Pesto is such a versatile sauce. It’s fantastic tossed with any pasta, gnocchi, or used as a spread on sandwiches. This pesto recipe is also the secret ingredient in Chicken Pesto Pasta and Chicken Pesto Roll-Ups.

Homemade pesto is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make and fresh tastes so much better than storebought. During the summer months, we keep a steady supply of this fantastic sauce in the fridge and freezer since it stores really well.

Pesto Sauce Recipe in jar

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I’m always comparing this homemade pesto to the Costco pesto (which is the best store-bought one I’ve found) and this fresh pesto recipe wins. The lemon juice keeps the color bright and beautiful and adds fresh flavor without needing too much extra salt.

What Is Pesto Sauce?

Pesto is basically a bright green sauce that is made from crushing together basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.

It’s a sauce that originated in Italy, with the term pesto derived from the Italian word “pestare” which means “to crush”. It was originally made using a Mortar and Pestle but we find it’s faster and easier in a food processor.

Basil pesto in jar with spoon

Ingredients for Basil Pesto

Most of the ingredients needed for this pesto recipe are things you probably already have on hand. If you don’t have basil growing in your garden, it’s best to buy it fresh the day you are making the sauce.

  • Basil – use fresh basil leaves. The common basil leaves for pesto are large leaf basil, sweet basil, or genovese basil
  • Parmesan cheese – shredded
  • Extra virgin olive oil – use the best quality oil you can source
  • Pine nuts – these are typical for pesto, but we have substituted with walnuts with great results
  • Garlic cloves – we use 2 large cloves
  • Lemon juice – use freshly squeezed juice from 1 large or 2 smaller lemons. Do not use lemon juice concentrate.
  • Salt & Pepper – can be added to taste
Ingredients for Basil Pesto with basil, olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and lemon juice

Can I substitute Pine Nuts?

While traditional pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, you can certainly replace the pine nuts with a less expensive nut such as walnuts, or blanched almonds which work great.

Pro Tip: To get the most flavor out of your pine nuts, toast them on a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing often until golden and fragrant then cool before using in the recipe.

What Type of Basil Should I Use?

There are many varieties of basil. A few of the most popular include Italian large leaf (sweet basil), Thai, and lemon basil.

Any of these can be used for pesto but each has a slightly different flavor profile. For a traditional basil pesto flavor, you’ll want to use the Italian large leaf. It’s the basil leaf that most people typically think of as “normal” basil. It’s also referred to as sweet basil or Genovese basil. This is the type of basil sold in most grocery stores.

Fresh Italian basil in colander

How to Make Basil Pesto

  1. Prep Basil – Gently rinse fresh basil leaves and pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess water.
  2. Process Sauce – Place all of your ingredients to a food processor or a high powered blender and process until smooth.

Pro Tip: After blending the pesto, add more salt to taste if desired. Keep in mind that store-bought pesto sauces can be significantly saltier since they are compensating for freshness. Salt also preserves the sauce for longer shelf life.

How to Make Basil Pesto in food processor

Serve with

Basil pesto is an easy and healthy summer sauce that adds incredible flavor to a variety of dishes. Of course, there are the obvious uses for basil pesto, like mixing it in with your favorite pasta dish, or as the base for a pizza, but there’s so much more you can do with it!

  • Spread on a sandwich for an elevated lunch
  • Thin it down with oil or vinegar and make a basil pesto salad dressing
  • Marinate or toss with your favorite grilled or roasted veggies.
  • Topping for meat – spread pesto over cooked chicken, salmon, pork tenderloin, and of course on medalions of beef tenderloin.
Pesto sauce blended and in a jar ready to serve with pasta

More Homemade Sauces

The flavors and ingredients of pesto and these homemade condiment recipes are way better than storebought. Once you make your own homemade dressings and sauces, you won’t want anything else.

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Basil Pesto Recipe

4.93 from 165 votes
Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Basil pesto sauce in jar with fresh basil leaves and lemon
Pesto Sauce is so easy to make and homemade pesto tastes way better than storebought. This Basil Pesto recipe is fantastic with pasta, chicken, or sandwiches.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients 

Servings: 8 people (makes 1 1/2 cups pesto)
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts , or walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, (large)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, (juice of 2 small lemons)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  • Wash and dry the basil leaves.
  • Place basil into a food processor, add cheese, nuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.
  • Season with more salt to taste if desired.

Nutrition Per Serving

205kcal Calories2g Carbs3g Protein21g Fat4g Saturated Fat8mg Cholesterol290mg Sodium88mg Potassium1g Fiber1g Sugar375IU Vitamin A4.3mg Vitamin C117mg Calcium0.8mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Basil Pesto Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
205
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
21
g
32
%
Saturated Fat
 
4
g
25
%
Cholesterol
 
8
mg
3
%
Sodium
 
290
mg
13
%
Potassium
 
88
mg
3
%
Carbohydrates
 
2
g
1
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
1
g
1
%
Protein
 
3
g
6
%
Vitamin A
 
375
IU
8
%
Vitamin C
 
4.3
mg
5
%
Calcium
 
117
mg
12
%
Iron
 
0.8
mg
4
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Condiments
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pesto recipe
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $
Calories: 205

Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Evelyn
    May 4, 2024

    Hi Natasha,
    I love this pesto and already made like 4 times. I was wondering, can I freeze it? and for how long.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 4, 2024

      Hi Evelyn! We keep a steady supply of this fantastic sauce in the fridge and freezer since it stores really well. This will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator but longer in the freezer. In general, you can freeze homemade basil pesto for up to 6 months.

