Pesto recipes are easy and versatile sauces to make at home. Traditional Basil Pesto is just the start! These 25 Unique Pesto Recipes will give you loads of options for pasta, salads, appetizers and more.
Originally published January 20, 2016; updated July 9, 2018
With Farmer’s Markets and home gardens brimming with fresh produce, fresh pesto recipes are a perfect solution for easy dinner recipes. Pesto recipes literally take about five minutes to make. Toss it in with pasta, spread it on a sandwich or try one of the recipes below.
Most of us are familiar with pesto being only a traditional basil pesto recipe but that’s only the beginning. Did you know you can make pesto recipes with ANY greens and ANY nuts? They all have different flavors and uses!
What IS Pesto?
Pesto is an aromatic green sauce that’s used on pasta but that’s only the start!
What is Pesto Made Of?
Traditionally pesto recipes include basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese (though not always with the cheese). However, it can be made with any leafy green instead of basil. Changing up the type of nut gives it a whole new flavor too.
How to Make Pesto
That’s it! The bold flavor seems like it SHOULD take more effort to make; but it doesn’t!
How Long Does Pesto Last in the Refrigerator?
Homemade pesto recipes can be kept, sealed for 5-7 days.
Why Can Pesto Turn Brown and What to Do About It
Oxidizing, the interaction of certain cut produce or herbs with the air, can cause browning of the surface. Think of guacamole left out or even in the refridgerator if not sealed in an airtight container.
The same can happen with pesto recipes. Different types of basil can cause the basil pesto to brown almost immediately (still tastes great but is not a pretty bright green color) or when left in the refrigerator this can happen.
The pesto is still good to eat (provided the browning is not related to being left in the refrigerator over 4-5 days). Some recommend adding a layer of olive oil to protect the top surface. Others recommend blanching the basil leaves before making the pesto (but some believe this diminishes the flavor) or adding lemon juice.
Whenever I’ve encountered this with newly made pesto before serving it I just stir it up and add it to whatever I’m making.
Can Pesto Recipes be Frozen?
Yes! Pesto recipes freeze well provided the cheese is omitted before freezing. It can be kept frozen for up to 6 months though admittedly I’m sure I’ve kept it frozen longer (again in Foodsaver sealed bags).
TIP: if you love the parmesan flavor, after thawing frozen pesto stir in finely grated parmesan cheese before serving.
How to Freeze Easy Pesto Recipes
During the summer when my garden is bursting with basil I love making batches of basil pesto which I freeze in thin bags with my Food Saver . I stack them flat and neatly in the freezer for use all year.
What to Do with Pesto
Now that you’ve made your pesto recipe how to use it?
- Spread it on pizza with instead of red sauce or WITH red sauce as a base
- Toss it with your favorite pasta
- Use it as a spread on a sandwich with sliced deli meats or vegetarian ingredients
- It makes a great marinade for meat, chicken or fish before grilling or roasting
- Stir it into a favorite risotto recipe
- Use it as a sauce on cooked meat, chicken, fish or vegetables
- Brush it on warm corn on the cob
As with many recipes, the boundaries of what defines an easy pesto recipe has stretched to really be any greens, with a nut, and olive oil (though not exclusively). It has become familiar to find such variations and also to change up how they are used.
For instance, I have switched up the basic basil pesto recipe to use some of a burgeoning tarragon crop from my garden, transforming it into a delicious Tarragon Pesto Chicken Breast with Dressed Greens. It has a sophisticated, French-inspired flavor and an easy recipe ready in less than 30 minutes.
I have a bumper crop of mind yearly in my garden. As much as I love mojitos, I can only drink so many.
I made a Sweet Mint Pesto that is wonderful, made with almond oil, almonds and honey. It can be eaten on fruit or cheese. Lamb lovers would enjoy it in this Marinated Grilled Lamb Chop recipe using a mint pesto.
Pesto Recipes for Easy Dinner Recipes
Summer is a great time to enjoy fresh produce and having fast easy dinner recipes are key. This collection of pesto recipes will add flair to your dinner table.
For this round-up I stuck to the definition of pesto recipes which include a base green and a nut (though I’ve seen delicious options without any greens at all….I’m not sure technically that still is a pesto).
Note for those on a gluten-free diet: Most easy pesto recipes are naturally gluten-free, however some of the recipes using pesto (second group below) may require adaptation of the pasta or other ingredients to ensure they are gluten-free!
EASY PESTO RECIPES
These creative and delicious pesto recipes are made from a variety of ingredient combinations. The greens includes are basil, mint, spinach, cilantro, seaweed, arugula and Italian parsley. Pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and almonds make up the mix of nuts in the pesto recipes!
Classic Basil Pine Nut Pesto with instruction on how to freeze it in ice cube trays (The Lemon Bowl). This handy freezing tip is perfect for fresh batches of pesto and saving them for out of season enjoyment!
