Fresh Basil Pesto

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Fresh basil pesto is one of the best things you can make with homegrown basil. It’s incredibly simple with a few basic ingredients and the payoff is brightly flavored condiment you can use in a variety of ways! Pesto is also freezer-friendly, making it a great option to stock away in the summer months to use throughout the year. My family loves fresh pesto on pasta, spread on sandwiches, drizzled over chicken or fish, or as a dip for a crusty loaf of bread. Use my recipe as a basic model and feel free to adapt to your preferences.

Homemade pesto in a bowl

Ingredient and Equipment Notes

  • Basil – fresh basil is non negotiable here. You’ll pinch off just leaves, not the stems. Note that if you’re growing your own basil at home, you want to avoid letting your plants start flowering. If the flowering process is already in full swing, basil has a tendency to start turning bitter at that point.
  • Pine Nuts – buttery pine nuts are the classic pesto ingredient, but you are welcome to substitute other nuts. Walnuts and almonds are popular choices.
  • Parmesan Cheese – you’ll want to use fresh parmesan cheese, not the crumbly kind in the green bottle. I like to buy a wedge of parmesan and grate myself. Look for the best deal on parm wedges in the cheese aisle, as opposed to the deli.
  • Garlic – use fresh garlic, garlic powder won’t be as good in this recipe.
  • Olive Oil – I recommend extra virgin olive oil. You could use a “light” olive oil if you’d prefer a lighter olive oil flavor.
  • Food Processor – a food processor is the go-too piece of equipment for pesto, but if you don’t have one, you could use a high-powered blender or finely chop by hand.


Watch just how easy it is to whip up your own fresh pesto at home!

1. Combine basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.

2. Add in olive oil.

3. Add parmesan cheese and salt and pulse a few times to combine.

That’s it!

fresh basil pesto in a bowl

Can I make this Dairy-Free or Nut-Free?

Yes, you can easily make dairy-free or nut-free pesto! One of the great things about homemade fresh pesto is that it’s so flexible and easy to adapt. To make dairy-free pesto, simply substitute a dairy-free parmesan cheese product. You could also omit the cheese and add a few extra nuts instead. To make nut-free pesto, simply omit the nuts. They add a buttery crunch, but the pesto is super delicious without nuts!

Serving Suggestions

Pesto is great to have on hand because it’s a great meal-time shortcut that adds a lot of flavor, quickly! Toss pesto with hot pasta (we love it added to alfredo sauce!), drizzle over roasted veggies, use as a base sauce for homemade pizza, spread on a hot sandwich, or use as a dip for crusty bread. Here’s some recipes you might love to pair with pesto!

Easy Overnight Artisan Bread
Classic Alfredo Sauce
Neapolitan Pizza Crust
Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Pesto and Mozzarella
Pesto Yogurt Dip

How to Store Homemade Pesto

Homemade pesto will store in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or more. It freezes beautifully. Place in a silicone ice cube tray for nice small portions. Pop out frozen cubes and store in a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze larger portions in vacuum-sealed or ziptop bags. Pressing the pesto into a nice flat later (like a sheet of paper) before freezing gives you a portion that will thaw quickly!

Fresh Pesto

Fresh Basil Pesto

Easy recipe for fresh pesto. Great on pasta, pizza, chicken, sandwiches, and more! Recipe is entirely flexible - adjust as desired.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 3 cup basil leaves loosely packed. A little over 1 oz
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts toasted if desired
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice couple teaspoons plus a little of the grated zest.
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • a few cracks pepper


  • Place basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor.  Process until finely chopped.
  • With processor running on low, add in olive oil.
  • Scrape down sides of processor and add cheese and salt.  (Also add lemon here, if using). Process just for a minute until cheese is combined and broken into small pieces, but not pulverized.
  • Sample pesto and add more salt to taste.


Tip for vibrant green pesto:

For extra bright green pesto, bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  After measuring your basil, submerge it in the boiling water for 5 seconds, no longer than 10, and immediately dunk in super cold water and then onto a paper towel.  Pat dry and use immediately in recipe.

Freezer Instructions:

  • One of the great things about pesto is that it freezes well, so you can make it in the peak of summer when your basil is going bonkers and then have it all winter long. Just put it in an ice cube tray and after it's frozen pop all of those cute little cubes in a zip-lock bag or freezer container. Pull them out any time you need a burst of fresh flavor. You can also put the whole batch of pesto in a freezer container, freezer bag, or foodsaver bag.
Author: Our Best Bites
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Sara Wells
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. just made this today!!! it was so unbelievably good!!!!! my 15 month old loved it too!!! and it was so easy to make. thank you so much! i’ve already frozen some for future use as this will be a new staple in our house!!

  2. What other nuts are good to use in pesto? I saw a comment that walnuts are good….too bad pine nuts are expensive! I LOVE your blog…it's my favorite foodie one and I recommend it to everyone!

  3. What other nuts are good to use in pesto? I saw a comment that walnuts are good….too bad pine nuts are expensive! I LOVE your blog…it's my favorite foodie one and I recommend it to everyone!

