The Best Basil Pesto Recipe (and Tips)
Basil Pesto is simple enough to make but this recipe for the BEST Basil Pesto has a few tricks that make it absolutely outstanding. Quick, easy and freezer friendly, blend up a big batch to take you through the winter months.
I have a little secret…..I’m a terrible gardener. To be more specific, I’m a terrible vegetable gardener and I’m going to blame my husband for the poorly selected plot of land I was allowed to try my hand at gardening with. (I promise this is related to Basil Pesto….just bear with me.) 🙂
For my very first “in the ground” vegetable garden he gave me a small area next to a fence on the south side of the house….which would be fine if only the house didn’t block the morning sun…..and a large group of trees didn’t block the afternoon sun. And then the late afternoon sun is blocked, yet again, by that fence I mentioned before.
I knew before I plunged the shovel into the dirt to break ground for my vegetable garden that this was going to be a lost cause but I forged ahead….for the past two summers. I got a couple cucumbers, a dead zucchini plant, a two inch carrot, TONS of kale (I hate kale) and a boatload of green tomatoes.
My garden haul was the leverage I needed to convince him that I needed a new spot for my garden next year and the fact that my herb garden is always overloaded with fresh herbs because it’s in a VERY sunny spot was the clincher. I have a landscaper plotting out next years garden as we “speak.”
Since I do very well in the herb gardening area, I always have a TON of fresh basil. The thing about basil is you need to stay on top of it or it will go to seed. Pinching off the ends to ensure it doesn’t flower and then die off is something I do several times a week. And also…..I make tons of Basil Pesto from scratch.
It’s a surefire way to use up what otherwise would just go to waste. And making big batches of it to freeze helps me have a little taste of summer in the middle of winter.
What Is Pesto
Basil Pesto, also called Pesto Genovese, is a flavorful sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. There are several variations of basil pesto, sometimes I like to add crushed red pepper to make it a little spicy.
There are plenty of store bought pesto sauces on the market but once you make it at home, nothing else will ever compare.
How To Make Fresh Pesto
Fresh Basil Pesto from scratch is so easy to make. Place all the ingredients, basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped and a loose sauce begins to form. I like to leave it a little chunkier so it doesn’t form a paste but other recipes process until a paste begins to form.
How To Freeze It
Making big batches of Homemade Basil Pesto and freezing it is one of my favorite things to do with it. It’s a great way to meal prep your way through the winter months.
To freeze your pesto, fill up the wells of ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Freeze until firm, then pop the frozen sauce out of the tray. Place the Basil Pesto Sauce cubes into a freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.
To thaw, simply place in a saucepan over low heat and thaw, stirring occasionally or heat in the microwave until thawed.
How To Make It From Scratch
With these simple tips, you can make the Best Basil Pesto in just 5 minutes:
- To maximize the flavor of your pesto, toast the pine nuts for a few minutes (be sure not to burn them) until golden. This step makes them a bit more buttery than raw pine nuts.
- Lemon….I know it’s not traditional but I like the bright, fresh flavor lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice give the pesto….and it helps keep the green color vibrant by preventing oxidation.
- Process in batches….I do half the ingredients in the food processor and process until very finely chopped….almost paste like, THEN I add the remaining ingredients to the processor and pulse so there are larger pieces of ingredients thought out the sauce. Bigger pieces means BIGGER flavor!
Recipes Using Basil Pesto
I love to use the Basil Pesto sauce in soooo many recipes like this super easy Caprese Tortellini Salad and this AHHHMAZING Grilled Chicken recipe. It’s so totally easy and extra cheesy….a big hit with the kids!
- Basil Pesto Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Pesto Artichoke Stuffed Manicotti
- Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwich
- Grilled Pesto Salmon with Strawberry Cucumber Salsa
It’s also fantastic as a sandwich spread like in this Chicken Cutlet Sandwich or these super simple Meatball Sliders….both great recipes for game day!
More Easy Pesto Recipes
Want to see what else we have NOT growing in our garden…..check us out on Instagram!
Get the Recipe: The Very Best Basil Pesto Recipe
- 4 ounces pine nuts
- 4 cups fresh basil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 cup olive oil
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Add the pine nuts to a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add 1/2 the pine nuts, 3 cups basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup cheese and lemon zest. Process the ingredients for approximately 30 seconds or until the ingredients are finely chopped.
- While the food processor is still running on low speed, slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil and continue processing until a smooth paste begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the remaining pine nuts, basil, garlic and cheese to the bowl. Pulse the ingredients until finely chopped.
- Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto sauce to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Store the basil pesto sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
115 Comments on “The Best Basil Pesto Recipe (and Tips)”
This is perfect pesto! Just the way my mom made it!
I absolutely love pesto- have you ever tried it on grilled cheese? This would be perfect! I love that this is pesto, without a bunch of extra ingredients, and it’s perfect!
Hey “KELLIE” Your post is very I love This pesto recipes to eat Thank you great man for sharing awesome post
I love pesto it is my favorite thing to make with fresh basil. Definitely using your tips next time!
Love homemade pesto! This recipe looks like a keeper!
Can this pesto be frozen!
I have soooooo much basil and looking for a pesto recipe I can freeze.
Yes! You can absolutely freeze it!
I would like to have a step by step recipe for the basil pesto recipe
Ummm, it’s right above the comments. 🙂
I always wonder how to measure something like basil leaves. How tight do you pack them in cup? Seems really subjective. Maybe someone has measured by weight? This has inspired me to go out and buy basil plants for summer.
It really is subjective, I lightly pack them in the measuring cup but if you want more basil….add more basil. I hope you give it a try….it’s my favorite thing to make in the summer!
I love this recipe! Thank you! I did make a slight change, I roasted the garlic and doubled the amount. Awesome!
Love the idea of roasted garlic! Thank you for your comment!
I have read that it is better to freeze the pesto without the cheese in it. Have you tried it both ways? Does it do fine in the freezer with the cheese?
I haven’t heard that but I’ve frozen this recipe with the cheese in it and it thaws just fine.
I freeze my basil pesto to use throughout the year. I leave about ¼” of olive oil on the top to prevent oxidation during its time in the freezer. It stays bright green and taste fresh after thawing. I do freeze mine as a finished pesto with the cheese in it, no issues.
Thanks so much for posting, also enjoyed the video. Made 2 cups for me, is that what you get too? It doesn’t really look like it needs the last 1/4 cup of oil, so I think I’ll wait on that. Using it tonight to mix with a pasta, roasted green bean and potato dish. It smells fabulous and I have no doubt it will be fabulous!
I get about 2 cups, also. The last bit of oil helps to keep it preserved and green, I find if I use less that basil will oxidize and turn really dark.
I love your recipe. Today, I made your recipe, It is quite delish. I love making variations of pesto. My favorite is broccoli, spinach, and mint with a splash of lemon. It is so good and tasty on anything like bread, veggies, crackers. Thank you for sharing your recipe.
Oooo, totally love a good broccoli pesto! So good!
I’ve been making this recipe for years and also freezing in ice cube trays. After many years, I tried a batch without the pine nuts and found no discernable difference in taste. One of many pesto uses that we love is a grilled pesto, tomato, and burrata
Sandwich – a wonderful riff on a Caprese salad.
YES!!! Love a good caprese grilled cheese with pesto. We do that a lot!
This recipe really is the best, and I’ve tried many. The lemon zest makes it perfect. Thank you.
Thank you so much! I agree, the lemon zest makes it. 🙂
Easy & tasty
Thankyou for this recipe… I love it and I love reading your trials n tribulations!! What I don’t love, and it isn’t just your site… it’s all the ads and junk on the side that you can’t remove, it makes me feel like I am running through a corn maze just trying to read!! Print the recipe is great for when I just want to make it (don’t have to print it, it just clears out the junk) but I like reading the story that goes along with it!!
Again thanks for the awesome recipe, it truly is the best!! Keep posting! I will kepp pinning!
Thank you so much, Tina! I, too, hate all the ads but they do help keep the site up and running because it’s not cheap to share recipes on the internet. A blog is costly to maintain and that’s why we have to run ads. Hopefully, someday, I’ll hit the lottery and can run the site without the ads….for now, I have to keep them. BUT I’m so glad you liked the recipe and hope you stick around for more! Best, Kellie
Fabulous! I love pesto, this recipe with the lemon zest is especially lovely!
Thank you so much for your comment!
Do you have a tip for quickly picking the leaves from the stems?
Maybe I’m doing it wrong, for me, that part takes much much more than 5 min ….
I just pull them off the stem kind of hastily. It’s okay if some of the stem ends up in the food processor.
A super easy and delicious way to use a bounty of basil from the garden. We’re going to make chicken pesto pizza with it for dinner tonight.
That sounds wonderful! This is our favorite pesto recipe and love to use it for this Pesto Cavatappi, too!
How long will it keep in the fridge?
We use it up most often within 7 days but have kept it in the fridge for about two weeks. You can also freeze it.
