Basil Pesto Recipe

Pesto is one of my favorite condiments to keep on hand. Try these easy, fun pesto recipe variations to brighten pasta, salads, roasted veggies & more!

Pesto Recipe

One of my favorite things about summer is the bounty of fresh herbs that are just outside my doorstep. Fresh herbs make any meal instantly more flavorful and beautiful. My favorite thing to do with all of those fresh herbs (aside from sprinkle them on everything) is to make pesto! It’s especially great for lazy summertime cooking. I like to dollop it on grilled vegetables, pasta, spaghetti squash, salads, eggs, toasted bread, pizza, sandwiches… you get the idea. With just a few easy steps, it makes anything an instant tasty meal, whether you feel like cooking or not.

Pesto Recipe ingredients

What is pesto, and how do I make it?

Traditional pesto is a blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. With a food processor, it comes together in just a few steps:

  1. Pulse the nuts, lemon juice, and garlic in the food processor until they’re finely chopped.
  2. Add the basil and pulse again.
  3. Next, drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor blade still running.
  4. Finally, add grated Parmesan cheese and process briefly until combined. For vegan pesto, simply skip the cheese.

That’s it! It’s really simple to make, and it’s easy to vary according to the season or your mood. It will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge, though its surface may start turning brown. As a result, it’s best to cover your pesto with a thin layer of plastic wrap or an extra drizzle of oil before sealing your container. This will keep it fresh and green!

Pine nuts in a food processor Fresh basil in a food processor

Pesto Recipe Variations

Once you’ve made the classic basil pesto recipe, try changing it up! You can make delicious variations with all sorts of nuts, seeds, veggies, and leafy greens. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Swap out the pine nuts for any nut of your choice! I particularly like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
  • Make nut-free pesto by using pepitas or hemp seeds.
  • Use a different herb. Try replacing the basil with mint, cilantro, or parsley!
  • Or fewer herbs. Replace half the basil with 1 cup arugula, kale, or chopped zucchini. For a punchier twist, pulse in 4 artichoke hearts, a roasted red pepper, or half an avocado instead of half the basil.
  • Don’t let your veggie stems go to waste. Blanch 1/2 cup kale stems and blend them into pesto in place of half the basil.
  • Punch up the flavor! Add 2 to 4 sun dried tomatoes, a charred jalapeño, nutritional yeast, or a pinch of red pepper flakes.

The possibilities are endless – let me know if you have a favorite variation!

Basil Pesto Recipe Pesto Recipe

I made pesto! Now what do I do with it?

The obvious choice is tossing pesto with pasta, but your options don’t end there. Spoon it over a Caprese salad, top it onto a grain bowl, scoop it onto spaghetti squash or mac and cheese, or incorporate it into this yummy zucchini casserole. We love it on polenta and homemade pizza, too. It’s even great on scrambled eggs! Do you have a favorite way to use pesto? Let me know in the comments!

Basil Pesto

rate this recipe:
4.97 from 236 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves 1 cup
This classic basil pesto recipe is nutty and bright. We love it on pasta, pizza, and more! See the post above for my favorite pesto sauce variations.


  • Food Processor (I swear by my Cuisinart one for a smooth consistency!)


Basic Basil Pesto:


  • In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper and pulse until well chopped.
  • Add the basil and pulse until combined.
  • With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until combined. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and pulse to briefly combine. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.




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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Cindy Vanderzalm

    5 stars
    I just did a taste test between this pesto and another 5 star one I found online…this one wins, hands down! Thank you for this perfectly perfect pesto.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so happy to hear that!

  2. Karen S

    5 stars
    A couple of days into autumn, made what’s probably the last batch for the year. For almost a double recipe, I used a mix of (mostly) basil and Italian parsley leaves, along with some mint that needed to be used. Tripled the garlic. Used both the zest and the juice from one lemon. (First time using lemon in pesto: Nice!) Used a couple of handfuls of pine nuts. And “enough” salt and freshly-ground pepper. (What, measure?! This is cooking, not baking! LOL)

    A hint from a former boss of mine, who was from Northern Italy: If you’re going to freeze the pesto, omit the cheese for a fresher flavor when thawed. Add the cheese when you’re actually adding the pesto to a dish. I really like Asiago; lends a nice nutty flavor.

