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.
  • Stuffed Peppers: Use pesto in my sausage stuffed peppers recipe instead of the chicken broth. (Same amount– tastes fantastic.)
  • 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.
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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


This is how I make classic basil pesto at home. It’s incredibly simple and flavorful and uses only 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  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.


  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


  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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. 🙂

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

  6. 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

  7. 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 !!

  8. 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…!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. maria caballero olins says:



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

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. Pam Murawski says:

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

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. How many packages of basil do you have to buy to get two cups? Expensive!

    1. Hi Jana, it depends how big the packages are. If it’s helpful, 2 cups is around two very large handfuls.

  25. Wow. This is the best pesto I ever ate. I like pesto, and I make pesto, but I didn’t know it could ever be this good. It is SO fresh and flavorful! I’m enjoying many of your recipes, Sally. You’re a really bright spot during these pandemic times. Thank you for being you!

  26. Made this recipe for the first time- it was delicious. Definitely going into my repeat drawer for anything that likes pesto or vice versa 😉 I found drizzling in olive oil a bit at a time made it easy to get the consistency just right. This recipe made about 1.25 cups.

  27. My pesto tastes bitter! What is wrong? I followed the recipe! Is there only certain leaves from a specific part of the basil plant to be used?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elaine, Did you taste the basil leaves before using? Any chance you are growing your own basil? When the leaves get too large, or the plant is allowed to flower, then the leaves will begin to taste bitter.

      1. Elaine Mule’ says:

        I did not taste the leaves but we are growing the basil. The plant has gotten huge. I used all sizes of leaves from the top to the bottom of the stalks. Any flowering was picked off. So maybe I should just use the top half of the stalk where the smaller leaves are?

  28. Hi Sally, Since I reviewed such tempting comments…would definitely love to try ! Trying this recipe for the first time.. I have fresh grown basil leaves. Should I add Italiano 4 Cheese Blend – provolone, pizza mozzarella, Parmesan and Swiss cheese as I don’t have Parmesan cheese.

    1. I think that cheese should be just fine!

  29. This was my first time making pesto. After cutting some of my basil plants back today, I had a lot of basil leaves that I didn’t want to waste and found this recipe online. I added it to freshly cooked spaghetti noodles and it was a hit. My family loved it and something we’ll be making again and again! Thank you!

  30. I love this recipe! I’ve made 2 batches quadrupeling the recipe each time. I froze the pesto on a parchment lined baking sheet until very firm then used a pizza cutter to divide into usable portions. Filled 2 freezer container so far….
    My preference was for less oil by about half.

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