Excellent recipe. I used walnuts and non dairy Parmesan cheese. So delicious
Thank you for your comment!
This looks wonderful. I’m curious: do you grate your cheese by hand, or use the pre-shredded cheese from the store? Does it matter which type you use? Thanks.
I do grate my cheese by hand….if you can find good quality grated cheese then that would work, too.
This is hands down, the best Pesto recipe I’ve ever tried!!! Finally, a recipe that wowed me. I used pecans since that was all I had, but it turned out great. I really believe the way it’s processed makes a difference too. Great consistency and flavor!
I’m so thrilled you loved it. It’s definitely one I developed over the years with some trial and error. Thank you for your comment!
Have you ever tried lime instead of lemon?
YES! And it’s amazing….just a little lean to fruity and less tart.
I’ve been looking for a recipe for the basil I’ve been growing this summer and this one looks perfect! Have you ever canned it in jars? I would love to give as a hostess gift for the holidays but not sure if that would be viable.
To be honest, I’ve never tried canning it. You can definitely freeze it but I understand how the presentation of a shelf stable jar would be more appealing. It does contain acid so it should be fine for canning but I haven’t tried it to be sure.
I put pesto in small jars top with olive oil and as I use it I cover with more oil and keep in fridge. Am still using months later. Never had a problem
It’s the best in the winter when you can just pull one of the jars out. Thank you for your comment!
I have been making pesto for years and never heard of using lemon. I tried your recipe and loved it. Lemon makes it. Thank you. I make a lot of recipes using pesto because I always have a lot of basil.
I agree! The lemon does make it. I’m so glad you gave it a try and loved it. Thank you so much for your comment!
OMG! Best pesto!!!
I just made another two batches this morning using your recipe. This time I used Walnuts. Still can out awesome!
Just finished six jars (6 oz) !
Absolutely the Best! Added extra garlic and lemon zest.
Thank you so much for the recipe and the tips, it made the process so easy. Thanks again.
So glad you loved it!
Re/Pina Colada Bread..I made same recipe baking muffins..wasn’t sure about the cream coconut for glaze..used a canned one from Trader Joe’s..so unusual..ended up adding more powdered sugar..still wasn’t happy with the taste but when I added the toasted coca nuts topping and tasted the whole muffin it was quite nice..
Hi Jeani, so glad you loved the end result!
This is a great recipe! Thank you! I add my pesto to just about anything! It does wonders for Minestrone soup, tomato soup, pasta sauces, pizza, eggs and Potato Salad!
One thing though: I love freezing pesto, but find the Parmesan has a rubbery texture if you freeze it and basically says “Yes, this has been Frozen!”. I freeze it without the cheese and then add the cheese once it’s thawed. I like it better that way.
Such a great tip to add the cheese later! I think it does depend on the type of cheese you add and how finely you grate it but adding it after it’s thawed is a fantastic idea! Thank you for sharing.
Hello, Im going to make this recipe for my family at the weekend but we are too much people. Im wondering how many cups makes this recipe in order to know how many ingredients I will need. I know you said 12 servings, but could you please tell me in cups? Thanks in advance
Hi! You can adjust the serving size so the recipe will tell you how much of each ingredient you will need. If you need to make more, click on the 2x in the recipe card to double the recipe.
Second time I made this basil pesto. Absolutely delicious.
I’m so glad you love it! Thank you for your kind comment.
I found the information for your recipe difficult to read because of the distressing number of adverts and a strip of buttons on the left distractingly covering the content.
Can I visit a website to read your recipe ad free? I’m not going to save this one because I don’t want a repeat of the experience. Sorry to be negative but ads every few lines was a bit too much!
Hi Gill, Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately, if I strip my site of ads the recipes can no longer be offered for free. The ads pay for the cost of running the site, testing the recipes, etc. I also have to pay my own bills to live and feed my family. I do have good news that my site is being redesigned so that strip of buttons on the left you’re seeing, I am assuming you’re on mobile, will be going away soon! In the meantime, you can print the recipe card and the FREE recipe card will not contain any ads. My suggestion is to save the recipe card as a PDF and store them in a file on your phone or take a picture with your phone and save them that way. Then you have a digital version if you don’t want to store a paper copy in your recipe box. Again, I understand the ads are frustrating but they make it possible for me to provide free content to my loyal subscribers. Thanks again for your time and stay safe!
Excellent – this will be my go-to pesto now. I didn’t do the lemon, I wanted it just original pesto as I really haven’t had it before (which is amazing but true). Once I got thru ALL the photos to the recipe — it was great. Thanks!
