How to Make Homemade Basil Pesto

This homemade basil pesto is made with a handful of fresh and flavorful ingredients. Quick and versatile, pesto can be used in a variety of recipes like my sausage & garlic pesto flatbread, pesto shrimp, or mixed with cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, spread on sandwiches, artisan bread, and more. And, as a bonus, this from-scratch pesto is much easier than you think and tastes worlds better than store-bought.

homemade basil pesto

This homemade basil pesto is my absolute favorite. It’s classic, simple, flavorful, and completely fresh. You’ll appreciate how easily it comes together and that it tastes infinitely better than store-bought versions. Homemade pesto can be a dip, sauce, or spread and pairs wonderfully with so many flavors. Bottom line? Pesto is an easy way to instantly elevate any savory dish.


This Homemade Basil Pesto Is:

  • Fresh and flavorful
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Ready in minutes
  • Made with just a few ingredients
  • Easy to customize with what you have on hand
  • Extra flavorful with roasted garlic

basil pesto ingredients

fresh basil

Overview: Ingredients In Homemade Basil Pesto

For ingredient substitutions, see my recipe notes.

  • Basil: Fresh basil leaves are the base of this pesto recipe. Rinse and pat dry before using.
  • Pine Nuts: Pine nuts add structure to the pesto. If I’m having trouble finding pine nuts, sometimes I’ll swap them for walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free version, try cooked and cooled edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a little saltiness and helps the pesto stick together. It’s honestly the best part.
  • Garlic: It goes without saying that garlic adds incredible flavor to homemade pesto. For even more flavor, try using roasted garlic. (Here’s how to roast garlic.)
  • Olive Oil: Not only does olive oil add flavor, it also helps create an unbeatable creamy and rich consistency.
  • Lemon Juice: 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice brightens everything up and really helps the other flavors shine. Many recipes don’t call for it, but I highly recommend it. Trust me on this one!
  • Salt & Pepper: Both add flavor.

Make it your own: For a twist, try adding your favorite herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley, your favorite spices like cayenne, ground ginger, or paprika, or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.


Overview: How to Make Homemade Pesto

Basil pesto comes together in a matter of minutes, which–besides its incredible taste and versatility– is another bonus. You need a food processor or blender to begin. The ingredients blend together rather easily, so if you don’t have a fancy food processor, don’t worry. It will still taste like pesto and it will still be remarkably good. You can’t go wrong. (Pesto is really that easy.)

  • Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Add the olive oil and pulse/process to blend. Scrape down the sides of the blender bowl, then add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse this mixture until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add more seasoning and any extra herbs/spices if desired.

pesto in food processor

basil pesto

How To Use Homemade Pesto

If you need inspiration, here are the ways I enjoy using basil pesto:

  • Pesto Tortellini: Use as a sauce over cooked tortellini with parmesan cheese and fresh diced tomatoes.
  • Shrimp: Try my creamy pesto shrimp dinner recipe– it’s quick!
  • Pizza: Use it in place of pizza sauce on pizza crust. Try my sausage & garlic pesto flatbread or my roasted garlic chicken pesto pizza.
  • Pesto Bruschetta: Bake slices of a fresh baguette in a 400°F (204°C) oven until golden. Top with pesto, parmesan cheese, and diced fresh tomatoes.
  • Star Bread: Use my star bread recipe and reduce the amount of sugar in the dough to 1 Tablespoon. Spread 1 heaping Tablespoon of pesto onto each of the 3 circles. (3 Tbsp total.) Top each with a light layer of shredded cheese, herbs, and/or chopped pepperoni.
  • Pesto Sandwich: Spread pesto on toasted bread, add your favorite cheese, greens, and tomato.
  • Pesto Grilled Cheese: Brush 2 slices of thick-cut crusty bread (like artisan bread) with pesto, add provolone or cheddar cheese, butter the outside of the bread, and cook both sides on a griddle or skillet until golden brown.
  • Hummus: Blend 2 Tablespoons of pesto with garlic hummus.
  • As a Dip: Use it as a dip for crusty bread.
  • With Meats or Shrimp: Serve over cooked meats or shrimp.
Print
homemade basil pesto

