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 before sealing your container. This will keep it fresh and green!

How to make pesto Basil Pesto Recipe

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 and pistachios.
  • Make nut-free pesto by using pepitas or hemp seeds.
  • Use any herb or leafy green. I like a combination of parsley & cilantro, or use part basil and part arugula. Finely chopped kale leaves are also a great combination with basil!
  • Don’t let your veggie stems go to waste. Blanch kale stems and blend them into pesto with basil leaves or another herb.
  • Punch up the flavor! Add a roasted red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, a charred jalapeño, artichoke hearts, etc.

There 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 stop there. Add it to a quinoa salad or a Caprese salad, top it onto a grain bowl, scoop it onto spaghetti squash or mac and cheese, or incorporate it into this yummy baked zucchini dish.

Basil Pesto

rate this recipe:
5 from 114 votes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Serves 1 cup
A classic basil pesto recipe, plus many more variations to try!

Ingredients

Basic Basil Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for a smoother pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional

Variation: replace the basil with:

  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Spinach

Variation: replace half the basil with:

  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 cup cubed raw zucchini
  • 4 artichoke hearts
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/2 cup kale stems, boil until soft

Variation: replace the pine nuts with:

  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pepitas
  • Hemp Seeds

Variation: for something extra, add:

  • Nutritional yeast, in place of the parmesan
  • Pinches of red pepper flakes
  • 1 charred jalapeño
  • 2 to 4 sun dried tomatoes
  • Splash of honey or maple syrup, if your pesto is too sharp

Instructions

  • In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, 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.

 

 

89 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Jeanne P
    07.06.2021

    5 stars
    This was the best batch of basil pesto I have ever made! I followed the recipe, but added an additional garlic clove & about a tablespoon more parmesan. I tossed ruffles pasta with 2 tablespoons Brummel & Brown & the pesto and added fresh chopped tomatoes from the garden & fried, diced Canadian bacon. It was scrumptious!!

  2. Kivara
    07.01.2021

    5 stars
    Thank you! My son has a dairy allergy, so I use your recipe every time.
    I use cashews in place of the pine nuts, so it has a richer, cheesier flavor. Also, to stretch out the pricey basil, I use half basil and half fresh spinach leaves (the basil is so powerful it tastes like all basil!)

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.02.2021

      I’m glad you loved the pesto!

  3. Erica Welter
    06.21.2021

    Tried this recipe tonight using fresh homegrown basil. I doubled the garlic and substituted roasted almonds for the pine nuts. I stuffed the concoction into chicken breasts, along with white onion and tomatoes, and used the pesto leftovers around the chicken. Baked covered at 425 for 35 minutes. It was phenomenal!! Thank you!

  4. Luke
    06.14.2021

    5 stars
    Delicious! Simply one of the best pesto recipes I have found online. Bright, acidic with just the right nuttiness and balance from the oil. Textute is smooth due to pre-blending nuts and oil together. Mint and lemons juice splash are must haves

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.14.2021

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    • Erica Welter
      06.21.2021

      5 stars
      You posted this on my birthday. 🙂 I’ve never tried pesto with mint, but you make it sound tasty. Which mint did you use?

  5. Nicole
    06.07.2021

    5 stars
    Just made this for dinner. The whole family LOVED it! Will be maiming again and trying the variations!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.08.2021

      I’m so glad everyone loved it!

  6. Sneha
    05.18.2021

    Hey! I really enjoyed reading your recipe. I have a quick question-
    Can we store this sauce for a few day? If so then for how long can we do so?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.18.2021

      you can store it up to about 5 days in the fridge.

  7. Jay Christensen
    04.30.2021

    5 stars
    I just made it, in place of the nuts, I used sunflower seeds, as well as the yeast. Turned out awesome! Thank you for the ideas.

  8. Stacey from StaceyNussbaumArt.com
    09.26.2020

    5 stars
    Best pesto ever. Even my 13 year old agrees. I made it with pistachios so it was super green! And for the greens used 2 parts basil 1 part sweet potato leaves. The proportions are just right so it doesn’t separate in the fridge like our favorite store bought pesto. This is going to be a staple in our house. Thank you for the recipe!!

  9. Amelia
    09.07.2020

    The variations helped me so much! Thank you for that. This was the best pesto I had ever made, and the best thing I have ever cooked.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.12.2020

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  10. Jose Antonio
    09.06.2020

    5 stars
    First time making pesto but definitely this will be my go-to recipe

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.12.2020

      Yay, I’m so happy to hear that!

  11. Lillian Aaron
    09.05.2020

    Can you can these like you do with preserves?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.12.2020

      Hi Lillian, I’m not sure, I don’t have experience canning. But I do like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays, that way I can thaw one portion at a time.

      • Erin
        04.29.2021

        And freezing/thawing doesn’t make it water or produce an unpleasant texture? Because that would revolutionize my pesto game. Also, I believe you would have more success in a pressure canner than a water bath. Hot water canning would like add to much heat and break the ingredients down poorly.

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          04.30.2021

          The texture is fine – it’s slightly less vibrant green than if you make it fresh. If the oil separates as it thaws, just give it a stir.

  12. Allegra Rainbow
    08.30.2020

    5 stars
    Mine turned out great! I most likely used extra cheese and I never know if a recipe calls for packed basil leaves or loose but I had more than enough for packed so that’s what I used. And the parm was freshly grated, so fluffy, and that’s why I used extra. I made a double recipe and froze it in ice cube trays for easy use, it made 15 cubes!!! I also used walnuts because I did not want to go to the store and that’s what I had. Thank you for the recipe! I’m gonna try my best batch with arugala and basil as they will be ready in my garden very soon for a second harvest, yay summer!!!

  13. Katie H.
    08.06.2020

    5 stars
    I used about 1 cup raw, roughly chopped garlic scapes instead of garlic cloves. I substituted toasted walnuts for the pine nuts. I also put in a pinch of red pepper flakes. It was best after being overnight in the fridge. I ate it spread on bread/toast or crackers. It was so good I made two batches. Yum!!! Love the citrus notes. Makes it very bright and summery.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.30.2020

      I’m so glad you loved the pesto! I love the idea of garlic scapes!

  14. Maureen
    07.23.2020

    5 stars
    I just made with pepitas and fresh basil from our yard. it is really good. Satisfying flavor for sure!

  15. Linda
    07.21.2020

    5 stars
    Just made this pesto, very easy to follow, taste great, and love the variation lists for the ingredients.

  16. Karen
    07.19.2020

    5 stars
    Lovely and easy – lemon juice makes it terrific.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.19.2020

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  17. Judy
    10.30.2019

    5 stars
    First freeze of the season coming tonight so in a mad dash to use my Basil before 2 big beautiful plants are gone for good. This Pesto recipe is exactly what I needed. Found it while making your Spaghetti Squash last night! Score!! This is delicious and my husband raved about it! Thanks so much!!

  18. Ali M
    07.19.2019

    My favorite in pesto is roasted cashews — no cheese needed!

  19. ali from livingintolerance.wordpress.com
    08.14.2012

    Awesome recipes! I love a good pesto, and basil and pinenuts taste wicked together! Beautiful blog 🙂

  20. Recently I tried pesto made with almond and capers, it was very good! Your blog is awesome!

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.