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!

Get This Recipe In Your Inbox
Share your email, and we'll send it straight to your inbox. Plus, enjoy daily doses of recipe inspiration as a bonus!

Basil Pesto

rate this recipe:
4.97 from 298 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.




Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Phinehas Haluse

    Can I use any other cheese like Gouda or cheddar cheese in my pesto In substitute for permasan cheese

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi, I would use Pecorino cheese or skip the cheese, but I wouldn’t use gouda or cheddar.

  2. Phyllis

    5 stars
    Best basic basil pesto recipe I’ve tried.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Sara

    5 stars
    This is so delicious!
    I thought one garlic clove would not be enough for me, but it’s plenty garlicy!
    I had frozen spinach that I needed to use, and my store doesn’t carry lots of basil, so I replaced the basil with the thawed spinach, and it was so yummy, and I’m very picky about my pesto. And I eyeballed all the measurements.
    Highly recommend, thanks for the recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Sara, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Vijina Whett

    Thanks for the recipe, just the basics and with clear quantities. Pesto is delicious, but the stuff you buy is usually made cheaply out of nuts that aren’t pine nuts (e.g. cashews), sometimes they will even skimp on basil and add or even replace with spinach. Yuk, commercial food made the cheapest, nastiest way. Pesto is so simple to make, it’s not worth buying the trash!

    • Vijina Whett

      Just a note on alternate recipes: most use far less pinenuts (as in a quarter of the 1/2 cup here), the pinenuts are not normally toasted (just an extra, unnecessary step), and a bit less garlic (which can get overpowering and make it a bit bitter when over-used, as great as it is).
      These are all just differences of a delicious dish, but using less pinenuts is the more standard Italian way. All work well though!

  5. James

    What does a packed cup of basil mean? Loosely or tightly packed?


    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi James, it means somewhat tightly packed (not loose packed).

  6. Sharon Bumpers

    5 stars
    I added at least a half a cup of olive oil. Delicious! I’m going to freeze some so I will have it on hand. I used toasted. Walnuts as pinenuts are extremely expensive.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Sharon, so glad you enjoyed the pesto!

  7. Gina

    5 stars
    Oh my goodness! This is divine! I did use decadent pine nuts as when I used macadamia nuts with another recipe it wasn’t great.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Gina, I’m so glad you loved the pesto!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Ann, so glad you loved it!

  8. Matthew

    This looks great! I’ll start adding this to my chilled, whole grain penne as part of my lunch each day. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Megan

    This recipe is simple & delicious, I have already made it several times in the past few weeks since finding it. I have used other types of nuts (hazelnuts, cashews) and the pesto still turned out great! I only added about half of the olive oil from the recipe too.

  10. Ben.

    5 stars
    This sauce was delicious! The only change was that I added a bit more olive oil. Much better than the pre-made stuff! This will now be in regular rotation in my household.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

      • Ainsley

        I use half lurpak butter, half olive oil. Lasts for weeks and can be used on pesto bread.s, pizza bases, everything!! Delicious!

  11. Patrick

    I made this and it’s wonderful but I have a couple questions for clarification. 1) When I pulsed the pine nuts and other items it became more of a paste is that right? And 2) when you say 2 cups basil is that 2 cups weighed or two measuring cups full? I did the measuring cups and was great but I felt like it could use a bit more basil so I’m curious. All in all a fantastic recipe!!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Patrick, when you pulse the nuts, I stop before they become a paste, just so they’re well chopped up. We use 2 packed measuring cups, which can be awkward to try to measure, so if you feel like you’d like more basil, go for it! I’m so glad you enjoyed.

  12. Marissa

    Hi! Might be a silly question but do I toast the pine nuts myself or do they usually come already toasted? Thank you!

    • Vicki

      The recipe actually says “toasted pine nuts”

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Marissa, I toast them lightly in a skillet before adding (or sometimes I just skip toasting altogether).

  13. Blaque

    4 stars
    This recipe was a helpful guide for me. I made this vegan using the “Follow your heart” brand vegan parm. I used garlic-infused olive oil and had to add a bit more than what the recipe stated to make it smoother. You can also use minced garlic in a jar to save time. It’s fantastic and great in Kale salads.

  14. Stephanie

    How long does it keep when refrigerated?

    • Vijina Whett

      Not long: perhaps a week – it will go brown as it oxidises and gets bitter, although the lemon juice in the recipe helps. Note: you can freeze successfully for months it e.g. in an icecube tray for single serves!

  15. Amy

    5 stars
    So yummy!!!!
    Definitely recommend this recipe!!
    I added a dash of water just to smooth it out but that’s just my personal preference, but still tastes yummy!!! 🙌

  16. Cindy Beharry

    5 stars
    Made this several times. Super delicious and easy.
    Thank you for sharing!

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.