Get the Latest Recipes in your inbox:

Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

Basil Pesto is such a versatile sauce. It’s fantastic tossed with any pasta or used as a spread on sandwiches. It’s the secret ingredient in Chicken Pesto Pasta or these Chicken Pesto Roll-Ups.

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

Pesto Sauce Recipe in jar

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Basil Pesto Recipe

Try this homemade basil pesto recipe, you’ll never want the store-bought stuff again! Freshly made sauce is so vibrant in color and flavor. The lemon juice here keeps the color beautiful and adds fresh flavor without needing too much salt.

All you need is a handful of simple ingredients, a food processor, and a few minutes of spare time to get the best pesto sauce you’ve ever had!

Basil pesto in jar with spoon

What Is Pesto Sauce?

I’m sure you’ve seen pesto placed in the menus of any Italian restaurant or trendy pizza shop you’ve been to, but what really is it? 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 deriving from an Italian verb “pestare” which means “to crush”. It was originally made using a Mortar and Pestle.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto:

Most of the ingredients needed for this recipe are things you probably already have on hand. Just pick up some fresh basil leaves the day you want to make the sauce.

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper

Ingredients for Basil Pesto with basil, olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and lemon juice

Can I substitute the 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.

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.

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. For a sweeter pesto use the sweet basil leaves. For a slight spicy kick, try the Thai, and if you like a little hint of lemon, definitely try lemon basil.

Most grocery stores will only sell one type of basil, so if you want to try the less common types, check your local farmers market or specialty produce shop.

Fresh Italian basil in colander

How to Make Basil Pesto Recipe:

1. Gently rinse fresh basil leaves and pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess water.

2. 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 a longer shelf life.

How to Make Basil Pesto in food processor

What Does Basil Pesto Go 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 to 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 veggies instead of the typical oil and parmesan
  • Use as a sauce topping for meat: chicken, salmon, pork tenderloin, and of course beef steaks.

Pesto sauce blended and in a jar ready to serve with pasta

More Homemade Sauce and Dressing Recipes

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, it will spoil you forever.

  • Tzatziki Sauce Recipe –  a healthy sauce you can serve with chicken, grilled veggies, pita chips, gyros and as a raw veggie dip
  • Tartar Sauce Recipe – even better than store-bought tartar sauce and super simple to make
  • Horseradish Sauce Recipe – the best Steakhouse quality horseradish we’ve tried
  • Avocado Ranch Dressing – You will flip over this twist on the traditional ranch dressing and it doubles as a dip
  • Caesar Dressing – I love using this amazing recipe as both a dressing and a marinade for chicken

Basil Pesto Recipe

5 from 11 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
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 or on sandwiches.

Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $4-$5 (varies by season)
Keyword: pesto recipe
Calories: 205 kcal
Servings: 8 people (makes 1 1/2 cups pesto)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the basil leaves.
  2. Place basil into a food processor, add cheese, nuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.

  3. Season with more salt to taste if desired.

Nutrition Facts
Basil Pesto Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 205 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 32%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 8mg 3%
Sodium 290mg 12%
Potassium 88mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 1g
Protein 3g 6%
Vitamin A 7.5%
Vitamin C 5.2%
Calcium 11.7%
Iron 4.5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to see pics of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #natashaskitchen

natashaskitchen

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 recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

Read more posts by Natasha

Get the Latest Recipes in your inbox:

Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • Ana
    July 19, 2019

    I make this but take out the cheese and add spinach and kale to make it healthier. Still tastes amazing! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 19, 2019

      Thank you for sharing that with me, Ana! I’m so happy you enjoyed that! Reply

  • Laura
    July 17, 2019

    I freeze pesto in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, I pop the cubes out of the tray and store in a large zip-loc bag. Works great and avoids waste of all those little zip-loc baggies! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      Thank you so much for sharing that Laura! Reply

  • Linda
    July 17, 2019

    I gave your recipe 5 stars without trying because its the same recipe I’ve been using for years! I have an additional trick for preserving: I put my pesto in small jam mason jars and cover the top with about 1/4″ olive oil and store in the freezer for winter or, during the holidays I take it out and unthaw and give it for gifts to guests. The olive oil seals the top and prevents the pesto from turning dark and spoiling. I put a big spoonful into my spaghetti sauce as well as all the other ideas listed by others. One tip for freezing is to leave about an inch at the top of the jar so as the pesto expands in the freezer it doesn’t crack your jar. Otherwise, mine lasts for months in the refrigerator just as long as I always replace the olive oil cover each time I use it. Reply

