Basil Pesto Recipe

Pesto is one of my favorite condiments to keep on hand. Try these easy, fun pesto recipe variations to brighten pasta, salads, roasted veggies & more!

Pesto Recipe

One of my favorite things about summer is the bounty of fresh herbs that are just outside my doorstep. Fresh herbs make any meal instantly more flavorful and beautiful. My favorite thing to do with all of those fresh herbs (aside from sprinkle them on everything) is to make pesto! It’s especially great for lazy summertime cooking. I like to dollop it on grilled vegetables, pasta, spaghetti squash, salads, eggs, toasted bread, pizza, sandwiches… you get the idea. With just a few easy steps, it makes anything an instant tasty meal, whether you feel like cooking or not.

Pesto Recipe ingredients

What is pesto, and how do I make it?

Traditional pesto is a blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. With a food processor, it comes together in just a few steps:

  1. Pulse the nuts, lemon juice, and garlic in the food processor until they’re finely chopped.
  2. Add the basil and pulse again.
  3. Next, drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor blade still running.
  4. Finally, add grated Parmesan cheese and process briefly until combined. For vegan pesto, simply skip the cheese.

That’s it! It’s really simple to make, and it’s easy to vary according to the season or your mood. It will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge, though its surface may start turning brown. As a result, it’s best to cover your pesto with a thin layer of plastic wrap or an extra drizzle of oil before sealing your container. This will keep it fresh and green!

Pine nuts in a food processor Fresh basil in a food processor

Pesto Recipe Variations

Once you’ve made the classic basil pesto recipe, try changing it up! You can make delicious variations with all sorts of nuts, seeds, veggies, and leafy greens. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Swap out the pine nuts for any nut of your choice! I particularly like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
  • Make nut-free pesto by using pepitas or hemp seeds.
  • Use a different herb. Try replacing the basil with mint, cilantro, or parsley!
  • Or fewer herbs. Replace half the basil with 1 cup arugula, kale, or chopped zucchini. For a punchier twist, pulse in 4 artichoke hearts, a roasted red pepper, or half an avocado instead of half the basil.
  • Don’t let your veggie stems go to waste. Blanch 1/2 cup kale stems and blend them into pesto in place of half the basil.
  • Punch up the flavor! Add 2 to 4 sun dried tomatoes, a charred jalapeño, nutritional yeast, or a pinch of red pepper flakes.

The possibilities are endless – let me know if you have a favorite variation!

Basil Pesto Recipe Pesto Recipe

I made pesto! Now what do I do with it?

The obvious choice is tossing pesto with pasta, but your options don’t end there. Spoon it over a Caprese salad, top it onto a grain bowl, scoop it onto spaghetti squash or mac and cheese, or incorporate it into this yummy zucchini casserole. We love it on polenta and homemade pizza, too. It’s even great on scrambled eggs! Do you have a favorite way to use pesto? Let me know in the comments!

Basil Pesto

rate this recipe:
4.96 from 193 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves 1 cup
This classic basil pesto recipe is nutty and bright. We love it on pasta, pizza, and more! See the post above for my favorite pesto sauce variations.


Basic Basil Pesto:


  • In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper and pulse until well chopped.
  • Add the basil and pulse until combined.
  • With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until combined. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and pulse to briefly combine. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.




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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Al

    Thank you very much for the recipe, looking forward to trying it. I’d like to use hemp seeds instead of nuts. Would you use the same amount of hemp seeds as the nuts?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Yes, you can use the same amount of hemp seeds.

  2. Debra

    5 stars
    This recipe is so delicious! I just made it for dinner. I had it over pasta with baby kale and some swiss chard stems that I wanted to use up. I added some pasta water and a touch of cream to a portion of it and used it as a sauce. Then I topped my pasta dish with a dollop of the pesto. Thank you for such a yummy recipe! Quick, easy and versatile!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Sounds fantastic! I’m so glad you enjoyed the pesto.

  3. Patty

    Do you mean 2 cups of packed basil or loose? I didn’t have enough pine nuts on hand so I added sunflower seeds as well. Yummy!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Patty, we don’t pack the basil tightly into the measuring cup. So glad you enjoyed the pesto!