Thanks for enduring all the photos….there are great tips in there, as well! This is my favorite, too. Thanks for your lovely comment!
Can you suggest a different nut to be used? Pine nuts are $$$ through the roof. Thanks
Walnuts make a great substitute!
This is a GREAT pesto! Love the lemon in it and extra garlic!
I’m so glad you liked it! And YES to extra garlic.
Hi there, I trimmed my 3 basil plants and had a lot of basil that I needed to find a use for. Well, I searched for a pesto recipe and landed on yours. I never have success with recipes posted on-line but I gave it a shot and well …………. it is ……… AMAZING. I love it. All of the ingredients were handy (except the pine nuts, which I had to get) and super easy to make. Thanks for sharing the recipe. It is getting filed in my favorites folder.
You’re very welcome! This was a recipe I developed years ago and make every single year since then. Thank you for your kind comment!
Just made this! Wow!! Delish. Did half pine nuts and half walnuts. $. Toasted both. Added juice of half a squeezed lemon. The thing I like most about this recipe is that amounts are subjective. I varied amounts somewhat , and still amazing. I am using it tonight to make pesto baked chicken.
Thank you for teaching me how to use my fresh basil.
You are so welcome! Thank you for your kind comment!
Just tried this . It was delicious and super easy.
So glad you liked it! Thank you for your comment.
Have you tried using different types of basil? Thinking of using 3/4 of the basil italian and the other quarter Thai for the anise flavor….
I have used different varieties of basil but just know the color won’t be as vibrant if you use like a purple basil.
Love this recipe! I toss in some fresh lemon balm instead of the zest just because I have so much of it growing right now. It’s fantastic on a thin homemade pizza crust too! Like a flat bread. I sprinkle a little more freshly grated parmesan on it when it comes out of the oven and it’s PERFECT!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I love the suggestion of lemon balm….definitely going to try that myself. Thank you for your kind comment.
Excellent recipe! Might be the best yet.
Thank you so much! I have to agree. 🙂 Have a great weekend!
Can you freeze this recipe?
Hi Laura! Yes, you can absolutely freeze the pesto in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature.
Absolutely delicious recipe! Made as written plus a little lemon juice in addition to the lemon zest!! Super yummy!
I’m so happy you loved it! Thank you for your comment!
Excellent recipe … it was as easy as stated and, has a fabulous taste /flavour and colouring. Definitely going to make this again. I’ve never added lemon zest or juice in previous recipe but did as recipe asked and that really intensified the flavour
Thank you so much for your comment! The lemon really does take it to another level and helps the basil from turning brown.
THIS PESTO IS SIMPLY PERFECT!
It is the perfect combination of oil/garlic/basil, and the lemon zest gives it such a delightful freshness. Thank you, I will definitely share.
Thank you so much!!!
Loved this recipe!!! I froze the leftovers and now I can’t get them out of the ice cube tray. In freezer for 6 hours. Perhaps not long enough?
If you dip the bottom of the ice cube tray in hot water for a few seconds, the pesto will loosen up enough to remove.
My first time making pesto. Over Angel hair pasta it was quite delicious! I did have trouble using blender to get everything finely chopped and think I need to invest in a food processor so I can add to menu regularly.
Thank you so much! It is a little tougher to use a blender but it does work.
Delicious recipe! The added lemon zest was brilliant. Froze the entire recipe in mini muffin pans. Will then transfer into several freezer bags—to share. Thanks Kellie!
Thank you for your comment and tip on freezing the pesto! So handy!
Had lots of fresh basil growing in abundance in my garden. Love this pesto recipe. So fresh and full of flavors.
Thank you so much for your comment! I’m so happy you enjoyed it!
Just what I needed for a wonderful August harvest of fresh Basil! Thanks❤️
I’m so happy you loved it!
A family pleasing recipe.
Thank you so much!
This is a great recipe! I appreciate the pesto when I can use it in the Winter months! Yummy!
So glad you liked it! We’re making big batches all week because we had a great basil year!
This is my second time making this pesto recipe. It’s super delicious!
Thank you! I’m so happy you like it!
Excellent recipe. Easy to follow and make. Basic enough to add your own touches
Thank you so much!
Can this pesto be ‘canned’ or processed as one would in a water bath for preserving to extend the shelf life and to give as gifts since the freezer method is not conducive for this use?
I haven’t tested this recipe for canning but only have frozen it. You can refer to Food in Jars (another blog) for canning tips and she’s a great resource for all things canning to ensure it’s done safely. I’m not that expert. 🙂
My favourite thanks, I love Pesto