    • Natasha
      July 17, 2019

      I love that idea of adding oil! A small amount of oil pools at the top with refrigeration but adding more would make it keep longer. Brilliant and thanks for the tip! Reply

  • Victoria
    July 17, 2019

    This looks amazing! But wondering if you can substitute for, or leave out the cheese? Reply

    • Natasha
      July 17, 2019

      Hi Victoria, I think you could still make a great pesto without the cheese, just be sure to add salt to taste since parmesan does contribute to the salty flavor of pesto. Taking out the cheese would make this a whole 30, Keto and dairy free pesto. Reply

  • Alli
    July 17, 2019

    This was hands down the best pesto ever. Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      I’m so happy you enjoyed tht Alli! Reply

  • Julie
    July 17, 2019

    I love pesto but I never seem to buy it. So glad that I can make it for myself now! So delicious. Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      I hope you love this recipe, Julie! Reply

  • Donna
    July 17, 2019

    Can I freeze the pesto? And if so, how long will it retain the taste? I’m thinking of making it for Christmas gifts. Thank yiu Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      Hi Donna, I hope this its helpeful, here is what one of our readers wrote “To freeze, I fill up ice trays with the pesto, let them harden, & then put the individual cubes in a ziploc bag. Works great!!” Reply

  • Toni
    July 17, 2019

    This was really amazing! And I loved that it is so easy to make! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Reply

  • Jen
    July 17, 2019

    This is such a great way to add so much flavor to sandwiches! Loved it! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      I’m so happy you enjoeyd that, Jen! Reply

  • Alicia Storms
    July 17, 2019

    My first attempt at making my own pesto and I am so pleased with how this recipe turned out. I used a blender and found that I needed to add a little extra olive oil to get it to blend properly.
    Thanks for the recipe Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you for sharing your great review, Alicia! Reply

  • Aimee Shugarman
    July 17, 2019

    Turned out perfect. Thank you! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 17, 2019

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Reply

  • Amy
    July 16, 2019

    Hi Natasha! I planted some cinnamon basil in my garden this year and it’s growing like crazy. Unfortunately my traditional Italian basil is not doing so well. I’m wondering if you (or anyone else reading this) has ever tried pesto with this variety. I’m all for experimenting, but the ingredients are kind of expensive, so would rather get some feedback. Thanks so much…your recipes are consistently amazing! Reply

    • Natasha
      July 16, 2019

      Hi Amy, I haven’t tested with cinnamon basil but I did come across a couple of recipes from a quick google search. You might taste it before adding lemon juice and then stir lemon juice into a small batch to see if the flavors are complimentary. If you test it out with cinnamon basil, please let me know how it goes. Someone else may have the same question. Reply

  • Kamal
    December 8, 2018

    Looks great! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      December 8, 2018

      Thank you, Kamal! Reply

  • Viktoriya
    July 12, 2017

    Hi Natasha,
    Is it okay to omit to the nuts? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      July 12, 2017

      The nuts actually make up a large portion of this recipe so you might consider replacing them. I have heard of people making pesto with seeds. You might research nut free pesto on Google to get more ideas. Reply

  • flora
    June 27, 2017

    I have a question about the leaves. I looked at your recipe and on the picture with your basil leaves, one had a hole in it. Is it ok to use ones that are not ‘perfect’. I tried to look for information online to see which ones i should discard. So, I picked through a whole bunch and only picked the healthy ones and threw out the ones with any marks on them or holes or ‘bitten’ ones. Would love to know your experience with this. Thank you for your help. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      June 27, 2017

      Hi Flora, as long as the basil doesn’t look wilted or spoiled, a good rinse should do the trick 🙂 Not all of the leaves have to be perfect since they are blended 🙂 Reply

      • flora
        June 30, 2017

        Thank you for you response, however, still a little confused about what I do with brown spotted or marked ones. They so not look spoiled other than the marks… do I cut those parts out and still could use the leaves. For the bug bitten ones I was told I could use them…just wondering..because I had so many like that this year… Reply

        • Natasha
          natashaskitchen
          June 30, 2017

          You can add them to the pesto and just blend everything together. I wouldn’t discard unless you have an abundance or excess. Reply

          • flora
            July 1, 2017

            Thank you:) will try it out with your recipe

          • Natasha's Kitchen
            July 1, 2017

            My pleasure! Please let me know how it turns out!

