Make this easy homemade basil pesto in just 5 minutes! Spoon it over chicken, pasta, salads, plus so much more. 

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This Simple Pesto Recipe is So Versatile!

I’m sharing my all-time favorite basil pesto recipe that I use over and over for things like Pesto Pasta, sauces, dips, dressings, and spreads. It comes together in about 5-minutes in a food-processor.

Made with only 6-ingredients, this basil pesto sauce recipe is going to become your go-to for easy meals. Plus it’s a delicious way to make the most out of fresh basil year-round.

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Homemade Pesto Ingredients

You can make basil pesto year-round as long as you have access to fresh basil. Here’s what you’ll need to make pesto:

ingredients for basil pesto.
  • Basil 
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice

I know a lot of recipes skip lemon juice but I find that it breaks down the heaviness of the garlic and Parmesan, and brightens the pesto all around. 

How to Make Pesto

I love to use my food-processor for making pesto. It literally takes 5-minutes! A high-speed blender can be used as well but will require a little more work. If you have both, definitely go with a food processor.

Step 1: Add basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon juice into a bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times until finely minced. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spoon or small spatula.

fresh basil with parmesan in food processor

Step 2: While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Scrape down the sides as needed.

basil pesto sauce recipe

Step 3: Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week. This recipe makes around 2/3 cups of pesto.

Easy Pesto Recipe Variations

Think beyond basil and Parmesan cheese. The best part about pesto is that it can be made a variety of ways. Here are some fun ways to change it up:

BASIL – instead of basil, try adding tender greens such as arugula, parsley, or mint. Or do a half and half.

PINE NUTS – try almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds. Just make sure to buy roasted nuts or roast them yourself. It’ll add delicious rich flavor to the pesto.

PARMESAN CHEESE – Pecorino Romano, aged Asiago or manchego cheese are all hard and salty cheeses suitable for pesto.

How to Use Homemade Pesto Sauce

Basil pesto does not have to be cooked or heated before serving unless a recipe tells you to. You can serve it cold straight from the jar, at room temperature or warmed up in your favorite main meals.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use pesto:

  • Mix it into your avocado toast
  • Smear on a sandwich. Whether alone or mixed in with little mayo. 
  • Drizzle over a salad. I like to thin out the pesto with little olive to use as a dressing. 
  • Dollop on a baked potato for some flavor or in place of butter. 
  • Top grilled chicken, shrimp, or fish for a burst of flavor. 

How to Store Homemade Pesto

IN THE REFRIGERATOR: Homemade basil pesto can be used right away or refrigerated for up to 1 week. Just keep in mind the pesto will darken when refrigerated.

To keep pesto bright green, simply top the pesto with about 1/2-inch of olive oil. This will create a seal so it doesn’t darken. Store in a container with a lid. Stir the oil into the pesto before using.

IN THE FREEZER: To extend the life of your homemade pesto even further, you can freeze it in small batches. I like to use ice cube trays.

Simply put spoonfuls of pesto into ice cube trays and place in the freezer until solid. Then transfer the pesto cubes to freezer-safe plastic bag or container with a lid and keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

frozen basil pesto in ice cube tray

Thaw out frozen pesto in the refrigerator before using it. 

basil pesto sauce recipe

Homemade Pesto Recipe FAQs

Can you use basil stems in pesto?

Yes, you can use basil stems in pesto. While most recipes call for just the leaves, the stems also contain flavor and can be used to enhance the taste of your pesto.
 
Basil stems tend to be a bit tougher than the leaves, so they may require additional blending or chopping to ensure a smooth texture in your pesto. Simply remove any large, woody stems and use the tender parts of the stems along with the leaves when making your pesto.

Should I wash basil leaves before making pesto?

It’s generally a good idea to wash basil leaves before making pesto to remove residual dirt. Just don’t wash fresh basil until you are about to use it as excess moisture will cause premature wilting. Simply rinse the leaves under cool water and then dry lightly with a paper towel.

Why is my pesto bitter?

Using low-quality or rancid olive oil can affect the taste of the pesto. Make sure to use fresh, high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

Also, over-blending the pesto can cause the basil leaves to oxidize, resulting in a bitter taste. Blend the ingredients just until smooth and well combined.

Why does my basil pesto turn brown?

Basil pesto turning brown is due to oxidation, a natural process that occurs when the basil comes into contact with air.

Storing pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator can help slow down oxidation and preserve its color. You can also pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to create a protective barrier against air.

easy basil pesto recipe

If you try our homemade pesto sauce, please leave a star rating and a comment telling us how you liked the recipe.

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homemade basil pesto in a bowl

Homemade Pesto Sauce

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Blend
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Make this easy basil pesto in just 5 minutes! Spoon it over chicken, pasta, salads, or use it as a salad dressing. 


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and lemon juice in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Scrape down the sides with a spoon or small rubber spatula.
  2. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Scrape down the sides as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week. See notes for freezer instructions.

Notes

  • To Freeze Pesto – put spoonfuls of pesto into ice cube trays and place in the freezer until solid. Then transfer the pesto cubes to freezer-safe plastic bag or container with a lid and keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw out overnight in the refrigerator before using.
  • Substitutions – see blog post for a full list of ingredient substitutions.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 187
  • Sugar: 0.3 g
  • Sodium: 68.3 mg
  • Fat: 20.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.4 g
  • Protein: 2.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 2.9 mg