Homemade Pesto Recipe With Frugal Variations

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This homemade pesto recipe is made with fresh basil and a few other simple ingredients. It can be used over pasta or spread lightly over bread, and a little goes a long way.

Delicious homemade Pesto recipe you can easily make at home! #pesto #homemadepesto #pestorecipe

Homemade Pesto

Did you plant and harvest basil from your herb garden this year? Then you might have a little bit of extra basil that needs to find a use! Or if you need a simple pesto recipe for a dish you are planning on making, you will love this one.

Homemade Pesto Recipe

What You Need:

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 pint jar

How to Make Homemade Pesto

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Rinse your basil leaves and pat dry.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Add them to the food processor with the pine nuts and pulse several times.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Next, add the olive oil and blend until smooth.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse.

At this point, you may need to scrape any ingredients that have stuck to the side of your processor.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Mince one garlic clove before adding to the processor and pulse again. I recommend taste testing at this point to determine if you’d like the other garlic clove.

Scrape the sides of your processor again if necessary.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Once you’ve added your garlic, add the salt and pepper, blending one last time.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Transfer your pesto to a clean pint or half-pint jar. A thin layer of olive oil should begin to accumulate on top of the pesto. Twist the lid on the jar and refrigerate.

Homemade Pesto Recipe - Little House Living

Canning Pesto

Canning pesto is not recommended. The parmesan cheese, olive oil, and garlic within the recipe can create an environment for botulism to thrive in, even when pressure canned.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation says, “Pesto is an uncooked seasoning mixture of herbs, usually including fresh basil, and some oil. It may be frozen for long-term storage; there are no home canning recommendations.”

Preserving Pesto

To preserve the pesto you could place it in either 1/2 pint containers or freezer bags and freeze for future use. Fresh pesto will last about a week in the fridge if stored in an air-tight container. Freezing is the preferred method of preservation if you want to make it in advance.

Here’s another great way to preserve pesto! Pour the finished recipe into ice cube containers and then freeze. After the pesto has frozen you can pop the pesto cubes out of the ice tray. Store them the freezer in a freezer bag until ready to use. This way you can quickly grab out only the amount you need for a recipe.

–Have you ever tried Freezing Kale?


How to Use Homemade Pesto

You can use Homemade pesto is a variety of ways. Here are a few things you can add homemade pesto to:

  • Pasta
  • Guacamole
  • Veggie Dips
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Pizza (replace the sauce)
  • Bread (add into any basic bread recipe!)
  • Sandwich Spread
  • Salad Dressing
  • Veggies
  • Meatballs
  • Burgers

–Do you grow mint? Here are 10 fun Uses for Mint!

Frugal Substitutions for Pesto

If you don’t have all the ingredients for the basic recipe above, you might be interested in some of these simple substitutions.

  • Replace the pine nuts for walnuts, cashews, or almonds.
  • Replace the basil with cilantro., spinach, zucchini, or other green veggies.
  • Replace the pine nuts with sunflower seeds.

Want to print this Homemade Pesto Recipe? Grab it below!

5 from 3 votes

Homemade Pesto Recipe


  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pint jar


  1. Rinse your basil leaves and pat dry.
  2. Add them to the food processor with the pine nuts and pulse several times.
  3. Next, add the olive oil and blend until smooth.
  4. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse.
  5. At this point, you may need to scrape any ingredients that have stuck to the side of your processor.
  6. Mince one garlic clove before adding to the processor and pulse again. I recommend taste testing at this point to determine if you’d like the other garlic clove.
  7. Scrape the sides of your processor again if necessary.
  8. Once you’ve added your garlic, add the salt and pepper, blending one last time.
  9. Transfer your pesto to a clean pint or half-pint jar. A thin layer of olive oil should begin to accumulate on top of the pesto. Twist the lid on the jar and refrigerate.

Head over here to find all our other free Canning and Preserving Recipes!

