Basil Walnut Pesto Recipe

This Basil Walnut Pesto recipe comes together in 15 minutes with just 6 ingredients. Great for pasta, sandwich spreads, and garnishing soups!

Pesto is deceptively easy to make and so tasty, you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often.

Whether you stir it into mayonnaise for a sandwich, mix it in with cheese for a dip, or add it to your next creamy pasta, it’s rich and delicious and ready in no time at all.

Basil walnut pesto in a jar.

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What is Basil Pesto?

Traditional Genovese pesto is a basil-based sauce which originated in Genoa, Italy. Along with basil, it contains garlic, olive oil, a hard cheese such as parmesan, and pine nuts.

Since pine nuts are so expensive, I always use walnuts.  Almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts work too.

How do I make Pesto?

Star by toasting unpeeled garlic cloves and walnuts to amp up their flavor (this is optional but recommended). Next, combine the garlic and nuts in a food processor.

Add basil, garlic, olive oil, and cheese. Blend until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pesto in a food processor.

How do you keep basil pesto from turning brown?

Since basil can easily turn brown when blitzed in a food processor or blender, I add parsley to my pesto. This ensures a bright green color no matter what.

Beyond that, oxygen turns pesto brown. You can prevent this by adding a small layer of olive oil to the jar of pesto before you put it in the refrigerator.

Can Pesto be frozen?

Basil Walnut Pesto is freezer-friendly! Pour into a jar and top with olive oil to keep air out. Be sure to leave enough space at the top of the jar for expansion. Thaw in the refrigerator when you’re ready to use it.

This is especially helpful if you grow basil in your garden. You can make pesto and freeze it for the cold winter months when you want a taste of summer!

Linguine with pesto in a white bowl.

Is Basil Pesto healthy?

Yes! Everyone has their own definition of “healthy,” but I like pesto because it is full of whole-food ingredients and can be modified depending on your diet.

Pesto is naturally gluten free, vegetarian, and keto.

To make pesto vegan or paleo, just leave out the cheese.

This Basil Walnut Pesto in a clear jar.

Basil Walnut Pesto Recipe

This Basil Walnut Pesto recipe comes together in 15 minutes with just 6 ingredients. Great for pasta, sandwich spreads, and garnishing soups!
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Pantry, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 191kcal
Author: Meggan Hill


  • 6 cloves garlic unpeeled (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (see notes)
  • 4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cup packed fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To toast the garlic (optional):

  • Toast the garlic cloves in their skin in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking often, until brown spots form, about 5 minutes. Remove to a small bowl to cool before peeling.

To toast the walnuts (optional):

  • Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium heat and add walnuts. Toast until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes, shaking frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

To make the pesto:

  • Combine peeled garlic, walnuts, basil, parsley, parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as a topping on pasta (3/4 c. pesto per pound of pasta), as a spread on sandwiches, or as a garnish to soups.



  1. Toast the garlic and the walnuts is optional but recommended. If skipping these steps, peeling the garlic before adding to the food processor in Step 3.


Calories: 191kcal
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  1. Linda Hoover

    Are the walnuts whole (halves) or chopped?

    1. Hi Linda, either one of those works. It’s all just going to end up in the food processor or blender anyway. So whatever you want to do works fine! Thank you! -Meggan

  2. Holly

    My husband I are traditionalists. We have been making pesto since the 70’s, using pine nuts and were skeptical of the exchange with walnuts. We had a bumper crop of basil this year and the cost of pine nuts is crazy high, so we thought we would try the walnuts. I toasted the walnuts and garlic in our air fryer. I added 1 additional clove of raw garlic ( total of 7 cloves). Prepped it in our Vitamix with all ingredients as listed. I really packed the basil and Italian parsley to a full measure. We were so pleased. This is now our favorite pesto recipe. Everything was in perfect balance. I put the rest in small containers and placed in freezer. Thank you so much.5 stars

