Basil Pesto


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Basil pesto is my go-to summer sauce! It’s amazingly flavorful, deliciously aromatic, and adaptable enough to slather on pretty much anything. You just need a few fresh ingredients like basil leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, nuts, garlic, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

A bowl of basil pesto

Before we dive into the recipe, I just have to reiterate this point – homemade basil pesto tastes a million times better than anything store-bought! While I’m sure we’ve all bought jars of pesto in a pinch, nothing compares to the fresh scent and robust flavor of newly pureed basil leaves. 

This basil pesto recipe is a replica of the fresh and authentic pesto I’ve enjoyed on numerous trips to Italy. And today, the smell of pesto has a magical way of transporting me back to the Italian Riviera, while getting my stomach primed for what I know will be a delicious meal.

Ingredients for basil pesto on a table

Basil Pesto Recipe Ingredients

All you need is a handful of fresh ingredients: 

  • Olive Oil & Lemon Juice: Since there’s a good amount of olive oil, I recommend selecting a high-quality one. I love to use the brand Lucini Italia (which I’ve linked in the recipe card below). 
  • Nuts: You’ll need a mix of raw pine nuts and cashews. Let me emphasize the “raw” part as you don’t want extra salt or “roasted” flavors added to this sauce.
  • Basil Leaves: When summer is in full swing, the markets have an abundance of fresh basil! Choose basil that is not wilting and looks extra fresh and green.
  • Aromatics: Garlic, salt, and pepper tie everything together.
  • Cheese: If you enjoy cheese, splurge on the good stuff. Don’t ever buy those bags of pre-grated parmesan cheese. Not only do they lack flavor, but they may also include unnecessary ingredients. I recommend a high-quality cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano and grate it yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Can you make this a vegan basil pesto? Absolutely! I often make this recipe without cheese for an easy, dairy-free option, especially if I have guests with a dairy sensitivity. The cashews in the recipe add much of the creaminess that the cheese would normally provide, so I find that it’s certainly not missing anything if you go without cheese.

How To Make Basil Pesto

You can use a food processor or a high-powered blender to make basil pesto. Just note that the blender will give a slightly smoother consistency. So depending on the texture you prefer, you have two choices!

Add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender. Before adding everything, I love to toast the pine nuts and cashews in a skillet to give them a delicious, toasted flavor. But this is optional. 

Toasting nuts in a pan for basil pesto

Blend the pesto. If you’re using a food processor, pulse until the ingredients are all pureed. If using a high-powered blender, slowly turn the speed to high and use the tamper to push down the ingredients until it’s perfectly creamy. 

Helpful tip: If you’re using a high-powered blender, don’t halve or reduce the quantity. You need a minimum amount of ingredients in order for your blender to process the sauce properly. 

Blended basil pesto

Ways to Use Basil Pesto

Use this basil pesto recipe with just about anything! It’ll instantly elevate the flavor of any dish with its aromatic, herby, nutty, garlicky, and all-around divine flavor.

  • Toss into pasta or salads. Basil pesto pasta is a classic. But I love to toss it with this zucchini noodle caprese or pesto chicken salad for a fresh green twist.
  • Use it as a spread. The options are endless here. Use it as a spread in a sandwich, onto breakfast toast with eggs and ham, on top of baked salmon and baked chicken, or as a layer in this zucchini lasagna.
  • Make pesto eggs! Cook some fried or scrambled eggs and slather pesto on top. The results are chefs kiss!
  • Spoon over hummus. Give your hummus some oomph by spooning a bit of pesto on top —  like in my roasted beet hummus
A white bowl of basil pesto

Storage Tips

  • To store in the fridge: If you’re meal-prepping for the week, a jar of pesto will be extra handy! Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. To keep it extra fresh, make sure there’s a nice layer of oil on top before storing away (you can always add an extra drizzle of oil if needed).
  • To freeze for later: You can freeze basil pesto for quick and easy meals! Just pour any leftovers into a silicone ice cube tray and freeze it, then transfer to a storage container. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. When you’d like to enjoy it, simply thaw a basil pesto cube and add it to your favorite meal.

More Recipes with Basil

This basil pesto recipe will become a summer staple in your kitchen. Once you make it, let me know your thoughts in the comment box below!

Basil pesto in a white bowl

Basil Pesto

5 from 31 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


Basil pesto is a fresh, aromatic, insanely flavorful sauce. It’s light, refreshing, summery and couldn’t be easier to make with a handful of fresh ingredients. Watch my video above to see how quickly it comes together! 



  • cup olive oil, or more as needed
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup raw pine nuts
  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • 2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, optional


  • Toast the pine nuts and cashews in a skillet on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, tossing gently. Then place them in your food processor or blender.
    Toasted nuts in a pan for basil pesto
  • Add the remaining pesto ingredients to the blender. If using a food processor, pulse until the ingredients are mixed. If using a blender, slowly turn the speed to high and use the tamper to push the ingredients into the blades until the pesto is smooth and creamy.
    Blending basil pesto in a Vitamix

Lisa’s Tips

  • Toasting the pine nuts and cashews is optional, but it does add a wonderful flavor to the pesto.
  • The Vitamix model I use is the Ascent 3500 and I definitely recommend it. Make sure to check out all my other Vitamix Recipes as well.


