Cooking with basil leaves can be an advantageous experience because it will give your food the unique taste, texture, and aroma of the basil plant. However, reading through your recipes, you might end up getting confused about how much basil you need to use. After all, what is packed basil? How much is in a cup? Furthermore, what does a pinch or handful of basil mean? Read this information to learn more about how basil leaves are measured in cooking and what these measurements mean.
How Many Basil Leaves in a Cup?
When a recipe calls for one cup of basil leaves, it can be tricky to figure out exactly how much they want you to use. The only way to know for sure is to break up your basil leaves into smaller bits and pack them into a single serving cup. But, of course, that is precisely what the instructions want you to do, so you may need to get out your chopping board and a knife and get to cutting up your basil leaves before you cook.
One way to measure this amount is to weigh out the leaves based on their ounces. Typically, one U.S. cup of basil leaves is about 0.709 or close to three-quarters of an ounce. So how many leaves will you need to reach this amount? Let’s take a look at the average weight of a basil leaf in ounces to get an idea of just how many will likely fill up a cup when you’re preparing a new recipe.
First, we found a chart that claimed that five basil leaves weighed about 0.088 ounces, which means that one basil leave weighs about 0.0176 ounces. When doing the math, that means you’d need about 40 and one-quarter basil chopped basil leaves to fill up a U.S. cup. Is that accurate? That will depend on how tightly you pack the basil and many other factors, including how much you chop the leaves.
For example, some people may not chop their basil leaves that small but simply break them up and push them into a cup. The number of leaves you need will vary quite extensively in this situation. You probably won’t need 40 and one-quarter basil leaves to get the whole cup. After all, cup measurements are about more than weight and have to take the volume of the food that it is measuring into account.
Generally, we’ve found that anywhere between 15-40 basil leaves should fill up a cup. That’s obviously a pretty broad range, so it is vital to make sure that you follow the necessary steps to minimize any confusion. For instance, it might be better to use fewer leaves if you want a milder basil taste for your food and more leaves if you want to produce a very strong basil aroma and flavor.
How Do You Measure Packed Basil Leaves?
We also need to emphasize that recipes that call for packed basil leaves aren’t necessarily supposed to be a specific measurement. Basil leaves are not easy to measure, and recipes understand that fact and try to adjust the demands and specifications of a recipe to take that into account. Typically, measuring packed basil leaves is done by pressing them down into the cup with your hand as much as possible.
As you can imagine, this leaves a pretty wide possibility for the number of leaves you use and how you measure packed basil leaves. Some people may just cram whole leaves into the bottom of a cup and smash them down with their fingers or hands to fit them into the cup. Other people may carefully cut up each of their leaves and layer them in the cup to produce a denser and more accurate measurement.
Just know that when your recipe calls for packed basil leaves, they want you to pack them as densely as you can into a cup. Try to get them denser by either cutting them up, as suggested or crushing them carefully with an appropriate tool. By adequately preparing your meals in this way, you can minimize waste and get the unique feel that you want for your meals.
Also, pay attention to what your recipe calls for when packing your leaves in this way. For example, does it stay to add a specific number of basil leaves or a specific cup? If your recipe asks for 10 basil leaves, you can wash 10 basil leaves and add them to your recipe. But if your meal calls for two cups of packed basil, pack the basil into the bottom of the cup using whatever method you want.
Critically, make sure that you always wash your leaves before using them in any recipe. You may even want to clean them before measuring for your dishes. Washing helps to refresh the leaf if it is starting to dry out before cooking. Clean water also helps to remove any residue that may cling to the leaf and complicate your measurement. Only use cool or lukewarm water when preparing your leaves in this way to minimize any damage.
How Much is a Handful of Basil?
There are many different strange cooking terms that can make recipes confusing. For example, words like jigger, dollop, pinch, fistful, and a handful may show up in not only amateur recipes but professional recipes as well. Surprisingly, these terms do have a reasonably standard meaning, though they might mean different things in a variety of contexts. Let’s take a look at a few of these definitions:
- Jigger – In most recipes, a jigger refers to five and one-third cup measurements. So why wouldn’t the recipe writer just say that instead of a jigger? It’s simply faster to type that word than it is five and one-thirds cup, even if it may be confusing for those who don’t know this term.
- Dollop – A dollop may also be called a heaped tablespoon in some recipes. It consists of one and one-quarter tablespoons. The name heaped tablespoon makes sense in this context. Clearly, it refers to a tablespoon that is just a little bit overfilled beyond the top of the spoon cup.
- Pinch – A pinch is one of the smaller of these strange recipe terms, which makes sense if you think about “pinching” a portion of it between your fingers before adding it to your recipe. You can do that, or you can just measure about one-quarter teaspoon using your cooking spoon set.
- Fistful and Handful – Like with “jigger,” fistful and handful refer to pretty specific measurements that could have easily been typed out. A fistful consists of one-quarter cup of an ingredient, while a handful is about one-half cup. The exact size may vary based on the recipe.
In this context, how much is a handful of basil? Given that it represents one-half cup (and that a full up is between 15-40 leaves, depending on how you pack them), a handful of basil is anywhere between 7-20 leaves or so. So just know that a handful represents a half-cup whenever you cook, and you should be okay.