  • LaTrice
    December 9, 2015

    I LOVE pesto!!!! It tastes so good on hamburgers, pasta and sandwiches. I wonder how well the pesto can keep up in the freezer? 🙂 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      December 9, 2015

      I’ve never tried freezing pesto so I’m not sure. If you test it, let me know how it goes. The color might not be as vibrant after freezing. Reply

      • Guy Steeves
        November 1, 2017

        Pesto freezes really well. I make my own or usually buy the Costco one (good quality and great value) and divide it up into sandwich bags in portions. 3-5 TBSP each bag or you decide! Reply

        • Natasha
          natashaskitchen
          November 1, 2017

          Thank you for sharing! Reply

        • Giovanna Yauri
          July 16, 2019

          Hi Guy I also made my pesto sauce and freeze it. but I made it without the cheese. Do you made it with cheese and freeze it? Reply

  • steph.
    September 22, 2014

    hi, i was wondering if theres anything i can use instead of basil leaves? i cant find fresh ones anywhere 🙁 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 22, 2014

      Traditionally pesto is made with basil, but you can substitute for spinach although the flavor would change quite a bit. You might search online for a spinach pesto recipes. Reply

    • irina
      July 19, 2019

      Trader Joe sells them. Reply

  • zhanna
    September 19, 2014

    how long can this pesto sit in the fridge for before it goes bad? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 19, 2014

      We’ve always eaten it within a couple days, but I probably wouldn’t leave it longer than 5-7 days in the fridge. It also depends on how fresh your basil is; if it was already kind of wilting when you used it, it won’t last long. Reply

  • Oksana
    April 14, 2014

    Hello. Quick question. Which salad spinner brand do you have? And also what size – small or large? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      April 14, 2014

      The one photographed here is the OXO large salad spinner. The one I currently use is the Dexas salad spinner. Both are very good! Reply

  • Snow
    July 29, 2013

    This year my mom got excited and planted a lot, in fact a little too much basil so when I show her this recipe she will be so happy that we can put that basil to good use. I’m excited to make this cause I love this stuff, even as a dip. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      July 29, 2013

      Let me know hot it turns out :). Reply

      • Snow
        August 1, 2013

        This stuff is amazing! We made pasta with it and later had it with our sandwiches (instead of mayo). I made a lot a froze about half of it. You’re awesome, Natasha! Reply

        • Natasha
          natashaskitchen
          August 1, 2013

          Thank you, I’m glad you like it :). Reply

  • Irina
    September 9, 2012

    try toasting the pine nuts … it’s even more yummier!!! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 9, 2012

      ooh, I think I will 🙂 Thanks Irina! Reply

  • Lyuba
    August 22, 2011

    looks very delish. thank you Reply

  • August 7, 2011

    That pesto looks delicious! Thanks for sharing Reply

  • Cathy
    August 5, 2011

    I agree that pesto can do so much to add flavour to just about anything. I’ve added my pesto to regular tomato sauce, to my homemade vegetable soup, with white wine when cooking mussels, in a thin layer on pizza dough before any other sauces or toppings. I’ve also made pesto with spinach when basil is not plentiful in my area. When I freeze it, I put a plop of it in a small sandwich bag, flatten the bag before I close the ziploc. I stack several flat bags like this in the freezer and take out one when I need it. Or open the bag and break off a bit of the flat pesto when I need just a bit. Thanks for the recipe, I’d better get some basil asap. Reply

    • Natasha
      August 7, 2011

      Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! Reply

    • Jennifer
      August 8, 2018

      To freeze, I fill up ice trays with the pesto, let them harden, & then put the individual cubes in a ziploc bag. Works great!! Reply

      • Natashas Kitchen
        August 8, 2018

        Thanks for sharing that with us Jennifer! Reply

  • Deepa
    August 4, 2011

    Looks Yummy. Reply

    • Natasha
      August 7, 2011

      Hi Deepa – thank you! I was just checking out your site. What recipe would you recommend for someone who has zero experience with Indian food? Reply

Add comment/review

Leave a comment

As Featured On

Get the Latest Recipes in your inbox:

Never Go "Hangry" Again!

Get weekly updates on new recipes, exclusive giveaways plus behind the scenes photos.