Serving: 2tbsp | Calories: 90kcal | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 78mg | Potassium: 29mg | Vitamin A: 135IU | Vitamin C: 0.7mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Course: dressing, sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Basil Pesto, Basil Pesto Recipe, Basil Pesto Sauce
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally posted July 2018, but updated to include new photos and information.

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I made this recipes but without roasting the pine nuts and did not add any cheese. I added a bit too much lemon because after blending it the pesto was very watery. I added some roasted macadamias because I did not have any pine nuts left and it helped to turned it into a pesto paste. I did not get to a point to try the pesto on any salad or with anything else because I could not stop eating it once I tasted it while it was still in the blender. Delicious! I used fresh basil leaves from a bush that is growing in the back garden. Thank you Lisa for all your delicious recipes. Downshiftology is my one stop shop for finding an easy quick healthy recipe. You rock!5 stars

  2. Sooooo delicious! I’ve never made pesto before. However, Lisa is turning me into quite the cook! EVERYTHING I have made from the website or her book is sooo good! This pesto is no exception! I poured the pesto over roasted spaghetti squash garnished with sun dried tomatoes my friend made with tomatoes from my garden and some capers. Amazing!5 stars

  3. What great flavor!!! I’ve had some not real great pesto and this one is a keeper! Very easy to make. I’ll be making this again! Thank you Lisa!!!5 stars

  4. What a great recipe, easy and worth the effort! It’s so much better than store bought pesto. I like the option of controlling the amount of olive oil to an achieve desired consistency. Everyone LOVED it at the 4th of July cookout.5 stars

  5. I have a lemon allergy. Is there another acid that would be a good substitute or could I just omit without too much disappointment in flavor?

  6. Hi Lisa!

    I made this exactly as listed, and it was amazing, but am wondering about the nutritional info.  My batch yielded 18 tbsps and when I enter the ingredients into my lose it app recipe calculator, it says 98 per tablespoon versus your calculation of 90 for 2 tablespoons. Ty!5 stars

  7. I use this recipe all the time. We like ours a little stronger, so we use more garlic, a bit more lemon juice, a bit more salt. Yummy!

  8. Easily the most delicious pesto recipe I’ve ever made. Rather than waste a drop of it, I used a dollop from scraping out the Vitamix container on one of your Zucchini & Prosciutto Egg Muffins. So delicious!

  9. Fabulous recipe! I added walnuts instead of cashews and a little arugula – came out great! So great to have these healthy but not boring recipes! thank you Lisa!5 stars

      1. Whenever I learn to make a new dish, my go-to is to always look up Downshiftology’s recipe, it never disappoints for a nutritious and tasty version. This pesto is no different, I nailed it the first time by following all the tips and quantities. Thank you for making me look like a wonder cook among those whom I cook for!5 stars

  10. Love all of your recipes, they are my do too just about everyday. I was wondering if I could replace the basil with English spinach 🤗5 stars

  11. Hey there, Firstly, congrats on the book. 😁
    Could I substitute the basil with Coriander and not add the cheese for a vegan coriander pesto?

    1. Thanks so much Dayne! As for a cilantro pesto, you can do that. Although, you might want to look up some recipes to see what other ingredients they add to complement the cilantro :)

  12. How do you make the sauce thinner without it losing flavor? I couldn’t imagine using water. I want to use it plentifully as I would marinara sauce.

  13. Thanks for this quick and simple recipe! Delicious 😋
    Added this to Trader Joe’s lentil penne with pan seared shrimp.5 stars

  14. This basil pesto was absolutely delicious. I served it as a dipping sauce for roasted chicken, but could have just as easily eaten it with a spoon! The consistency of mine was a lot more smooth, than the textured version in the recipe/video, so I may have over mixed it in the blender. Either way it was a 10/10. My boyfriend who doesn’t like anything green even approved! 5 stars

  15. Amazing! So easy, fresh and delicious, I think I will be putting it on everything! I hope my garden basil can keep up! Thanks for another great recipe Lisa!5 stars

  16. As a dairy free option, do you think substituting nutritional yeast for parmesan would help with the “cheese” profile? Have you tried it? I know it’s optional, but I didn’t want to waste any pine nuts if I didn’t have to.

  17. Hi Lisa,
    I had plenty of basil so I made this recipe with a couple of substitutions instead of buying store bought pesto. Parmigiano Reggiano and pine nuts are so expensive so I used Pecorino Romano (left over from making Cacio E Pepe Spaghetti) and walnuts. It turned out well.

