How to Make Homemade Basil Pesto

You only need a handful of fresh ingredients for homemade basil pesto. This simple and flavorful from scratch pesto recipe is much easier to make than you think! Use it on pizza, pasta, in wraps, as a dip, and more. See my recipe notes for helpful ingredient substitutions. 

Here is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It's incredibly simple and flavorful, while only using a handful of fresh ingredients.

Today’s homemade basil pesto recipe is my absolute favorite. It’s classic, simple, flavorful, and oh-so-fresh! I appreciate how quickly and easily it comes together, and it tastes infinitely better than store-bought versions. Homemade pesto pairs wonderfully with so many flavors– this versatile sauce instantly elevates any savory dish. Let’s get started!

Here is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It's incredibly simple and flavorful, while only using a handful of fresh ingredients.

This Homemade Basil Pesto Is:

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

Here is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It's incredibly simple and flavorful, while only using a handful of fresh ingredients.

Ingredients In Homemade Basil Pesto

You’ll need just a few basic ingredients for this pesto recipe. For more ingredient substitutions, see my recipe notes.

  • Basil: Basil leaves are the base of this pesto recipe.
  • Pine Nuts: Pine nuts add structure to the pesto. Instead of pine nuts, I love using walnuts. You can also try pecans, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free version, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a welcome saltiness and helps the pesto stick together.
  • Garlic: Garlic adds incredible flavor. 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 creates the pesto’s delicious texture.
  • Lemon Juice: 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice brightens everything up and really helps the flavors shine.
  • 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.

The BEST Homemade Basil Pesto with tasty variations!

Overview: How to Make Homemade Pesto

Basil pesto comes together in a matter of minutes– you’ll need a food processor (or blender) to begin. The ingredients blend together rather easily, so if you don’t have a fancy food processor, no worries! 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. Slowly pour in the olive oil while still mixing. 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.

Roasted Garlic Chicken & Mozzarella Pizza with Homemade Basil Pesto

How To Use Homemade Pesto

Basil pesto is my favorite multi-purpose sauce. Its nutty, cheesy, and garlicky flavor goes with just about anything! Stumped for ways to use it? Here are ways I enjoy pesto:

  • Pesto Tortellini: Use as a sauce over cooked tortellini with parmesan cheese and fresh diced tomatoes.
  • Pesto 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 fresh diced tomatoes.
  • Pesto 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. Top each with a light layer of shredded cheese, herbs, and/or chopped pepperoni.
  • Pesto Sandwich: Spread pesto mixed with mayonnaise 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.
  • Pesto 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 meats or shrimp.

Here is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It's incredibly simple and flavorful, while only using a handful of fresh ingredients.


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


Here is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It’s incredibly simple and flavorful, while only using a handful of fresh 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 (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper


  1. Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Pour oil in slowly while still mixing (or a little at a time, then mix, then more oil, then mix again, etc). Scrape down the sides, then add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add more salt/pepper if desired.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Store leftover pesto in a jar, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to a week. 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. Other Greens: Instead of basil, try other greens like spinach, kale, or arugula.
  3. Nuts: Instead of pine nuts, I love using walnuts. You can also try pecans, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free pesto, try 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


How to Make Homemade Basil Pesto plus tons of other tasty variations!


  1. Do I love pesto? Oh how let me count the ways! I love using fresh ingredients because it allows me to pass myself off as a better cook than I really am =) And I’ve never thought to sub in walnuts for pine nuts! Will do !!

  2. Love how you used walnuts instead of pine nuts! Definitely much easier and affordable to find in the grocery store! Will have to try your version 🙂

  3. Yes, I love pesto! This week I made homemade pesto with campanelle, squash and zucchini for my dinner all week and it was uhmazing! I’m very curious about this lemon addition to your pesto… what does it do flavor wise?

  4. I went through a phase a few years ago when I was making a recipe very similar to this one A LOT. And I was putting pesto on EVERYTHING. It is soooo yummy and easy. I love adding it to eggs. Gorgeous photos, as always!

  5. There are days when all you feel like making is boiled noodles and throwing some sauce on top. This would be perfect for those days, and any of the other things you mentioned. I love pesto as it’s super fresh and who can resist basil. My boyfriend’s not a fan of marinara sauce so I thought this would be a good alternative…he’s like I don’t care for pesto either. What a killjoy 😛 Maybe I’ll just have to make it from scratch instead to see if I can’t change his mind 😉

  6. Hi Sally- can I omit all types if nuts for the pesto? I have a son with a peanut/tree nut allergy, but I think he would really like the pesto pizza! Will it compromise the flavor too much? Thanks!

    1. Hi Katie! I just added some nut-free alternatives to the notes. For a nut-free pesto, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.

  7. I have an undying love for basil pesto and for some reason I haven’t tried to make it myself, I’ve only had it out at restaurants. I will be trying your recipe one night this week!

  8. 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!!

  9. 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!

  10. Is that a ninja blender I spy? This looks amazing, basil pesto is my favorite. especially in the morning on an egg sandwich!

      1. Hi Sally…what an amazing site…Love Love Love Pesto, have never made my own always bought…Do I have to use a blender. and is that Ninja Blender available in South Africa. Who is the blender made by. I have printed your recipe so am looking forward to try make my own. I normally buy in bulk and freeze…so much easier…xx

  11. 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!! 🙂

  12. 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. Here’s a yummy sounding pesto without cheese that I found:

  13. 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. 🙂

  14. Oh I Love Pesto and cannot wait to try this homemade version. Would like to make to keep in bulk. Sounds Awesome. As well as Went to try your Peach Pecan Crisp last night and the store left my oats out of bag. So disappointed and making Today with some Fresh Peachs. Cannot wait to try. Looks Amazing! ! Thanks for Great Recipes. .

  15. 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

  16. Hey Sally! I love your blog. If I wanted a thicker pesto, would I use less oil or increase the amount of nuts used? Thanks so much.

  17. 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 !!

  18. 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.

  19. I can’t believe how easy and delish this was. I substituted the pine nuts with a handful of costco mixed nuts. They were salted so i omitted the salt. I cover the pesto with plastic wrap and then the lid when i freeze it. This prevents it from turning brown

  20. Hi Sally
    Is there an alternative for Parmesan cheese?
    I’m vegetarian and can’t eat Parmesan cheese.
    Love all your recipes

      1. It’s a popular food in dairy free diets as it has a cheesy flavor. It is usually sold in the health or supplement aisles of most grocery stores and looks like flakes.

  21. 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…!

  22. 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!

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