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!

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Basil Pesto

rate this recipe:
4.98 from 326 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.




4.98 from 326 votes (228 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Lane Ornelas

    Could I use a blender if I don’t have a food processor?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Lane, yep! This recipe will work in a blender too, though you may need a bit more oil to get it to come together.

  2. Taylor

    5 stars
    Any time I need a sauce recipe, I come to Love & Lemons. No matter what, you have the recipe I need and it’s always perfect!!!

    I did toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts, added salt after it was blended, but I followed everything else to the letter and the pesto came out so perfectly. Nice and bright with a bit of creaminess from the cheese and a little bite from the garlic and olive oil. I’m making pizza with it this week.

    Thank you for another fabulous recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Ha ha, I’m so glad you’ve been loving the sauce recipes!

  3. Candy

    5 stars
    Quick, easy and delicious!

  4. Anna

    5 stars
    This is my go-to pesto recipe, it never fails me! We are garlic lovers, so I usually double the garlic. I always add the parm. Thanks for a great and straight-forward recipe.
    p.s. the full recipe makes 1c almost exactly if you follow the recipe as written. It is very easy to halve.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you’ve been loving it!

  5. kirsten baxter

    I think pesto uses a lot of basil. It says 2 cups. Is that loose or smooshed? I have grown 3 basil plants for this recipe…will it be enough?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Kirsten, 2 packed cups, smooshed just a bit to measure.

  6. Fredda Jennings

    Are you able to can pesto for later use?

  7. baltisraul

    5 stars
    I would be sure not to leave out the Parm. It does complete the sauce. You really nailed this recipe!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you loved it!

  8. Patty

    5 stars
    Delicious! I subbed toasted walnuts for the pine nuts, doubled the garlic and added red pepper flakes. Such an easy recipe!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      So glad you loved it, Patty!

  9. Sonia

    5 stars
    This was my first time making pesto and it was DELICIOUS! I did add 1 more clove of garlic because you can never have too much. Will definitely be making it again!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  10. Vickie

    5 stars
    Fabulous pesto recipe! Thankyou!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Vickie, so glad you loved it!

  11. Donna

    5 stars
    Delicious pesto recipe. I freeze it to use later. Tastes great fresh and later after being frozen.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Donna, so glad you love the recipe!

  12. Jo

    WOW – this is an amazing recipe. TY sooooo much for posting. I’ve tried several others and NOTHING comes close to this one. Yummmmmmers.

    I even substituted the 2 main ingredients because I didn’t have them – basil leaves and pine nuts. Instead I used spinach leaves and cashews. I know it’s not the same… but it was still amazing. TY TY TY

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Jo, so glad you loved it!

  13. Kathy Hall

    5 stars
    Delicious! & simple. Enjoyed substituting arugula, cilantro and kale fresh from local farmers market for 1 cup of basil, walnuts for 1/2 of pine nuts. Love this on salads and veggie sticks!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you loved the pesto! That variation sounds delicious.

  14. William

    For the record, I think this blog is deleting comments they don’t like. I made one recently about this recipe not working, and it is mysteriously gone now. So, I’ll say it again – this recipe is a complete FAILURE!

    • Victoria F

      5 stars
      Unsure what you made but I just made this and it’s delicious and easy.

    • Daisy

      5 stars
      Maybe it reflects all aspects of your life? Easiest recipe, traditional and works!

    • Joan

      5 stars
      I’ve made this recipe multiple times and it comes out perfectly. Maybe try it again

  15. Carri

    5 stars
    My go-to summer staple! Great on salads, pasta, potatoes and roasted veggies. Perfect sandwich spread or grilled salmon topper… you name it!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Carri, I’m so glad you love the pesto!

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.