Do you have a special homemade pesto recipe? Have you ever tried preserving pesto?


This Homemade Pesto Recipe was originally posted on Little House Living in August 2013. It has been updated as of January 2019.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I make homemade pesto for us all the time! In fact, we just had it last night on one of our favorite homemade pizzas (cooked on the grill!): roasted red potato, pear, and pesto pizza! Pine nuts are super expensive so I have learned to improvise and I swap them out for walnuts which are way cheaper. Delicious!

  2. One of my favorite ways to preserver pesto is actually to freeze it. I pour my pesto into muffin pans and freeze it until it is frozen solid. Then I take the pan out of the freezer pop the pesto out of their molds, wrap the discs individually in plastic wrap and pop them in a container/bag and put them back in the freezer. We mainly use pesto on pasta so when we make a pot of pasta we just melt a disc of pesto on the hot pasta. Delicious!

    1. This is how I preserve pesto as well, using mini-muffin tins. I add a frozen pat to soup, pasta sauce or fish stew. Never thought to put it directly on hot pasta. Thanks for the idea!

  3. I have considered making homemade pesto before. Unfortunately buying all the ingredients made it super expensive. I see that Kendra suggested walnuts. If you don’t grow your own basil that can also be expensive.

    1. In the summer I substituted basil with kale for big batches of pesto-covered grilled chicken. I found it definitely worth trying to see if I liked it, it tasted great, and was made very inexpensively.

    2. You can also make pesto with cilantro which is much creeper than basil and normally you can get decent cilantro all year round. Believe it or not it taste pretty similar with all the other ingredients.

      1. As opposed to pine nuts, I have found that using roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds to be a great substitute. I have also made pesto with arugula spinach and both versions are yummy!

    3. Find a good farmers market, or Italian grocery store. I bought my pine nuts at Costco, and then had 4 other people go in with me. The pesto was not that expensive to make, using my own plants and farmer market plants, I was able to make 6 pints, which I keep in the freezer. When I open a jar, it will last for at least 2 weeks or longer is you remember to add olive oil to the jar, to make sure the pesto is always covered in oil. Old Italian trick that has been used for hundreds of years.

  4. I LOVE this! I have five basil plants outside (we planted ours in old pallets!) and I make pesto every year. I have been freezing it in meal-size containers, but I have always wondered about the other ways I could preserve it, and whether I could pressure-can it or not. I never really researched it. I had no idea that pesto could last so long in the fridge, and I also had no idea about the thin layer of olive oil. Awesome! I am glad to have another alternative. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to thaw pesto on a whim in time for dinner. 🙂
    I use walnuts too, since pine nuts are so expensive. I also peel my garlic and then roast it in a sealed tin foil ball with some olive oil in the oven before making it. I find roasted garlic to be a lot better in the pesto.

    Love the post!

  5. I have a daughter who is allergic to tree nuts, so I substitute sunflower seeds with good results. Now I just need to get better at growing basil. I have also substituted zucchini for some of the basil, when I don’t have enough basil.

      1. When seeds are added to the potential protein in pesto, there are many options. An excellent suggestion! I hadn’t heard of adding zucchini but I have seen parsley and broccoli used.

  6. With respect to keeping pesto in the fridge for an extended time, the layer of olive oil is a must. However … you must also ensure there is no pesto above the oil line. After I use some, I scrape all the pesto from the sides back down to the surface. I top up the oil before I return the jar to the fridge. Every third or fourth time I use it, I transfer the remaining pesto to a clean jar. Perhaps I am over cautious but I have lost many jars to mould on the sides of the jar.
    Pesto is also good on green peas with a little lemon juice. Of course, I like green peas with horseradish so this might be a personal preference.
    I recent found a recipe that combines mashed avocado with pesto and lemon juice. The avocado adds creaminess, adds to the green colour and makes a little pesto go a long way

  7. Pine nuts are expensive– I found that using walnuts instead is a lot cheaper and tastes just as good! Actually, any kind of nuts work.

