Basil pesto sauce is a 5-minute classic recipe perfect for so many uses. But that’s just the start! There are so many exciting ways to make this versatile sauce at home! We’ve rounded up 25 Best Pesto Recipes that give loads of easy recipe ideas to use this flavorful sauce for pasta, salads, appetizers and more.
When farmers’ markets and home gardens are brimming with fresh produce, making fresh pesto recipes a perfect easy dinner recipe solution.
Most of us are only familiar with a traditional basil pesto recipe but that’s only the beginning. There are so many ways to change it up with fresh herbs, different greens and nuts to take the traditional choice of this flavorful sauce to a new level!
What is Pesto?
This aromatic green sauce is used on pasta but that’s only the start!
Traditionally pesto recipes include fresh 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.
What defines a pesto has stretched to really be:
- any Greens,
- with a type of Nut,
- and olive oil (though not exclusively).
How to make it
All the recipe ingredients are added to a food processer or blender and whirled into a textured sauce. It is usually tossed with pasta for a fresh, delicious, quick, EASY entrée.
How to use it
Now that you’ve made it, here are some great ways 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
How to Freeze pesto
Leave out the cheese if planning to freeze pesto; add that back in after thawing before using it.
Pesto can be frozen in any freezer safe container or bag. I freeze it in bags with my Food Saver. They are easy to stack flat and neatly in the freezer for use all year.
Thaw at room temperature or the bag can be placed in a bowl of warm water to thaw more quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 refrigerator if not sealed in an airtight container. The same can happen with pesto recipes.
Different types of basil can cause the basil version to brown almost immediately. It still tastes great but is not a pretty vibrant green color.
Or when left in the refrigerator this can happen. It’s is still good to eat (provided it has not been left in the refrigerator over 4-5 days).
Some recommend adding a thin layer of olive oil to protect the top surface or adding plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the pesto.
Others recommend blanching the basil leaves before making the pesto (but some believe this diminishes the flavor) or adding lemon juice.
Whenever browning occurs, I just stir it up before serving and add it to whatever I’m making.
Homemade pesto can be kept, sealed for 5-7 days.
Yes! It freezes well provided the cheese is omitted before freezing.
It can be kept frozen for up to 6 months (though I’ve kept it frozen longer in Foodsaver sealed bags).
TIP: if you love the Parmesan flavor, after thawing frozen pesto stir in finely grated parmesan cheese before serving.
Easy Pesto Recipes
These creative and delicious recipes are made from a variety of ingredient combinations.
The greens included 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 these recipes! Keeping with a traditional definition, all these recipes have at least one featured green and one type of nut.
- Classic Basil Pine Nut with instruction on how to freeze it in ice cube trays (The Lemon Bowl). This handy freezing tip is perfect for fresh batches and saving them for out of season enjoyment!
- Spinach Walnut (Flavor the Moments). Spinach, walnuts and some lemon give this bright and healthy recipe big flavor.
- Broccoli Basil (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 (Hola Jalapeno). This mouthwatering pesto recipe includes a kick from some chile flakes. If cilantro isn’t available can be made with any green from parsley, to kale or even beet greens.
- Spinach Pecan (Miss in The Kitchen). Toasted pecans and shallot are added to this easy recipe for an added flavor punch.
- Bacon Basil (Baked by Rachel). Probably no more needs to said than ‘bacon’ for this recipe. A bonus is a Chicken Pizza recipe to use the recipe on!
- Seaweed (Tasting Page). Calling all adventurous eaters! You’ll recognize all the classic recipe ingredients in this one with a swap of basil for seaweed!
- Lemony Pistachio Basil (The Lemon Bowl). Pistachios and lemon add a bright and delicious flavor to this versatile recipe.
- Pistachio Arugula Sweet Pea (Peas and Crayons). Spicy arugula, peas and pistachios make this recipe spicy and sweet.
- Vegan Spinach Mint (Tasting Page). Mint AND spinach give this cheese-free recipe big flavor.
- Pea, Arugula and Walnut (Floating Kitchen). Walnuts, peas, arugula AND mint combine with traditional ingredients for a thick, luscious recipe.
- Roasted Pepper and Almond (Everyday Maven). This recipe takes up a Mediterranean notch with the addition of jarred roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, flat leaf parsley and smoked paprika! Think ‘if tapenade and pesto had a baby…..’
RECIPES with Pesto Included
Here are some great recipes using pesto that showcase all the options with different types of pesto recipes!
Note for Gluten-Free diners: some recipes may need to be adapted using a gluten-free substitute (pasta for instance).
- 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.
- Pasta with Parsley Pistachio Pasta (A View From Great Island). Peppery parsley leaf and pistachio 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 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 result 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 make these protein-rich veggie burgers everyone will love.
- Pesto Crusted Rack of Lamb with Roasted Plums (Cook the Story). This mint-basil version is slathered on a rack of lamb for roasting.
- Zoodles with Spinach-Kale and Basil Pesto (Simple Roots Wellness). Basil, spinach and kale create the delicious recipe paired with zucchini noodles, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.
Originally published January 20, 2016
Sharon Chen says
Thank you for this compilation! I can’t wait to try these delicious recipes.
Wow! I never knew how easy it is to make your own pesto! I’m never buying store bought again! YUM!!!
I don’t think I’ve ever made a pesto before. I’m very eager to try it, though. Pesto is one of my favorite foods.
I have only tried regular and sundried tomato pesto. I guess I need to try a few of these others too. I did not know there were so many options.
What a great source of information! i had no idea there were so many different varieties of pesto!