Sweet Mint Pesto: Fresh mint, pecans, honey and almond oil make this sweet pesto a great dessert option on fruit or cheeses.
Spinach Walnut Pesto (Flavor the Moments): Spinach, walnuts and some lemon give this bright and healthy pesto recipe big flavor.
Broccoli Basil Pesto (Dizzy, Busy and Hungry) The staple pesto recipe ingredients are included in this unique recipe that also sneaks in some broccoli for extra nutrition. No one will ever know!
Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto (Hola Jalapeno) This mouthwatering pesto recipe includes a kick from some chile flakes and if cilantro isn’t available can be made with any green from parsley, to kale or even beet greens.
Spinach Pecan Pesto (Miss in The Kitchen) Toasted pecans and shallot are added to this easy pesto recipe for an added flavor punch.
Bacon Basil Pesto (Baked by Rachel) Probably no more needs to said than ‘bacon’ for this recipe. A bonus is a Chicken Pizza recipe to use the pesto recipe on!
Seaweed Pesto (Tasting Page) Calling all adventurous eaters! You’ll recognize all the key pesto recipe ingredients in this one with a swap of basil for seaweed!
Lemony Pistachio Basil Pesto (The Lemon Bowl) Pistachios and lemon add a bright and delicious flavor to this versatile pesto recipe.
Pistachio Arugula Sweet Pea Pesto (Peas and Crayons) Spicy arugula, peas and pistachios make this pesto recipe spicy and sweet.
Vegan Spinach Mint Pesto (Tasting Page) Mint AND spinach give this cheese-free pesto recipe big flavor.
Pea, Arugula and Walnut Pesto (Floating Kitchen) Walnuts, peas, arugula AND mint combine with traditional ingredients for a thick, luscious pesto recipe.
Roasted Pepper and Almond Pesto (Everyday Maven) This pesto recipe takes up a Mediterranean notch with the addition of jarred roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, flat leaf parsley and smoked paprika! Think ‘if a tapenade and a pesto had a baby…..’
RECIPES USING PESTO (pesto recipes included)
If you are feeling a lack of inspiration of what to DO with the pesto recipes you want to make, these delicious recipes will solve that problem!
Toasted Pistachio Arugula Pesto with Brown Rice Fusili PastaA spicier pesto with wholesome (and gluten-free) rice pasta.
Kale Walnut Meyer Lemon Pesto with Brown Rice Penne Pasta Another brown rice pasta recipe with Meyer Lemon olive oil in a kale walnut pasta.
Tarragon Pesto Chicken Breast with Dressed Greens Bold and aromatic tarragon pesto gives this moist tender chicken breast a sophisticated flavor over fresh dressed greens.
Roast Chicken with Shallots, Radishes and Radish Green Pesto (Heather Christo) Homey roast chicken with shallots is slathered in a radish green, red wine vinegar and pepitas pesto.
Pasta with Parsley Pistachio Pasta (A View From Great Island) Peppery parsley leaf and pistachio pesto top whole grain pasta.
Thai Pesto Chicken Gluten-Free Noodle Bowls (Cotter Crunch) Thai basil, tahini, ginger and chili flakes deliver Thai flavor to filling chicken rice noodle bowls.
Turkey Pesto and Garlic Meatballs (Café Delites) Traditional basil pesto is folded into spicy flavor-packed turkey meatballs. Great on their own or added to pasta or rice.
Chive Pesto Potato Salad Recipe (Ciao Florentina) Chives, red wine vinegar and pumpkin seeds create a delicious pesto tossed with potatoes in this salad.
Tomato Pesto Soup with Cheesy Croutons (Erren’s Kitchen) Red pesto is used in this soup which can be eaten warm or chilled.
Pesto Veggie Burger with Sun Dried Tomato Aioli (Namely Marly) Chickpeas, cannellini beans and loads of great flavors are used to make these protein-rich veggie burgers everyone will love.
Pesto Crusted Rack of Lamb with Roasted Plums (Cook the Story) Mint-basil pesto is slathered on this rack of lamb for roasting.
Zoodles with Spinach-Kale and Basil Pesto (Simple Roots Wellness) Basil, spinach and kale create the pesto recipe paired with zucchini noodles, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms in this pesto recipe.
This fast and easy Basic Basil Pesto Recipe is a perfect place to start making pesto recipes. It’s a classic and delicious. When you are ready to experiment, swap out the basil for other greens or the pine nuts for different nuts to come up with your own personal pesto recipe blend!
Basic Basil Pesto Recipe
This easy fast basil pesto recipe is ready in 5 minutes!
- 2 cups fresh Basil leaves
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and salt to a food processor bowl (or a blender) and pulse into a coarse meal.
While the food processor is running, pour in the olive oil allowing the pesto to become smooth.
Use immediately or store in an airtight container for 4-5 days in the refridgerator.
To Freeze the pesto: seal in an airtight container or Foodsaver bag and freeze for up to 6 months.