will be 30 minutes to an hour into the process. Continue to scrape the slush every 30 minutes or so until the granita is firm, about 3-6 hours.

After the initial few scrapes, you can go ahead and let the granita freeze overnight.

Serving granita

Once the granita is solid enough to serve, fluff the entire mixture with a fork, working it into a light and icy texture. To serve, scoop the granita with a spoon and serve in sundae bowls, glass cups, or even coupe glasses. While granita is always eaten –- never drank –- it's common to serve in cocktail glasses for a pretty presentation.

Garnish the granita with citrus rinds, wheels, and a few sprigs of basil and serve immediately; when we say immediately, we mean it. Granita melts quickly, turning first into slush and then into liquid in a matter of minutes. Enjoy the granita right away and serve with other light, summery desserts like melons, pound cake, and panna cotta. Or, if you love the idea of granita for breakfast after all, find yourself some brioche and an espresso and dig in.

5-Ingredient Basil Citrus Granita Recipe
5 from 32 ratings
Originating in Sicily, granita has long been a simple mixture of sugar, water, and flavoring, frozen in a specific way to produce a smooth, icy texture.
Prep Time
Cook Time
granita with lemon wheel garnish
Total time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped basil
  1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved, then remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Strain the lemon and lime juices into the simple syrup and stir to combine.
  4. Add the basil and stir to disperse evenly.
  5. Transfer mixture to a glass container or shallow metal pan and cover.
  6. Freeze for 3-6 hours, scraping the mixture every 30 minutes, until solidified.
  7. Once solid, fluff with a fork, beginning at the edges of the container and working inwards. Serve immediately or store in the freezer for 1 week.
Calories per Serving 139
Total Fat 0.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 36.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g
Total Sugars 34.1 g
Sodium 3.3 mg
Protein 0.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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