    I suppose if I can afford a VITAMIX I can afford the expensive ingredients but I like to tweet recipes to use ingredients I have on hand rather than buying stuff I might not use for a while.5 stars

  18. Love your recipes! I really wanted to try this one but I’m allergic to all nuts (including pine nuts and cashews). Do you have any suggestions for replacing them?

  19. Hi Lisa:)

    Enjoyed the recipe very easy to make and plenty of left over to freeze. I switched it up a little and used 1 cup of fresh basil and 1 cup fresh spinach. It was a big hit. Which pasta do you recommend to use for this recipe?

    Angel5 stars

    1. Glad you enjoyed this! I normally use this with my zucchini noodles. You can take a peek at my zucchini noodle caprese recipe :)

  20. I have heard that it is better (safer) to leave the garlic out of the recipe (if you are freezing it) until you thaw and are ready to serve as the combination of garlic and oil can cause botulism.  Some recipes also suggest omitting cheese (again, if freezing) until ready for use.  What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Mary – my understanding is that the botulism concern is related to storing garlic in oil at room temperature. If it’s stored in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a couple of months, it should be fine.

  21. This is my favorite pesto recipe!! Love it with pasta or on a sandwich. I also like to mix it with mayo to make a pesto-mayo dipping sauce5 stars

  22. I have tried dozens of Pesto recipes and this is hands down my favorite! Im dairy free and the cashews make this so creamy, that it mimics a cheesy version! It is my go to when using up all the basil I have going wild in my garden!5 stars

  23. Hi Lisa! I wanted to make this recipe but I have two questions: 
    1. I have a classic Vitamex (not one of those cool fancy ones haha). I also don’t own a food processor. Can I still put nuts in the blender or is it not powerful enough? I don’t want to ruin the blades/motor. 

    2. I have a cashew allergy. Can I replace the cashews in this recipe with almonds? 

    Thank you! 

    1. Hi Summer – yes, you should have no problems with the pine nuts in the blender as they’re pretty soft. And I’d recommend replacing the cashews with more pine nuts. :)

  24. Simply the best I pesto I’ve ever made and so easy! Way better than anything I have found in stores. I will save this recipe forever!!5 stars

  25. Hello!
    My son is multi-allergic. His big ones are dairy and peanut but, cashew is also on the list. Could I sub the cashews in this recipe with something else?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Angelique – you could omit the cashews and just use pine nuts. Or you could use another nut like walnuts. It’s certainly flexible. :)

  26. I am so happy I made this for #freezerprep as I will be able to use delicious pesto cubes for months to come. I love this pesto on pizza, pasta, zoodles, in savory oats, and so on. It’s a perfect recipe for when you find a huge batch of basil at a good price or if you’re fortunate enough to have a good green thumb. I didn’t have Parmesan but I did add some nutritional yeast for a hint a cheesy-like flavor. 5 stars

    1. Yes! This makes for the best freezer meal prep using a silicone ice cube tray. I’m always happy knowing I can easily toss a basil cube into a stir fry or with some zoodles. :)

    2. Why buy Pesto from the store if it’s so easy to make right? Especially if it’s so delicious like your recipe! Thanks Lisa!
      Also within only a few minutes you can mix up a healthy homemade pasta like this. My family loves it!5 stars

  27. I got my Vitamix about two weeks ago and was sad because I thought I wouldn’t be able to find a Basil plant but I found a small one today at Whole Foods. I’m making some today! Should I use 2/4 cup pine nuts since I don’t have cashews? I have walnuts too if they can take cashews place?5 stars

    1. This will last for 4-5 days in the fridge, but you can freeze it as well! I freeze it in my silicone ice cube trays for future use. I show how to do that on my kitchen gadgets video. :)

  28. Made this today to go with the zucchini dinner (from your ‘what I eat in a day’ video).  Well well well.  We all knew we would enjoy it, we’ve made pesto from your recipe, the fact it tastes so good with the zucchini cake to no surprise.  Our daughter (10 years old) doesn’t really like zucchini but had two helpings of them!!!  She really liked how the pesto “masked” the zucchini!  Feeling full so will wait a bit before making mango/yoghurt dessert.5 stars

    1. I think “masking” is 100% okay when you’re slathering the zucchini noodles in healthy basil pesto (more greens). Haha. And look at that – two helpings. Yay! Glad both the pesto and the zucchini noodle caprese was a success! x

  29. Now this is the perfect topping for pasta in summer and I have a ton of basil out in the garden right now!

    Thanks for posting this. I can even use it on top of garlic pizza! YUMMY!5 stars

    1. Yes, it’s perfect to top on pasta (or zucchini noodles) and so many other recipes. Enjoy!

  30. That basil pesto looks so delicious! I do love pesto, I’d have it on everything if I could!5 stars

  31. I always make my own pesto these days and basil is of course the classic. Haven’t tried with cashews, mind you – for next time!5 stars

    1. Yes, the cashews definitely add a lovely flavor (especially when toasted). Hope you enjoy my version!