Easy Basil Pesto Recipe

Easy Basil Pesto Recipe

Are you looking for an easy basil pesto recipe that is just a little different?

Basil pesto is one of the easiest things to make and it only requires about seven ingredients and a blender or food processor. And there is nothing that needs to be cooked!

Sure, there is always the pre-made stuff at the grocery store you can buy. But this easy basil pesto you can whip up at home will cost you no more than $6 (if not less) to make, is low waste to make, is at least double the amount you’ll get from one of those small jars, and really only takes about 15 minutes of your time. Let’s not forget it tastes better too!

The best part of all?

This easy basil pesto recipe uses pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) instead of pine nuts. So not only is it better tasting but lower in fat too. It is vegetarian (or vegan if you opt for vegan parmesan) and very versatile.  So let’s get started!

Beyond Pasta: Pesto for Everything

I’ve been meaning to do a post about pesto for about half a year now. But I kept putting it off in favor of other things that would catch my attention. Apparently, I have a scattered brain much like my almost two-year-old. She must be rubbing off on me!

A basic basil pesto is a staple in our house especially since my daughter loves the stuff. I can slather some pesto on almost anything and she gobbles it right up. It has saved us countless times when my day has gotten away from me and I don’t have the proper time I need to make us dinner.

Just cook up some pasta, saute up some veggies, and/or toss in some chicken or shrimp and you’ve got an awesome easy basil pesto pasta dish that took less than 30 minutes to make.

But you can use pesto for so much more than just pasta!

Pesto is great:

  • in sandwiches
  • in burgers
  • on garlic bread or in bruschetta
  • as part of a salad dressing
  • spread on meat or chicken
  • tossed with vegetables especially zucchini
  • in a quinoa bowl
  • in a breakfast skillet
  • in muffins or other bakes bread

And much more!

What Ingredients To Use

As I stated earlier, pesto is incredibly easy to make. A basic basil pesto recipe requires a few ingredients to make. You just need some fresh basil, olive oil (or other oil), pepitas or another kind of nut or seed (pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts), Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Fresh Basil

Naturally, using the freshest basil you can find is a must for achieving the best flavor in pesto. If you have a sunny window or patio, growing your own basil is incredibly easy to do especially for beginners and it will save you a ton of money in the long run.

Second to that depending on the season, a local farmer’s market is the next best way to go as there is always a vendor selling fresh herbs at any market I’ve ever been to. And when these other two avenues aren’t available, there is always a grocery store.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Hemp

If you choose to use olive oil, extra virgin is really the way to go. Not only is it the most flavorful oil but it retains the most nutrients compared to regular olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is cold pressed so no heat or chemicals are used and because of that, it retains a high amount of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats (which includes essential fatty acids) as well as a moderate amount of vitamin K and E. It is the natural choice and traditional oil for pesto.

But if you happen to have hemp oil on hand like I do, a tablespoon of hemp oil is perfect in pesto. And hemp oil is incredibly good for you too!

It is high in essential fatty acid much like EVOO but unlike EVOO where the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 10:1, hemp oil has a ratio of 3:1 which is optimal. It is also high in antioxidants and “good” fats as well. You could choose to use hemp oil instead of olive oil but I find hemp oil to be a bit overpowering if used by itself.

To make a mix of hemp and olive oil, I put the tablespoon of hemp oil in the measuring cup and fill the rest with olive oil.

Pepitas vs. Pine Nuts

Lastly, I love to use pepitas in my pesto instead of pine nuts although I know traditionally pine nuts are used. Both are highly nutritious but pepitas contain more fiber and less fat than pine nuts and are much cheaper.

I highly recommend raw pepitas for this recipe as they retain more nutrients than the roasted ones but both work equally well. Just make sure that they are unsalted either way.

If you are a traditionalist with pesto, by all means, use pine nuts instead. It will taste wonderful either way.

How to Make Basil Pesto

When making this recipe, put in all the ingredients except the oil. If using a food processor, go ahead a pulse these ingredients a few times using a spatula to scrap the sides in between to break everything up into smaller pieces. But if you are using a really good blender like the one I’ve got, you can skip that step.

Once that is done, add the oil slowly while the machine is running on a low speed until you get the desired thickness. I’ve found that using fresh Parmesan requires less oil than the grated powder stuff you find in the bottle. You can also substitute the Parmesan out for Romano cheese instead at the same amount.

How to Store Pesto

Once you’ve got a smooth paste, you can store this in a glass jar in the fridge for about a week or freeze it for up to 4 months.

Basil pesto has a tendency to brown over time when exposed to air. To avoid this, add a thin layer (just enough to completely cover the pesto) of olive oil on top before capping.

If you choose to freeze it, I found an ice cube tray worked perfectly for this. Simply fill the tray and pop it in the freezer for a day. You can then pull out of the tray and store them in a freezer safe container. When ready to use pull out the cubes you need and either put them under some room temperature water which takes about 30 minutes or stick them in the fridge 24 hours in advance to thaw.

That’s it!

Looking for other ways to use this pesto? How about a baby food puree? With this pesto having no nuts in it, it’s a perfect addition to a chicken puree for your little one. Or better yet, make a complete meal for your budding connoisseur with my chicken pesto with pasta and veggies puree.

Looking for other zero/low waste recipes? Why not check out my broiled chicken, pumpkin and shrimp soup, and savory pumpkin hummus!

If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to see your awesome creation! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to hashtag a photo on Instagram #sustainablesauceresses!

Or if you have any questions or feedback, you are always welcome to leave me a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!

Easy Basil Pesto

This easy basil pesto is vegetarian, low waste, unique, and delicious! You can whip it up in about 15 minutes and only takes 5-6 ingredients!
Prep Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: easy basil pesto recipe, fresh basil pesto recipe, homemade basil pesto recipe


  • Blender or Food Processor


  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 1/3 cups pepitas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil (-1 tbsp. if using hemp oil)
  • 1 tbsp. hemp oil (optional)


  • Add everything to the blender or food processor except the parmesan and olive oil.
  • Add half of the oil and blend on a low setting. Add more oil until the blades are moving smoothly.
  • Add more oil if needed to reach desired consistency.
  • Blend on high until it is a smooth paste.
  • On a low/medium speed, add the parmesan until blended.
  • Store in a glass jar with a little oil on top to preserve it. Will keep in fridge for about 5 days. Or put it in a silicone ice cube tray and freeze it. Will last up to 4 months frozen.


If you omit the hemp oil, simply do a full 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Did you give this recipe a try?

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Happy Blending!

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