Homemade Basil Pesto

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It’s incredibly simple and flavorful and uses only a handful of fresh ingredients.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves*
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts*
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic (roasted or fresh)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Pulse the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Scrape down the sides, then add the oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add pepper (and/or more salt) if desired. I always add a pinch of pepper.
  2. Store leftover pesto in a jar or sealable container, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Freeze the pesto for up to 2-3 months. You can freeze it in greased ice cube trays and thaw small portions at a time.
  2. Basil or Other Greens: Instead of basil, try other greens like spinach, kale, or arugula. No matter which greens you choose, rinse and pat dry before using.
  3. Nuts: If I’m having trouble finding pine nuts, sometimes I’ll swap them for walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free version, try cooked and cooled edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  4. Other Pesto Variations: Try adding your favorite herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley. Add your favorite spices like cayenne, ground ginger, or paprika. Or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.

Keywords: homemade basil pesto, how to make basil pesto

33 Comments

  1. Austria Azaceta says:

    Hi Sally,
    I love love love basil pesto…(i love basil period!) This sounds great! Will definitely be trying very soon…..possibly on the pizza! (sounds & looks amazing) I like to use spaghetti squash a lot & i bet this pesto would be great on that! Thanks so much for the recipe!!

  2. Hi Sally. Love your blog and many delish recipes! Just wanted to let you know I tried this today and it was great! I am growing my own basil so it was really fresh and tasty. I Chose cashews for the nuts because I didn’t have pine nuts but had those almonds and pecans and thought the cashews would give it a flavor.

    I did make the pizza but because we are red sauce addicts I brushed a layer of pesto then poured some red sauce And finished with the chicken and mozzarella cheese.

    I made my own pizza dough recipe using whole white wheat flour and it was just great! Thanks for another great recipe!

  3. I LOVE pesto, and I would use it on grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, and pasta. Although I’m interested in trying the pesto with roasted garlic, is it possible that I can used minced garlic? 
    Thanks, Sally!! 🙂

    1. Minced garlic would work, yes!

  4. Jennifer Nester says:

    We have been growing our own food lately and one of the items is Basil. I made this Pesto and brought it to a friends house and apparently did not make enough. It was practically gone the minute I put it out. It’s truly fantastic! I did not have Pine Nuts (man those are expensive), so I used Pecans that I had on hand. I think I like better with Pecans. Thank you for sharing this recipe… it’s truly devine!

    1. So glad it was a hit. I’m not surprised it disappeared!

  5. For those who are allergic or sensitive to dairy, you can substitute about a tablespoon of white miso paste for the Parmesan in any pesto recipe. You will swear it has real cheese in it and will fool your dairy lovers. 🙂

  6. It’s been on my bucket list to make pesto from scratch. Mission accomplished. Thank you.

  7. Ivy Gaille Dela Peña says:

    Hi! I used the dough for your one rise cinnamon roll to form into balls with cheese stuffed inside, after which I rolled the balls into your pesto mix, baked it and oh my gosh!! It’s the best! Thank you for making me feel like a kitchen expert

    1. That sounds delicious and so creative!

  8. shirleyyoujest says:

    Very good recipe ! Fresh is the only way to go…I added a couple of Tablespoons to my homemade chicken soup just before serving , it was awesome !!

  9. We have a couple great pesto recipes if anyone is interested. Both are super easy to make and delicious! One is a pasta dish with penne, chicken, and grated cheese, cooked completely on the stove top. The other is a baked chicken breast recipe with the pesto spooned over the chicken, with Roma tomato slices and mozzarella slices on top – short bake time and a delicious main course! Your fresh pesto recipe will put our two chicken recipes over the top! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Becky keusch says:

      I would love your two receipes. Could you email them to [email protected] Great thank you.

  10. When I’m going to use as a bread dip, I throw in half an avocado… but then when i run out of bread, I finish it off with a spoon…!

  11. Amateur cook says:

    Can I use cows milk cheese or feta cheese instead of Parmesan. I don’t have Parmesan right now.

    1. I haven’t tried it but other’s have commented that they have used other cheeses with success! Let me know how it goes!