    1. Hi Holly, what a lovely comment. I know, the price of pine nuts gets me every time. You just can’t really make a pile of pesto with those prices! I am so pleased that you enjoyed the walnuts. I always do, too. Take care and thanks again. -Meggan

  3. I agree with Jennifer – toasting the garlic and walnuts really made this special! Thanks!5 stars

  4. Jennifer

    Toasting the nuts and garlic makes for a pleasant taste and less bitter.5 stars

  5. Dave

    Reading down thru the comments in regards to canning. I home can. Do yourselves a favor and do not can anything that’s not recommended by the USDA AKA the Ball Blue Book on Canning. There’s lots of stuff on the INTERNET from non-tested sources regarding canning many products. Don’t go there. The pH level and temperature are very critical to reducing the production botulin toxins that thrive in low acidity and in a partial vacuum. Most things that can not be canned may be frozen but it’s still best to blanch veggies first. Just eat it fresh. It’s so much simpler.

    From the CDC: What is botulism?
    Botulism is a rare but potentially deadly illness caused by a poison most commonly produced by a germ called Clostridium botulinum. The germ is found in soil and can survive, grow, and produce a toxin in certain conditions, such as when food is improperly canned. The toxin can affect your nerves, paralyze you, and even cause death.
    You cannot see, smell, or taste botulinum toxin—but taking even a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.

  6. wallace baisden

    Whoa!!! 6 cloves of garlic???? A girl (or recipe) after my heart. I use garlic in every dish except my breakfast dishes. AND I use a lot of it. Your pesto recipe got my attention. I will follow that rec and go you three or more cloves added to the 6 your recipe posts.

    Thanks, wallace5 stars

  7. Theresa McLendon

    Instead of freezing Can you Can this in a water bath?

    1. meggan

      Hi Theresa! I am not an expert in canning, but I do have a really great book put out by Ball on the subject (it’s called the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving). This is what I can find in the book. They do have a Pesto recipe, but it’s in the “freezer” chapter. They also talk a lot about low-acid vs. high-acid foods, and based on the pH scale they have, I believe herbs would fall under “low acid” and would need to be pressure-canned, not just a standard water bath. Again, not an expert here but that is the info I’ve found in my canning book. I hope that helps! Thanks for your question Theresa!

  8. Dan

    Came here from your Noodles and Co pesto cavatappi copy-cat recipe — delicious! My wife and I found it a *tad* too oily, but it’s also possible we didn’t add the full 6 cups of greens, it can be hard to tell exact measurements with those. Still our new go-to pesto recipe, though!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much, Dan! Sorry about the oiliness. I will retest and see how much I can reduce the amount of oil. I was planning on making it today, anyway. Thanks a lot and have a great weekend!

  9. Greg

    Way too peppery.i suggest less basil or pepper. Or both. The basil already has enough of a peppery taste. 

    1. meggan

      Hi Greg, sorry to hear that! Definitely a personal preference. I make it just like this and eat it with a spoon, but I will modify the recipe with your feedback to warn people. Thanks for letting me know.

  10. Mae

    How long can this keep?

    1. meggan

      I have kept it for up to a week in the fridge or frozen for much longer (indefinitely?). I would add a thin layer of olive oil over the top of it in the jar, to preserve the bright green color. I hope that helps! I hope you like it. It’s absolutely my favorite. I will literally eat it plain out of the jar. Have a great weekend!

  11. tony

    i have a question

    What means the c in 1c. olive oil?

    1. meggan

      Hi Tony, it means cup – 1 cup of olive oil. It’s a standard abbreviation we use in the US, but you are NOT the first person to ask about this. I’m trying to go back and fix my old recipes and spell that out. Sorry for the confusion! Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  12. Hi – I love the pictures you took for this post, so colorful! I always use walnuts for pesto, too, pine nuts are silly expensive where I live as well. Pinning.

  13. Homemade pesto is such a wonderful, simple treat – love it!! Yours looks absolutely amazing.

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