Basil Pesto

Easy to make basil pesto which is better than anything you will purchase in a jar! Can’t beat that homemade freshness!

I love basil! I mean LOVE it! It shows up in so many of our dishes and adds so much flavour! While we love to use it dried or fresh, in the summer, when fresh basil is in abundance (thanks to multiple basil plants in our herb garden), it gets used A LOT!

One of my favourite ways to use fresh basil is to turn it into pesto. It is so easy to make and full of such delicious, herby flavour. It’s perfect on pasta and on sandwiches or basically anywhere else we can think of to put it!

While you can purchase basil pre-made in a jar, you really can’t beat the fresh stuff! And when you realize just how easy it is to make, you won’t resort to jarred pesto again!

basil pesto in a bowl

How to make Basil Pesto at home

Making fresh pesto is super simple to do with the help of a food processor. To make it, I use:

  • 4 cups basil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub walnuts if you don’t have pine nuts on hand)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove (optional- it adds great flavour but I’ve developed a food sensitivity to it and can’t use it anymore. The basil is still delicious without it, so feel free to leave it out)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In the food processor, you add basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, salt and lemon juice. Pulse it until it resembles a coarse meal. With the processor running, slowly begin to drizzle in olive oil until it is incorporated and the pesto is wonderfully creamy. That’s it!

steps for making basil pesto in a food processor

What can you use instead of pine nuts in pesto?

Pine nuts can be expensive and aren’t as readily available as other nuts, so if you can’t get your hands on it, fear not. You can swap in walnuts instead. Other options include sunflower seeds, pistachios or almonds.

If you can’t eat nuts or seeds at all, you can just skip out on them altogether.

basil pesto in a bowl topped with fresh basil

Can you make pesto vegan?

Since traditional pesto has cheese in it, it isn’t vegan but you can easily turn it into a vegan pesto by omitting the cheese.

One option is to just leave out the parmesan cheese in the recipe and follow the rest of the directions as listed. Another option is to replace the parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast. Use a little (a tablespoon) to start and then taste and add more depending on your preferences. You can add the nutritional yeast in the same step as you would the parmesan cheese.

What else can you use in pesto besides basil?

If you love pesto but find that the basil is a bit too over-powering for your tastes or you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, there are a few things you can do.

  • do a combination of basil and spinach to mute the basil flavour a bit if it is too much for you
  • swap in your favourite herbs
  • use arugula in place of basil (or just like with spinach, you can do a combo of arugula and basil)
basil pesto in a bowl with a spoon

Tips for making the best pesto

  • Use fresh, good quality ingredients. A good pesto comes down to good, fresh ingredients.

  • Wash your basil leaves well and then dry them well. I like to give them a spin in a salad spinner.

  • Replace some of the basil with spinach, parsley or another alternative to reduce the strong basil taste. I personally adore basil but my hubby finds it a bit overpowering so I often replace some of the basil with spinach to please his taste buds.

  • Pulse the pesto slowly. Traditionally, pesto shouldn’t be super smooth so be careful not to get too carried away with the food processor. I personally don’t mind if it gets too creamy but pesto purists will cringe at that.

  • If refrigerating your pesto, pour a thin layer of oil overtop to prevent the basil from turning a darker green. The oil will block oxygen keeping that light, bright green colour.
basil pesto close up

Can you freeze basil pesto?

If like me, your basil plants are producing more basil than you can eat, preserve it by freezing it! Make the pesto as directed in the recipe below and then scoop it into an ice cube tray. Freeze and then transfer the frozen pesto cubes into a freezer safe bag. Then add as many cubes as needed into your recipes.

basil pesto in an ice cube tray

What can you eat basil pesto with?

Pesto is a fun and versatile to use. There are so many possibilities but my favourites include:

  • as a pasta sauce!
  • spread on crostini or on sandwich bread
  • mixed into dips (e.g. guacamole or hummus)
  • as a base for pizza instead of tomato sauce
  • spoon over chicken (Try my Baked Pesto Chicken!)
  • mixed into salad dressings
  • on top of your breakfast eggs!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Bon appetit!

-Cathy

This post was originally published on September 6, 2019 and was updated with new content and photos on September 2, 2021.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you try it and love it as much as I do, I would love to hear about it! Leave a rating and/or comment below to let me know!

basil pesto in a bowl

Basil Pesto

Herbs and Flour
Easy to make basil pesto which is better than anything you will purchase in a jar! Can't beat that homemade freshness!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Sauces
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 226 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups basil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub walnuts if you don't have pine nuts on hand)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions
 

  • In your food processor, add basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, salt and lemon juice. Pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  • With the processor running, slowly begin to drizzle in olive oil.

Notes

  • If storing for future use, the pesto can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. To freeze and store pesto, spoon pesto into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer frozen cubes into a ziploc bag or freezer safe container.
  • Nutrition

    Calories: 226kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 5gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 538mgPotassium: 147mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1318IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 120mgIron: 2mg
    Keyword basil, food processor, fresh herbs, pine nuts
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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