  12. Can I use a different type of oil, like canola? I’m not a fan of the flavor of olive oil/

    1. Hi Anna! Canola oil works if you’d rather use that than olive oil.

  13. Wow Sally it is as if you are reading my mind! I’ve been growing basil in a pot on my back porch and it is just overflowing and I i’ve been looking for a good pesto recipe it’s not complicated and doesn’t require a mortar and pestle. Your Recipe is the first one I saw for the roasted garlic. Thanks so much for the lovely recipe can’t wait to make itAnd try some of your other yummy sounding recipes to use it.

  14. We made your flatbread last month and made pizzas. We used pesto rather than sauce. My 10 yo is now growing basil to make more pesto! She loved it!

  15. Pesto on pizza is wonderful….my fav is with chopped clams, bacon and cheese. I grew lemon basil….will try a batch of pesto using it. Should be really good on fish

  16. Debi Simons says:

    Hi Sally–I’m impressed that you’re responding to the comments during maternity leave! I wonder if you could address a couple of questions that could perhaps make it into the recipe: 1) Those two cups of basil could vary wildly depending on how tightly packed they are. I wonder if it would be a good idea to give a weight, or at least how much you want people to press down on the leaves into the cup. 2) I looked at the comments and several people mentioned growing their own basil, which seems just about the only way to do this as basil at the supermarket is ridiculously expensive. Do you have suggestions for sources if you don’t grow your own?

  17. I’ve been told before that if you are freezing basil pesto, not to add the Parmesan cheese or nuts because it will have a bitter flavour once thawed. I don’t know if this is true, but I always leave them out when making a batch to freeze. I usually freeze in ice-cube trays and then pop them into a labeled ziplock bag. I freeze homemade tomato paste using the ice cube trick too. One ice cube is generally the equivalent of one ounce or two tablespoons.

  18. Hi Sally, made your pizza crust on Sunday and we loved it! Can the pesto sauce be frozen?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pam, So happy you enjoyed our pizza crust! Yes, the pesto can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. You can freeze it in greased ice cube trays and thaw small portions at a time.

  19. maria caballero olins says:

    SALLY GRACIAS POR TU RECETA, EXCELENTE PESTO DE ALBAHACA UFFFF…. TAN SOLO OLER ESTA HIERBA ME PRODUCE UNA SENSACIÓN DE ALEGRÍA, NOSE PERO LA ALBAHACA ME ALEGRA SU AROMA. ME ENCANTA. EL DOMINGO QUE ES MI ANIVERSARIO DE BODAS LO PREPARARÉ, SABES ME QUIERO LUCIR, CON UNOS RICOS FIDEOS CINTA QUE RICURA ES DELICIOSO. DIME EL ACEITE DE OLIVA ES OLIVA VIRGEN O ES ACEITE DE OLIVA EXTRA VIRGEN? CON CUÁL LE VA MEJOR?
    NO TE OLVIDES RESPONDERME

    BESITOS
    MARY

  20. My whole family LOVED THIS!!! Haven’t had a bad experience with this site. My favourite place to be inspired by your delicious reciptes.

  21. Very simple and very tasty. I like the amount / balance of each ingredient. I have seen some use 1/2 cup of oil and that seems like too much. I didn’t change a thing. I do plan on trying your pizza crust and the flat bread with the chicken and pesto. Those sound delicious.

  22. Just made this for supper and it was another home run recipe from your amazing blog Sally!!! I have extra left over and have been wanting to make your cheesy bread and adding pesto to it too! Can’t wait. Thanks again!

  23. Pam Murawski says:

    This pesto recipe is excellent- very simple and delicious! Thanks for another keeper!!

  24. Amazingly delicious!! I have made it 3 times in 2 weeks.

  25. This turned out fantastic. I substituted sunflower seeds for pine nuts and had it over an organic edamame fettuccine. So we had a delicious high protein/high fiber/gluten free meal. A perfect summer meal.

  26. Simply delicious! The lemon brightens up the flavor and let’s the freshness shine through. A summer favorite for us is tomato pie! Homemade crust fresh tomatoes layered with your pesto and mozzarella. It’s a taste of summer goodness! Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×