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How to Make Pesto

Updated May 2, 2019
how to make pesto
Say goodbye to store-bought pesto, because you’re 10 minutes (and five ingredients) away from homemade. With this step-by-step tutorial, Betty will show you how to make pesto so delicious you’ll never go back.

How to Make Pesto

The toughest part of this two-step recipe is cleaning your food processor—seriously! It takes 10 minutes from start to finish.

What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients for Classic Pesto
  • Blender or food processor
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Rubber spatula

1.  Place all ingredients in blender or food processor.


2.  Cover and blend on medium speed for about 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape sides, until smooth.


Frequently Asked Pesto Questions

How do I measure basil for pesto?

Pesto is all about the basil, so you don’t want to skimp! To measure basil for pesto, pack the measuring cup with basil leaves. If you’re lucky enough to have basil in your garden, you know basil can sometimes go wild in the heat of summer. Pesto is the perfect way to use up your bumper crop.

How should I store pesto?

If you aren’t planning to use your pesto right away, cover with plastic wrap—wrap should be directly on the surface of the pesto to prevent darkening. Note, pesto will darken but retain its bold flavor.

How long will pesto keep in the refrigerator and freezer?

Refrigerated properly, pesto will keep 5 days in the fridge. Stored in a resealable plastic bag, pesto will keep 1 month in the freezer.

Alternately, spoon fresh pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once pesto has frozen, cubes can be removed and stored in a freezer plastic bag. With these frozen flavor bombs in the freezer, there’s always an easy dinner solution waiting for you!

Should I use a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle to make pesto?

All of of the above! You can use a food processor or blender to make pesto quickly. You can also use a mortar and pestle to make pesto. Of course, this last method will require a little more elbow grease, but it works and yields delicious results. Some people prefer to make it this way and of course, it’s the traditional Italian way.

How do you make vegan pesto?

Pesto is made with mostly plant-based ingredients, including: basil, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts. The exception is Parmesan cheese. To make vegan pesto, simply skip the Parmesan. If you miss the nutty, umami richness of Parmesan, try swapping in nutritional yeast. This vegan ingredient has a similar flavor profile and can be found at many health food stores and natural foods coops.

How do you make dairy-free pesto?

You can easily make dairy-free pesto by skipping the Parmesan cheese, or you can substitute nutritional yeast, as described above.

Delicious Ways to Use Pesto

When it comes to dinners, pesto is like money in the bank. There’s nothing wrong with serving over pasta—it’s an unbeatable last-minute dinner—but it’s also a simple way to add tons of flavor to whatever’s on the menu. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

  • Soups: From potato to white bean, pesto is guaranteed to perk up a lackluster soup.
  • Pizza or Sandwiches: Spread it on or mix it with another sauce or condiment.
  • Poultry, Beef, Fish, Seafood: Make the easiest-ever marinade with pesto, oil and vinegar.
  • Grains and Vegetables: Combine pesto with butter, cream or cheese sauce to dress up your rice, pasta, quinoa, green beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and more.

Other Ways to Pesto

Once you’ve mastered Classic Pesto, try taking this basic recipe and swapping in the herbs or greens below.


  1. Spinach Pesto: Substitute 2 cups of firmly packed fresh spinach for the basil.
  2. Cilantro Pesto: Substitute 1½ cups firmly packed fresh cilantro and ½ cup firmly packed fresh parsley for the basil.
  3. Basil, Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto: Use a food processor. Decrease basil to 1 cup. Decrease oil to 1/3 cup; add ½ cup of drained roasted red or yellow bell peppers from a jar. Substitute walnuts for the pine nuts.
  4. Basil-Parsley Pesto: In food processor, process ¼ cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup pine nuts until pureed. While processor is running, add 1 cup basil and ¼ cup parsley a little at a time. Add ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel; process until smooth but slightly textured.
  5. Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto: Use a food processor. Omit the basil. Decrease oil to 1/3 cup; add ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, undrained.