    I really appreciate that this recipe is lighter on the oil than most. Lets the “green” flavors really shine.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Thanks for the tip about freezing! I’m so glad you enjoyed the pesto.

  3. Margo

    How much basil in this recipe?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      2 cups – the measurements are all in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  4. Dottie Ricketson

    5 stars
    I like pesto and use it for pizza and pasta quite often but i find the store bought ones to have a bite…too much garlic maybe. I was given a large bag of fresh basil and saw this recipe with the lemon and knew it would be good…man was I right! Thank you for another delicious recipe- can’t wait to try it on something other than my tester finger😂

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Kate

    Instead of pine nuts or walnuts, I use cashews. Lemon zest & juice. As I’m making allot I really don’t measure the ingredients out. Once all made up I then adjust seasoning in the last 2 batches.

  6. Sandra Taylor

    Absolutely the best pesto recipe I’ve ever tried!!!

  7. Krista Johnston

    I am really excited to try this recipe–I’ve made pesto for years but think the lemon will really brighten it up! Each summer I grow 6 basil plants to make a giant batch of pesto to freeze. Something that has worked well for me is to line a baking sheet with parchment, spread the pesto on it thin, and then freeze it. Once completely frozen, I break it into shards and put it in freezer bags (or resealable vacuum bags) so I have a variety of different of sizes to select from and it is less work than using an ice tray.

  8. Marysa

    Your recipe sounds so fresh and delicious. I go through a lot of pesto but have never made it on my own. I’ll have to give this a try!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Marysa, homemade pesto is such a game-changer! I hope you love it.

  9. Carolyn

    Hi, Loving this recipe and the coriander and lime sauce. Do you know if either of them will freeze successfully.?? So far I don’t want to risk losing any !!

    Thanks for such lovely easy recipes. Always a hit in this house.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Carolyn, the basil pesto freezes great – I freeze it in ice cube trays so I can thaw individual servings.

  10. Linda

    5 stars
    My family loves basil pesto. This is the second year I have harvested enough basil to make several batches and put it in the freezer. I found ice trays that have the silicone bottom on each cup and when the pesto is frozen this facilitates popping the pesto out and into the containers for later use. Each ice cup is about a tablespoon so it is basically premeasured also.

  11. Tom Barber

    5 stars
    Awesome, flavorful, and simple recipe. It scales really well. I cut ingredients in half for just my wife and me, and she raved about it. Great suggestions on ingredient substitutes. As long as I have fresh basil we will never buy it from the store again. I’ve gotten several great recipes from Love and Lemon and they never fail to satisfy.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Tom, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes and that the pesto was a hit!

  12. Tina

    5 stars
    I love your recipe. I forgot to toast the pine nuts this time, will it still be ok taste wise?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Tina, yes! It should still come out great.

  13. ann

    5 stars
    Just left the local farm and this was just what I had in mind. As I only have a blender, I had to do some scraping down the sides to get it just right. And there is quite a bit left in the container, so I am going to add more OO, white balsamic and make a salad dressing.

  14. ca

    5 stars
    how long will it keep in fridge

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Up to about 5 days.

  15. Pal Ashford

    Making it for pasta. How much does 1 cup serve? 2 people? 4 people?

  16. Stephen

    5 stars
    I made this last night to serve with some fresh pasta. I also made. Wow it was so good. I thought I had put too much lemon juice in (I squeezed a large lemon ), but it was actually perfect once I added it to the pasta. I substituted one cup of spinach for one cup of basil, because my daughter doesn’t like the intensity of basil pesto, and it turned out really well.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  17. Sheri

    Quick question – should the basil leaves be packed when I measure the two cups or loose?

    • KO

      5 stars
      I packed it, turned out great!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.