Why Jacques Pépin Adds Basil To His Summer Fruit Dessert

When it comes to sweets, sometimes the most unexpected flavors are the best. You may have heard of adding espresso powder to chocolate cake, sprinkling salt on cookies, or even the TikTok trend of drizzling olive oil over vanilla ice cream. But have you ever thought of basil as a dessert ingredient? Though the herb is most often used in savory dishes and sauces, it actually pairs well with sweet foods too.

As Epicurious explains, basil adds a unique layer of flavor to fruit-based desserts because it contrasts with the natural sweetness. When combined with lemon, it makes for a delicious glaze for a cake. It also works well in blueberry granitas and strawberry pavlovas, and a little goes a long way in a banana blueberry smoothie.

According to Jacques Pépin, basil is especially tasty in red summer fruit stew. In an episode of his cooking show "Essential Pépin," the celebrity chef shared that in addition to strawberries, plums, grapes, and blueberries, he also uses fresh basil in his recipe.

Summer fruits taste better with basil

From berries to melons, fruits in season during the summer months are enjoyable enough on their own. But if you find yourself eating a fruit salad or any other fruit-heavy dessert, you may notice that it comes with a sprig of mint. As Southern Living shares, mint adds a distinct freshness to fruity dishes. Basil, according to the episode of "Essential Pépin," produces a similar effect while also adding a fragrant, licorice-like flavor.

To add basil to his summer fruit stew, Jacques Pépin uses four fresh sprigs and ties them together into a bundle. He boils the bundle along with the fruits and juices to infuse them with the basil flavor, then discards it after cooking is complete.

If you want to make something other than fruit stew, you can also turn basil into a simple syrup by combining equal amounts of fresh basil leaves, hot water, and sugar. Per Life's Little Sweets, it can be a substitute for maple syrup or honey and can be added to any fruity dessert.