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Tutorial: Layered Basil Tomato Soap Recipe (Using Food in Soap)

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two hands lathering a bar of basil tomato soap

This tutorial is brought to you courtesy of Leanna Blacher.

There is nothing more exciting than going to a farmer's market in summertime. So many amazing fruits and vegetables are available and at their peak! I live in Florida, and can pretty much get most things all year, but fruits and vegetables taste the best and cost the least during their real season.

And there isn't much better than a ripe tomato in summer! Pair it with some fresh basil and mozzarella and you have the best summer treat.... mhhhmm!

Wait, this is a soap tutorial! So let's leave out the mozzarella and make a beautiful soap with tomato and basil. We'll be making our own tomato water and basil infused oils to incorporate fresh ingredients into our layered basil and tomato soap! Perfect for a kitchen sink or use it in your shower or bath!

I do not use natural colorants exclusively, and my soaps tend to be very swirly and experimental most of the time. However, today, I want to let the ingredients shine! This is a very clean-looking soap using only natural colorants and essential oils, alongside fresh and beautiful ingredients.

Preparing the Ingredients

Before we can use fresh ingredients in our soap, we need to prepare them! Here's what you'll need to make our two fresh homemade ingredients: basil infused olive oil and fresh tomato water.

Ingredients Used

  • 4 pounds of Ripe Tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Kosher Salt
  • 3 cups of Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1 cup of Olive Oil

Other Tools Used

  • cutting board
  • knife
  • colander
  • fine mesh strainer
  • cheese cloth or nut milk bag
  • saute pan
  • blender

Making the Tomato Water

PREP THE TOMATOES: Roughly chop all the tomatoes.

Place the chopped tomatoes into a colander lined with cheesecloth or any undyed cotton fabric. Place the colander into a large bowl or pot. I buy yards of unbleached 100% cotton fabric at my local fabric store and cut to size.

 Chop the tomatoes up into pieces: don't worry about cutting out the stems, just a rough chop is perfect here!

 A colander, placed inside of a pot, with a piece of cloth over the colander.

SALT THE TOMATOES: Place the tomatoes in the cheesecloth covered colander, and sprinkle with 1½ to 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Mix them together until all the tomatoes are evenly coated with salt.

 Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes, and evenly mix until the tomatoes have salt all over.

PUT THE TOMATOES TO SLEEP: Secure the fabric around the tomatoes and refrigerate overnight.

 Secure the cheesecloth around the tomato salt mixture. I used a chip clip to close up the cloth, but you can use string or an elastic to close it up.

STRAIN: Remove tomato pieces and discard or use in cooking. (We compost scraps at my house!)

 The color of tomato water is amazing: nice pale yellow/orange and crystal clear!

FREEZE: Pour the tomato water into ice cube trays and freeze it. (You should get about 2 cups of liquid from the 4 pounds of tomatoes.)

 Pour the tomato water into an ice cube tray to freeze it. This step is optional, but I highly recommend it so the lye doesn't scorch the juice.

Now that you've created your own tomato water, we'll be using it as a water replacement in the tomato soap portion of the layered basil and tomato soap recipe.

Making the Basil Oil

PUREE: Collect approximately 3 cups of basil leaves. Add 1 cup of olive oil to blender. Place basil leaves on top of olive oil and blend until smoooth.

 Place the basil and olive oil in a blender. You can always make more basil infused oil to use in cooking, it tastes and smells amazing!

SIMMER: Pour the basil and oil puree into a saute pan on low heat and bring to a simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not boil. Immediately, remove from the heat.

 Simmer the basil and olive oil puree.

STRAIN: Strain the basil oil puree through fine mesh strainer and then pour it into a glass jar. Discard the basil pulp or use it in cooking. Store the basil oil in your refrigerator until you are ready to use it (up to one week).

 Straining the infused basil oil! It is such a beautiful green color. Straining out the basil puree is important, as it will turn brown in your soap.

Now that you've created your own basil oil, we'll be using it as part of our oils in the basil soap portion of the layered basil and tomato soap recipe.

Making the Layered Basil Tomato Soap Recipe

This basil tomato soap recipe is sized for a 11.25" Essential Depot silicone mold. You can resize it using a lye calculator for whichever mold works for you

(If you aren’t sure how much soap your mold holds, you can find out with this guide to resizing your soap recipes to fit your mold.)

Soap Recipe Used

I divided the basil tomato soap recipe in half, so I could make the tomato soap and the basil soap separately. The basil infused olive oil is used in the basil soap portion, and the tomato water is used in the tomato soap portion.