      Reply

  • alice
    April 20, 2024

    I’ve been making pesto for years and years but never added lemon. I love the addition and will likely add it from now on. It adds such a nice something! Brightness maybe? Anyway, thank you!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 20, 2024

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Alice! That’s right, the lemon juice keeps the color bright and beautiful and adds fresh flavor without needing too much extra salt.

      Reply

  • Marianne Hutson
    April 18, 2024

    Just made this Pesto! It’s very fresh tasting and vibrant in color. I tasted it to see if any adjustments needed to be made with salt and pepper and the taste was amazing! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 18, 2024

      You’re very welcome, Marianne!

      Reply

  • Carmen Santos
    April 15, 2024

    I made this recipe X2. Only put lemon for single recipe and it came out perfect. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 15, 2024

      You’re welcome! Great to hear that it was a success!

      Reply

  • Natasha
    March 3, 2024

    hi my names natasha too! i added some boursin cheese as well and this always comes out amazing! how long can this stay good refrigerated as well as frozen?

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 4, 2024

      Hi there, Natasha! That’s wonderful, glad you liked it! We keep a steady supply of this fantastic sauce in the fridge and freezer since it stores really well. This will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator but longer in the freezer.

      Reply

  • Taryn
    February 1, 2024

    So yum! I Added some lemon zest and that really gave it a nice flavour too

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      February 1, 2024

      Good idea, thank you for your review and for sharing!

      Reply

  • LittleHouseOnShawsFlat
    November 1, 2023

    This is my yearly go to recipe for making big batches to freeze from the basil we grow in our garden. I double the recipe with each batch. The only ingredient I don’t double is the lemon juice and it turns out perfect!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 1, 2023

      I’m so happy you found a favorite on our blog! Thank you for your lovely review.

      Reply

  • Jane
    October 5, 2023

    Natasha, your pesto recipe is wonderful! It was not too lemony for us at all, but we did add extra garlic. With Canadian Thanksgiving coming up, I am looking forward to trying it various ways with leftover turkey. Great recipe, and easy too!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      October 6, 2023

      That’s great, Jane!

      Reply

  • Linda
    September 29, 2023

    Too much lemon in this recipe.
    I would suggest putting in tbl at a time to insure its to your liking.
    For us 1/4 cup too much.
    I did use fresh from a lemon I juiced.

    Reply

  • Susan
    September 11, 2023

    Made this today following the directions. The lemon flavor overpowered the basil so I added more basil. It helped but lemon was still pretty strong. I love the idea of the freshness lemon can bring to pesto so I’ll try it again and just decrease the amount. Thanks for your recipe!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      September 11, 2023

      You’re welcome! It wasn;t overpowering for us but feel free to use less lemon next time if you prefer.

      Reply

  • JB
    August 20, 2023

    Looking to make this soon but have a question. All other pesto recipes say to add the EVOO in slowly but yours adds it with everything at once. Will this not cause the oil to emulsify?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      August 21, 2023

      Hi JB, we haven’t had that issue with this process and recipe. I hope you love it!

      Reply

  • Lorraine
    August 15, 2023

    My GO TO pesto sauce! It’s delicious, I too use walnuts instead of pricey pine nuts. Thank you, sooo good😋

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      August 15, 2023

      I’m so glad this is your go-to recipe! Thank you for sharing, Lorraine.

      Reply

  • Sierra
    August 14, 2023

    Is 1/4 cup lemon juice accurate compared to other recipes only calling for a tbsp?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      August 14, 2023

      Hi Sierra, that’s correct! Be sure to use freshly squeezed juice from 1 large or 2 smaller lemons. Do not use lemon juice concentrate.

      Reply

  • Debbie
    August 13, 2023

    Thank you Natasha! Just made this pesto and it tastes amazing. I’m going to freeze it and put it in the freeze dryer’s next batch so I can have it long term.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      August 13, 2023

      That’s great! You’ll love having this on hand.

      Reply

  • Traci H
    August 11, 2023

    This turned out better than I thought!! Thank you Natasha for all your yummy recipes!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      August 11, 2023

      You’re very welcome, Traci!

      Reply

  • E.
    August 11, 2023

    Made mine substituted pepitas for pine nuts ❣️ Delicious ❣️

    Reply

    • Carol
      August 12, 2023

      How long can I keep pesto in the fridge? Or is it better to freeze it?

      Reply

      • NatashasKitchen.com
        August 12, 2023

        We keep a steady supply of this fantastic sauce in the fridge and freezer since it stores really well. This will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator but longer in the freezer.

        Reply

  • Lynann Gibson
    June 28, 2023

    Great recipe. I make many of your recipes as your my go to for most of my recipes. Thank you for all your videos and tips and tricks. This is great!! Love it with the lemon vs without. It needs the acid. I added 3 large cloves of garlic and a lil more sea salt and ground black pepper to suit my taste. Otherwise wala!!!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      June 28, 2023

      Hi Lynann! Thank you for the feedback. So glad you loved it!

      Reply

  • Denise
    June 13, 2023

    I love this recipe. Make it all the time and keep a stock in my freezer. I use white wine instead of the lemon and it’s excellent.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      June 13, 2023

      Sounds amazing, Denise! I’m glad you love this recipe!

      Reply

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