  8. I love this website, it has given me so much inspiration and to think about what matters most. Please keep up the great work!

  9. The pine nuts really should be toasted first. And 1/3 cup of pine nuts aren’t that expensive and are well worth it in this recipe. Walnuts are too bitter to me. Try mixing pesto with mayonnaise, spread on Italian bread with seasoned grilled vegetables (zucchini & eggplant) and fresh mozzarella. Mama mia! Enjoy!

  10. I found that unsalted cashews roasted in the oven are my new favorite nut for making home-made basil pesto. Alot less bitter than pine nuts. I also like to use some chili infused olive oil (not the entire amount) for a bit of a kick.

  11. By adding pine nuts, is this just to give the pesto a hint of pine nut taste or is it for adding bulk (consistency) to the sauce? Can I omit the pine nuts and cheese? We have dairy allergies in the house.

    1. It’s more for a little added taste but you could leave them out. Pesto can easily be added to or subtracted from to make it work for your family.

  12. I use sliced almonds (you can toast them or not, I have used them untoasted and it was fine) instead of pine nuts because I have them on hand more often. We put them in cereal and on oatmeal so they are almost always in my cabinet.

  13. For economy’s sake I have always used blanched almonds, as I’m allergic to walnuts, and the results are just fine!

  14. Can you also make pesto using fresh spinach instead of basil? Also, I use raw unsalted almonds instead of pine nuts and omit the salt altogether.

  15. I make pesto with all the greens I can find. And all the healthy nuts. Each nut is about 1/8 of a cup. I add 2 bulb of garlic, it’s not alot, u alo see that it will make a big batch. I also add 1 cup of lemon juice, salt and pepper to ur taste. And sometimes to give heat some heat I will add 1 tablespoon of crushed chillies. And u puree this in food processor a batch at a time. I than put this in a large bowel. And I mean large, even a stew pot will work. Once I am done with that. I will add the nuts, oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and any other seasoning I like. I store it in quart size zip lock bags, and I put one batch in the jar. I try to use it in many dishes, and add it to lot of sandwiches. Since my kids r not vege lovers, this is the best way to give them their greens, that way they won’t be able to pick out what they don’t like. Pesto is a very versatile recipe. U can make it with as many ingredients or as little of ingredients and can work with many different ingredients and will get good result. The best part is kids can’t complain cause u use it in place of mayo. I spread pesto on one side and homemade hummus on the other side. Hummus is also a dish I make with many different types of beans. Yup… best way to put this dish in everything. 2 to 4 tblsp. In a dish goes a long way. Makes soups and stews smooth and gravy.

  16. Hi there from Australia. I am also a regular pesto maker, in fact made a couple of jars today. I was interested to see the comments about freezing it, and am going to try that as I have a bumper crop of basil and a bit wary of just leaving it in the fridge for months.

    I use a slightly different recipe, it’s one I got from “the cook’s companion” by Stephanie Alexander, who is one of the great chefs and restauranteurs in this country. (I can strongly recommend the book if you can get hold of it, it’s not a recipe book as such but rather 800+ pages of wisdom about what to do with what, ranging from anchovies to zucchini and almost everything in between. It is my ‘how to’ food bible.)

    The recipe goes as follows:
    2 cups of firmly packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried (i use a salad spinner)
    1 cup of good quality olive oil
    60 grams (thats about 2 oz) pine nuts
    4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
    Salt to taste (i use about a teaspoon)
    120 grams (4oz) of best quality Parmesan cheese, grated (preferably grate it yourself just before use, the pre grated stuff loses flavour quickly)

    Blent basil, oil, pine nuts and salt together until smooth using a food processor or mortar and pestle.
    When evenly blended, stir in the grated cheese. Put into a screw top jar (or jars) and cover the top with a thin film of olive oil. Store under refrigeration. It definitely improves if you leave it a few days.
    This is a classical recipe and it produces a great tasting, intense pesto.
    Apart from using it in the usual way with pasta, it’s great also with grilled vegetables, particularly aubergines or with boiled potatoes.