  4. Thanks for this great recipe. I plan to try it out soon. I adore pasta and pesto. I just recently found you and have really been enjoying your site.

  5. LOL Sara I just saw your post about my mom. Hilarious. Don't hold your breath. Just kidding, maybe I can coerce her into making a comment. She's done so many recipes from you blog it's about time!

  6. I just made some pesto today as well. It is an amazing thing and it can be used in all sorts of dishes. Those sandwiches are looking really good!

  7. I was just talking to someone about pesto and wal-la! I see you posting while foodblog surfing! Awesome post! Thanks!

  8. Are you serious. It's like you are reading my mind. Every time I want to make something, next thing I know your showing me how. I've been wanting to make my own version of panera's tomato mozzarella panini. Now Im going to go steal some tomatoes from my mom's garden. 🙂

  9. Thanks Carly, so glad you liked it! There's nothing like fresh roasted tomatoes from the garden either. PS I love your Mom. My goal in life is to one day get a comment from her!

  10. Had this tonight at my mom's. She did the pasta with roasted (Fresh from the garden!) cherry tomatoes and holy crap it was delicious! Seriously incredibly tasty.

  11. My trusty food processor finally died–after many years of faithful service. I have one in my Macys 'shopping cart', thanks to this post I will push the 'send' button tonight!
    Thanks for your inspiring blog–because of you I started my own blog and am having fun with it. Keep posting!

  12. Pesto! My favorite! I will make this and freeze it for when I need to use it. I can't wait to make some and taste how good it is! Thanks for sharing another great recipe!!


  13. Thanks for making this look so do-able!! Always love to see what you have put together … and looking so fabulous as always 🙂

  14. I LOVE fresh pesto and all of your ideas are fabulous!! The idea of freezing is wonderful!

  15. Yum!! I LOVE pesto!! At my work, we have the option of buying food there (I work at a nursing home) and they have this amazing grilled chicken breast with pesto mayo… it is to DIE for! SO easy, too. Take about 4oz chicken, grill it up, put it on a bun with pesto mayo and a roasted red pepper slice… DELISH!

  16. Thanks so much for the pesto recipe! I have a huge basil plant and like to see a little variation in the pesto. I never thought of freezing it!

  17. I recently made pesto, and since I don't have any ice cube trays, used my madeleine pan! My husband thought I was crazy, but it worked. I love using pesto as a pizza base…especially during the winter when most food is so heavy.

  18. For years now I have made up a mass of Pesto and frozen it in little 1/2 cup ziploc containers. That way I can take out small amounts as needed through out the winter. I use my pesto in soups and potpie… mmmm. I cannot wait till winter to break into the soups and potpies again!

    Thanks for sharing your recipe ladies!

  19. I love pesto. And yes, thank you for the freezing tips. Sometimes I use walnuts when I don't have pinenuts. But I can only ever make a little at a time, because I have a mini food processor! Oh well, it was a hand-me-down from Mom, and I'm not a bout to spend a few hundred on that bigger food processor. 🙂

  20. I love pesto! I love the Basil- thank you for the freezing tips! I also love a spicy Cilantro pesto! Yum!

  21. Thanks for the response, Sara! I've got a basil plant at home that is just itching to be turned into pesto tonight!

  22. EthidiumBromide- no, you absolutely DON'T have to add the olive oil while it's running! Directions always say simply for ease of preparation. Everything is already in there so it's easy to just pour in the oil and you do it while it's running just to mix it all up. You could totally just process everything (even by hand if you really had to) and stir in the oil by hand. And in fact, for a lot of things that call for adding the oil while the processor is running- I add it in by hand instead (like chimichurri for example) because sometimes processing oil too much gives it a bitter taste. So you have no more excuses- go make some pesto!

  23. I've always wondered… what happens if you don't pour the olive oil in while the food processor is running? Does it ruin the pesto? Living in a tiny little D.C. condo means I don't have kitchen space, so I just have one of the mini 2 cup food processors that does not have the option of adding things in while running (well, unless I removed the lid completely, but I really do not want to be scraping pesto off the ceiling). I've never made it because I've always figured there must be some reason why every recipe clearly states ADD OLIVE OIL WHILE FOOD PROCESSOR IS RUNNING! Does anyone know why and if it is still worth making it without that option?

    1. Definitely worth it! I have a big ol’ food processor, but I’ve always dumped all the ingredients in together, oil and all. It still tastes wonderful!

  24. I love basil and pesto so this is great!! You panini looks FANTASTIC even at 6:30 in the morning. I love your blog!

  25. Your posts are always just right no time!! I have a huge bunch of basil that I had intended to use on the weekend and it needs to be used now oe never. Why didn't I think of pulverizing it up?!? 🙂

  26. My favorite! As a base for a nice tomato bruschetta. Dressing for a cool pasta salad. On homemade pizza with shrimp, roma tomatoes and pine nuts. Love pesto!!! Thanks…