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.

A bowl of pesto with a spoon in it.

Basil Walnut Pesto

This Basil Walnut Pesto is ready in 10 minutes or less, and you don't even need the pricey pine nuts to make it. Turn your summer basil bumper crop into pesto and freeze it for the darkest days of winter. You'll be glad you did!
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 8 servings (2 tbsp each)
Course Pantry
Cuisine Italian
Calories 161

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
  • 1 cups fresh parsley packed (see note 1)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (see note 2)
  • 3 cloves garlic (see note 3)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • In a food processor or blender, add basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, and garlic. Pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10 pulses.
  • With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Parsley: Basil can easily turn brown in a food processor from bruising. Add a handful of fresh parsley to preserve the bright green color.
  2. Walnuts: For more flavor, toast the walnuts. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat walnuts until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 5 minutes.
  3. Garlic: Roasting garlic trades its raw heat for a mellow taste and soft texture. To try this option, in a dry medium skillet over medium-low heat, toast unpeeled garlic cloves until spotty, dark brown, and slightly softened, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Yield: This recipe makes 1 cup of pesto, enough to dress 1 pound of pasta.
  5. Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (add a layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation).
  6. Freezer: Pour into a jar and top with olive oil to prevent oxidation. Leave enough head space at the top of the jar for expansion, then freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  7. More nuts: Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, or you could substitute an equal amount of almonds, pecans, cashews, or even hazelnuts.
  8. Spicy: Add ¼ teaspoon or more crushed red pepper flakes to the food processor before blending.
  9. Kale pesto: Omit the parsley, decrease the basil to 1 cup, and add 2 cups packed kale leaves. Proceed with the recipe as written.
  10. Pesto roasted chicken: Rub pesto under and on the skin of your next whole bird, then roast to perfection.
  11. Pesto cheese bread: Slice a loaf of bread in half lengthwise, then spread a thick layer of pesto. Top with cheese, then finish in the oven or on the grill.
  12. Pesto cavatappi: This Noodles & Co. copycat dresses up pesto with a splash of cream and fresh tomatoes.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tbspCalories: 161kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 2gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 55mgPotassium: 83mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 974IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 64mgIron: 1mg
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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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

    1. 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!

  3. 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. 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!

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

    1. 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.

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

  5. 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.