  17. I tried your recipe and I am sooooo pleased with the result. I did add more garlic. I will say that the comment about the quality of your ingredients affects the final product is 100% spot on! No more store bought pesto for us!

  18. Im sooo excited to make this.. ~~~ I grew lots of basil in my garden for this very reason 🙂 .. can raw organic cashews be used in place of the pine nuts ??? Hope so ..cause Im not able to find the raw pine nuts ~~
    Thank u much

  19. I tried this recipe today and it was the first time I’ve ever made pesto. I definitely want to incorporate into more of my cooking and change up to new dishes. I first blanched the basil to keep it as bright green as possible. I’ve read people complain of it turning black. Well it worked perfectly. Stayed a nice green color. I also used macadamia nuts for the pine nuts. I love macadamias and it gave the basil a hint of sweet.

    This is a great recipe and thank you for sharing it. Next time I might try using romano cheese to pack a little more punch.

  20. My family loves pesto, and I prepare it all times of the year, not just in summer when basil is plentiful. Pick basil, remove stems from the leaves and discard stems. Food process leaves and freeze in small plastic containers, label date very important. Will keep indefinitely in freezer. When using, add oil, cheese, garlic, etc and it will taste as good as the fresh you pick out of the garden. I have used basil that is 5 years or more old and it is just fine.

  21. I know this is an old post, but it is one of my favorite pesto recipes! I was just curious, do you put the basil leaves and stems in the processor? I have only been putting the leaves in, but if the stems work too I would love to use them. Thanks!

  22. Wow, I just got finished making some pesto this morning. I use toasted almonds instead of pine nuts because they seem to be cheaper! I love growing basil as it does so well here in the desert. 🙂

  23. This looks so good! Thanks for the storage tips, too. I had no idea you couldn’t can something like this so that is super helpful. Thank for sharing with us at Merry Monday this week!

  24. Hi Merissa! I always thought pesto would be so hard to make, but you made it look so easy!! I gotta try it! Thanks for sharing and linking up at DI & DI 🙂

  25. I love pesto! Yummy recipe.Thanks for sharing at the #InspirationSpotlight party. pinned & shared.

  26. I just made two freezer bags full of fresh pesto! We had Israeli couscous with a chunk of frozen pesto melted and a pat of butter. Yum yum!

  27. Just curious, when you freeze basil without blanching it doesn’t it turn black? I’ve blended basil with olive oil and packed it into small flat snack bags for years to add to soups and sauces but always thought it was time consuming because I’d blanch and plunge into ice before removing from stems. It always kept it’s bright color and flavor but I wouldn’t mind skipping that fussy step…

  28. This is delicious! Like some of the other reviewers who have commented, I use walnuts instead of pine nuts because I usually have them on hand. My sons say this is better than store bought!

  29. Looking for a pesto recipe to make, I stumbled upon your site! I wanted to use as Christmas gifts in small jars., but since pesto cannot be canned, is there any reason I can’t freeze the little jars until the holidays and let people know to use it quickly?

  30. You can actually use any edible green (spinach, arugula) for the basil, any kind of nut (walnut,etc) and a carrier oil (I like olive oil) for pesto.

  31. 5 stars
    Great recipe. I make homemade pesto when I harvest Basil but i use about 5 ingredients. Basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, walnuts and salt.

  32. 5 stars
    Do take that extra step of quickly blanching your basil leaves and then quickly plunging them into an ice bath before using them to make the pesto. This step will keep your pesto from turning dark and unpleasant looking as it either freezes or stays in your fridge. Visually, blanching makes all the difference!

  33. 5 stars
    I have made pesto using carrot tops instead of basil. It was a good way to use the carrot tops but basil pesto is still my favorite.