Total Soap Recipe Oil Amounts

  • 16.8 ounces of Coconut Oil (35% of the oils)
  • 14.4 ounces of Olive Oil (Divided into 7.2 ounces olive oil, 7.2 ounces basil infused olive oil) (30% of the oils)
  • 4.8 ounces of Avocado Oil (10% of the oils)
  • 4.8 ounces of Shea Butter (10% of the oils)
  • 4.8 ounces of Rice Bran Oil (10% of the oils)
  • 2.4 ounces of Castor Oil (5% of the oils)
  • 6.5 ounces of Sodium Hydroxide (10% superfat)
  • 9.8 ounces of Liquid (Divided into 4.9 ounces tomato water, 4.9 ounces filtered rainwater)* (40% lye solution)**

Feel free to replace with Distilled Water.

** I know that this is a steep water discount. I like to do this so that my soaps harden quickly and cure quickly. Please feel free to adjust this recipe for more water: a 33% solution would use 13.2 ounces of water total.

I buy most of my soaping oils from Soaper's Choice and Wholesale Supplies Plus

Essential Oil Used

  • 9 grams of Basil Essential Oil - Used in basil soap half

At a usage rate of 0.5 ounces per pound of oils, I could use 1.5 ounces (43 grams) of essential oil. However, I am using basil essential oil, which has a very strong scent and should be used in a smaller ratio. I chose to use 0.3 ounces (9 grams) for the basil half of the soap and left the tomato half of the soap unscented. This article has more information about essential oil usage rates in soapmaking.

I buy most essential oils from New Directions or Mad Oils.

Colorants and Additives Used

  • 2 teaspoons of Red Kaolin Clay (Wholesale Supplies Plus) - Used in tomato soap half
  • 2 teaspoons of Australian Red Clay (Micas and More Co-Op) - Used in tomato soap half
  • 1 tablespoon of Tomato Powder (Wholesale Supplies Plus) - Used in tomato soap half
  • 1 tablespoon of French Green Clay (Micas and More Co-Op) - Used in basil soap half
  • 1 tablespoon of Spirulina Powder (Micas and More Co-Op) - Used in basil soap half
  • 4 teaspoons of Sodium Lactate (Soaper's Choice)*** - Split in half between both portions
  • 1.5 ounces of Aloe Vera Juice (can be purchased at any pharmacy)*** - Split in half between both portions
  • 3 tablespoons of Buttermilk Powder (can be purchased at any grocery store)*** - Split in half between both portions

*** Optional ingredients

Divide the entire recipe in half, and prepare your oils, lye solution, and additives for each half of the recipe.

 The additives split for the layered tomato basil soap recipe: basil soap additives on top, tomato soap additives on bottom.

TOMATO SOAP: Let's start with the tomato soap half! Slowly pour your lye over the frozen tomato water ice cubes (or tomato water, if you didn't freeze it!) and stir.

Pour your lye solution into the oils, add your additives (red clay, tomato powder, buttermilk power, sodium lactate, and aloe vera), and stick blend to a medium trace.

Once at a medium trace, pour your tomato soap into the mold.

 Pour the tomato soap slowly and carefully to avoid air bubbles!

ADD A PENCIL LINE: Sprinkle red clay over your tomato soap layer.

When I added it, the soap seemed to absorb it and it disappeared. I was sure it wouldn't show up in the final soap, but it did!

 I am amazed that the pencil line showed up after absorbing into the red tomato soap layer.

BASIL SOAP: Now, we'll make the basil soap half for the top layer. I used filtered rainwater in my lye solution, but you can also use distilled water or any other liquid.

Pour your lye solution into the oils, add your additives (french green clay, spirulina powder, buttermilk power, sodium lactate, and aloe vera) and basil essential oil. Stick blend to a medium trace.

At medium trace, carefully pour the green soap on top of the red soap by pouring it over a spatula and letting it gently fall onto the red soap. If your tomato soap is set up, you may not need to use a spatula to flood fill the basil soap layer.

 Pour the basil soap layer very carefully so you don't disturb the layer underneath.

DRESS IT UP: I thought that the top of the layered basil tomato soap looked a bit plain, so I decided to add a little decoration. Mix together about a tablespoon of sweet almond oil with about a teaspoon of spirulina powder.

Drizzle the spirulina oil mixture over the top of the soap, and swirl it with a skewer. I told you - I love my swirls!

 Drizzle the spirulina oil onto the top and swirl with a small skewer.

Cover your mold with plastic wrap and wrap it in a blanket overnight to fully gel. Cut, cure, and enjoy!

A note about the colors: the green from the basil oil will eventually fade, as will the red/orange color from the tomato water. This is why I chose to add the clays! The spirulina will also fade over time to a very pale green, but the french green clay should offset that as well.

An exciting discovery I made after cutting was that the tomato part of the soap smells almost like honey. I love the combination of the basil scent with the sweet scent!

 This basil tomato soap recipe has big ole bubbles!

The layered basil and tomato soap recipe featured in this tutorial is palm free, and can easily be a vegan recipe by removing or replacing the buttermilk powder. It uses a 10% superfat and a 40% lye solution. Feel free to adjust as necessary!

I really enjoy using food in soap, especially when it's seasonal! Let me know in the comments below if there is a food item or liquid you'd like to see in my next Using Food in Soap tutorial!

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