Our basil pesto recipe is made with simple ingredients of fresh basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, and olive oil.
It’s bursting with freshness and a perfect way to use up your garden basil. This pesto recipe is excellent for bread dipping and is so delicious tossed with pasta.
I love making homemade basil pesto because I can use up all of my fresh basil from the garden. Making pesto sauce in your own kitchen makes you feel fancy, without it actually being expensive!
Simply process your pesto sauce ingredients in a food processor until it reaches a gritty puree. Then serve as a dip, sauce, or marinade (like these pesto chicken skewers!). Our #1 tip is to make sure not to over-process it or it might get a slimy consistency.
What You Need for Pesto Sauce
Fresh Basil Leaves: fresh basil is the star of the show! You can pick it straight out of your garden or buy it at the store.
Olive Oil: we love the flavor of extra virgin olive oil and this is the main fat in this sauce. Not only does it make it super buttery, but it also helps thin it out and turn it into a sauce.
Parmesan Cheese: parmesan cheese adds such a yummy, salty, savory flavor to this pesto sauce.
Pine Nuts: pine nuts are traditionally used in pesto sauce. We use ours raw, but you can toast them for a bigger flavor.
Garlic Cloves: garlic lovers unite! you’ll need 1 clove of garlic in this recipe. However, you can totally double it if that’s your jam.
Lemon Juice: lemon juice adds just the right amount of acidity to this sauce. Don’t skip it.
Salt: a little kosher salt brings all of these ingredients together into one incredible sauce. Make sure to start with a little and go from there.
Ingredient Swaps + Variations
- Basil: don’t have basil? Use spinach or kale instead. Try our kale pesto recipe.
- Pine Nuts: pine nuts too expensive? I get it! Try using cashews, pecans, or almonds instead.
- Parmesan Cheese: try another hard cheese such as romano cheese or asiago cheese. Hoping to keep this recipe dairy-free? Nutritional yeast is a great sub for parmesan cheese or you can try our vegan parmesan.
- Olive Oil: instead of olive oil use grape-seed oil.
Homemade Pesto FAQ
Do I need to toast my pine nuts for pesto?
It is not necessary to toast your pine nuts, but you are more than welcome to do so in order to get a more intense flavor.
Can I use dried basil in pesto sauce?
Unfortunately, we do not recommend using dried basil for homemade pesto.
Can I use a blender instead?
You can absolutely use a blender instead of a food processor.
Is pesto healthy?
Pesto is made with fresh ingredients and olive oil, making it a healthy sauce option.
Transfer your pesto into an airtight container and store pesto in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Because this pesto is freshly made with no additives, it won’t last as long as jarred, store-bought pesto.
How to Freeze Pesto
Freezing pesto is so easy and a great way to use up all your fresh basil! Here’s how to do it.
- Transfer pesto into an ice cube tray. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of pesto into each ice cub so that it’s filled 3/4 of the way full.
- Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or until fully frozen.
- Pop the pesto ice cubes out of the tray and then transfer the frozen cubes into an airtight container or gallon-size bag.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
To thaw: simply let the frozen pesto sit out on the counter for 1 hour or transfer them into a nonstick skillet and defrost on the stovetop over medium heat.
How to Serve Pesto Sauce
There is no one-size-fits-all with our pesto sauce recipe. One of my favorite things about it is that it’s so versatile in how you can use it!
Marinade: Pesto makes for a great marinade. Try our Pesto Chicken Skewers.
Salad Dressing: Pesto is a great base for salad dressing! Add more olive oil to make it a milder dressing or just drizzle it right onto your salad as is!
Dip: Keep it simple and use your pesto as a dip for bread, veggies, or crackers!
Spread: Use it as a spread on sandwiches or pita bread. Check out our Roasted Red Pepper and Pesto Turkey Sandwich.
Easy Basil Pesto
- 1 cup packed basil leaves fresh (~20-22 fresh basil leaves)
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Place all ingredients into a high-speed food processor.
- Process on high for about 1 to 2 minutes. Stop to scrape the sides as needed. Make sure not to over-process as some grittiness is great for the texture of pesto.
- If your pesto is too thick, add more olive oil by the teaspoon and pulse until mostly smooth.
Tips & Notes
- Makes about 1/3 cup pesto. Serving size is ~2 tablespoons.
- This recipe was updated on June 17th, 2021.
- Don’t over-process your pesto or it may turn slimy.
- Storage: store fresh pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- To freeze: transfer 1-2 tablespoons of pesto into a silicone ice cube tray. Freeze for at least 8 hours and then transfer into a gallon-size plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.