How to Chiffonade Basil
What is “Chiffonade” or “Chiffonaded”?
Glad you asked (clearly you didn’t get to this page by accident). To chiffonade is to cut thin strips of a flat leafy vegetable or larger leaf herb. It is a cutting technique that you can use with things like lettuces and — very commonly — basil, and it results in sliver-like curled strips that look very elegant when mixed into or strewn over various dishes. It roughly translates to “in rags,” though it looks a lot classier than that.
How Do You Chiffonade Basil (or other flat leafy things)
1. Stack a few leaves of basil. To chiffonade basil (or anything else) you simple place a few leaves of basil one atop each other stacking them up neatly.
2. Roll up the stacks into a tight cylinder. Then you roll up the little stack of leaves into a tight cylinder—you can roll it up from side to side, or from top to bottom, your choice. Top to bottom will yield longer strips, in the case of basil or any leaf that is taller than it is wide. Side to side will give you shorter skinny strips.
3. Hold the cylinder and use a sharp knife to cut thin slices. Hold the cylinder with your non-cutting and, and use a sharp knife (a dull knife will crush and bruise the basil or lettuce) to cut very thin slices of the cylinder crosswise. It’s a good idea to try and curl your fingers under (on the cylinder holding hand) as you cut to avoid nicking your fingertips, since you are cutting super thin slices and the cylinder will be pretty small.
4. As you slice the cylinder the cut slivers will start to unfurl. When you are done cutting, use your finger to gently pull apart and fluff the little pile of chiffonaded basil.
What is the Difference Between Julienne and Chiffonade?
To julienne vegetable is to cut them into very slender little sticks, like very thin matchsticks. This term is usually used with firmer vegetables, such as carrots, beets or zucchini. To chiffonade is to cut very thin slivers or strips of a leafy vegetable. Occasionally you might see a recipe call for julienned basil, and basically what the recipe writer is looking for is chiffonaded basil.
What are Chiffonade Cut Herbs Used For?
Pretty much anywhere chopped fresh herbs can be used, chiffonaded fresh herbs can be used, unless you really want finely chopped herbs which blend into a dish more. I like to use chiffonaded basil in everything from Tomato Bruschetta to Pasta with Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce to Mediterranean Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers to Salmon Corn Chowder. And I think it looks terrific sprinkled over soups and stews and crostini, and things like Chicken Milanese.
What Herbs and Lettuces Can You Chiffonade?
Basil and mint are the most common herbs that are cut with the chiffonade technique. That’s because they are large and flat, so easy to roll and slice. Smaller herbs are too tough to roll, but you could try it with other herbs like sage. (Sage has a much stronger flavor, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to strew a big pile of chiffonaded sage over a dish. But if you’re incorporating it into a sauce or a stew, that’s an option.) Some lettuces can also be chiffonaded, such as spinach, chard, sorrel, and arugula.
How Far in Advance Can You Chiffonade Basil?
Not very far—it will start to brown and wilt quickly, so it’s best to cut it just before using. Same for delicate lettuces like butter or Boston. Things like chard can be cut this way further ahead of time, especially if they are going to be used in a cooked dish.