  4. Kim

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I add an additional garlic clove, used toasted walnuts, and more olive oil so that is is smooth. I use fresh lime instead of lemon juice. If you wish to use it over pasta, heat it up and add about 1/2 cup cream. It is divine.

  5. Karina

    This recipe was PERFECT!!! It was delicious before the parm and even with some parm it was just as delicious. I was ok with about 1/8 c of olive ooo but went with 1/4c anyways which was great because I cooked this on top of salmon in the air fryer. Also used lemon basil. Also bought raw pine nuts and toasted them myself on the pan with no oil

    Great recipe! Definitely saving.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Karina, so glad you loved it!

  6. Shannon

    5 stars
    This is the best pesto ever. This is the first time I’ve ever made it from scratch. I’m making a mozzarella and tomato 🍅 pizza 🍕 with some of this sauce for lunch or dinner today. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  7. Jo

    5 stars
    This was the best pesto sauce I have ever made and ever had!! Thank you! Best. Ever.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  8. Margot Carroll

    I have used this recipe several times and it is delicious every time. Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you’ve loved it!

  9. Lainey

    5 stars
    Loved IT!!!
    After a trip to the fall farmers market and bringing home some gigantic basil I was looking for a traditional recipe. I’ve made all kinds of pesto recipes (kale, arugula, mixes) but not sure I’ve ever added fresh lemon juice. Winner.
    I used one portion and froze the rest into ice cube tray sized portions, which came out so cute and now in a freezer bag. Those can now be added as soup or sandwich toppers.

  10. Jen

    If I substitute walnuts for the pine nuts, do I toast those?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Jen – it works either way, I’ve done both.

  11. Kari

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe. I tripled the recipe because I had THAT much basil. I didn’t have enough lemon juice on hand so I used half the amount. Still fantastic. I flatten mine out into a large zip lock bag and freeze and then just snap off how much I need. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you loved it! Thanks for the flattening freezing tip – that’s a great idea.

  12. Jen from

    How long does it stay fresh? Do you freeze it too?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Jen, I’d say about 5 days – yes, it freezes well, I like to freeze it in ice cube trays to pop out smaller portions.

  13. Janet from

    4 stars
    doubled thia recipe and it worked out to perfection! Added pizza mozerella instead of the parmesan and it turned out amazingly!!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  14. Wendy

    5 stars
    Love pesto in chicken salad with extra lemon. So good!

  15. Nadine

    5 stars
    Made 30 jars with this recipe ans its Fantastic
    Thank you for sharing

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Wow, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  16. Alex

    5 stars
    This is soooo good. as always!

  17. Donna

    can you freeze this?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yep! It freezes well.

  18. laney

    5 stars
    phenomenal, as always.

  19. Carol

    5 stars
    My husband is making this now. Smells amazing. I always grow basil and make extra pesto to freeze in ice cube trays. Nothing like a cube of pesto dropped into hot minestrone soup on a cold winter day!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I hope you enjoy it! I love your strategy to freeze some for the winter 🙂

      • Lisa

        This recipe is great and I’ve made it a ton of times! Tonight though, something weird happened…it didn’t taste as flavorful and the pesto turned black after sitting in the pot with the pasta for maybe 30 minutes. Any idea why this happened?? The last batch stayed green even though the leftovers! Thanks!

        • Jeanine Donofrio

          Hi Lisa, it might have to do with how fresh your basil was?

        • Roberta

          5 stars
          This was my first attempt at making pesto from scratch. I had almonds, so toasted and used them. So easy and delicious!

          My research in trying to figure out how to use the pesto now that I made it, led to the following: I believe leaving it in the pot was the problem with your black pesto. It doesn’t like heat. The pasta should be in a bowl, not the pot, when you add the pesto and whatever else to toss.

  20. Lovely Long Island Linda

    5 stars
    That was one of the best pestos I’ve ever made. Thank you for this delicious recipe. I was able to put my CSA basil to good use!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.