Make the most of summer’s fresh basil and whip up this easy pesto recipe – two ways! Make Lemon Basil Pesto with walnuts or almonds, you can enjoy now or freeze pesto for later! It’s perfect on Sourdough Pizza or in Summer Pesto Tortellini Salad or Vegetarian Lasagna. This recipe is vegetarian + gluten free and easily vegan.
Basil Bounty for Lemon Basil Pesto
Summer’s the best time to whip up all the things for preserving and basil pesto is no exception. Its freshness will last into the coldest of months tucked away in the freezer just waiting to be added to your favorite recipes.
Or use that pesto right away in great recipes like pesto pasta, pizza, scrambled eggs, dolloped on soup, smeared on crostini or slathered on grilled cheese! It’s a condiment to get creative with!
Instead of Pine Nuts…
Since pine nuts are super expensive and I hardly ever have them on hand, I make pesto with almonds or walnuts. I love both equally, and while they’re both earthy in flavor, they do have slightly different flavor profiles. Give them both a try and see when one you like best!
For this recipe, we’re making almond basil pesto, but walnut pesto can be easily made by switching out the nuts. While there are lots of different ratios out there for pesto perfection, this is the recipe I love and come back to again and again. So, grab that fresh basil and let’s whip up some homemade basil pesto!
For this lemon basil garlic pesto recipe, here’s what you’ll need:
- Fresh Basil
- Almonds or Walnuts
- Fresh Garlic – 3-4 cloves, 5 if you’re feeling spicy!
- Parmesan Cheese – grated or sliced into chunks
- Lemon – juice + zest
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – high quality
Buying parmesan in 8 oz wedges then shredding or grating it at home is more economical and it produces less package waste. Look for vegetarian friendly Parmesan cheese (one that does not use rennet in production). BelGioioso, Organic Valley and Stella offers vegetarian friendly Parm. For more information, check directly with your preferred cheese maker.
Quick Guide: How to Make Lemon Basil Pesto
Using a food processor or blender to whip up this basil pesto recipe couldn’t be easier. Here’s how to do it (see recipe card for details):
- First, toast the walnuts or almonds. Toasting brings out their best flavors and changes their texture from softish to crunchy.
- Next, remove the stems and leaves from the basil. Both can be used in the basil. Discard the tough, central stem. Add the basil to the food processor.
- Third, to the processor, add the toasted almonds or walnuts, garlic cloves, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and season with salt.
- Last, process the ingredients stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor at least once, until the pesto is in small bits.
Transfer the basil pesto to your storage container of choice. If storing in a jar, add a thin layer of olive oil on top to help preserve basil’s vibrant green color.
How to Store and Freeze Pesto
Store pesto in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze basil pesto up to a year. It freezes beautifully and is so convenient to have on hand with a quick thaw. Here are two ways to freeze pesto:
- Store this basil pesto recipe in a lidded freezer container, I like using small 8oz canning jars. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and use as desired. It can be refrozen multiple times.
- For smaller portions, freeze the almond basil pesto in ice cube trays. Simply spoon the pesto into the tray and freeze. This recipe will fill one ice cube tray. Once frozen, and to store, set the tray out at room temperature for about 10 minutes (do not allow to thaw), then spoon the pesto cubes out and into a freezer bag or container. While I’ve read you can line the ice cube tray with plastic wrap for easier release, I’ve never tried this in my efforts to reduce kitchen waste and I don’t find it necessary.
A Few Recipe Tips
- If you find you’d like the pesto to be more like a pesto sauce, add more olive oil, a few tablespoons at a time to reach desired consistency.
- Freezer friendly? Yes please! For up to a year! Freeze in individual containers or in small portions in a ice cube tray. See recipe for more details.
- Dairy free? Make it vegan! Leave out the parmesan all together, decrease the oil by 1/4 C (50g) and add another 1/4 tsp of salt OR add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast. TIP: add nutritional yeast to taste as I find this to be an acquired taste for some.
- Use diced parmesan or grated parmesan – I’ve included measurements for each in the recipe.
Recipes with Pesto to Love
- Pesto-Spinach Whipped Ricotta Dip
- Pesto Grilled Cheese
- Spinach-Pesto Veggie Lasagna
- Creamy Farro with Pesto, Peas and Asparagus
- Gluten Free Pizza Crust
- 15 Minute Flatbread Pizza
Lemon Basil Pesto Recipe
- 2/3 cup (110 grams) Almonds or Walnuts
- 4 cups (100 grams) Fresh Basil loosely packed, leaves and tenderest stems
- 3-4 Cloves of Garlic plump and large
- 1 Lemon zest + juice
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) Parmesan* small dice, if using grated parm 3/4 C (75g)
- 1 cup (200 grams) Extra Virgin Olive Oil + up to 1/4 C (50g) more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
- A few Grinds of Fresh Black Pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (176 Celsius) and toast nuts for 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they go from toasty to over toasted fast! Alternatively, toast the nuts on the stovetop in a dry pan on low for about 3-5 minutes, tossing frequently to avoid scorching. Set aside to cool.
- In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with an S blade, add the basil, nuts, parm, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Process, just to get the ingredients moving then with the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil in a slow steady stream. Once all the olive oil is added stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Process again until the ingredients are smoothish. Add up to 1/4 cup (50 grams) more olive oil depending on how thick or thin you prefer pesto.
Store the Pesto
- Homemade pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days or for longer storage, it freezes beautifully for up to a year! If storing in a jar or lidded container, cover the top of the olive oil with a few tablespoons of oil. This will help preserve its bright green color.Here are two ways to freeze pesto:1. Store pesto in a lidded freezer container, I like using small 8oz canning jars. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and use as desired. It can be refrozen multiple times.2. For smaller portions, freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. This recipe will fill one ice cube tray. Simply spoon the pesto into the tray and freeze. To transfer to a freezer bag or container, set the tray out at room temperature for about 10 minutes (do not allow to thaw), then spoon the pesto cubes out and into the freezer container. While I've read you can line the ice cube tray with plastic wrap, I've never tried this in my efforts to reduce kitchen waste and I don't find it necessary.