Basil Pesto Recipe + Guide for Freezing

Making and freezing basil pesto in a great way to preserve the fresh flavors of summer. Healthy and versatile – pesto is perfect brushed on grilled meats, tossed with steamed veggies or stirred into soup.

Pesto for the Freezer - The Lemon BowlHomemade basil pesto is one of my favorite recipes to prepare in bulk during the summer. It takes just minutes to prepare, is extremely versatile and is ideal for freezing.  Since basil can be pricey during cooler months of the year, having frozen pesto on hand in the freezer is like having money in the bank.

Washing Basil for Pesto - The Lemon BowlChances are, you are either growing basil in your backyard or live near a farmer who is selling it for pennies.  Making and freezing pesto is the perfect use for an abundance of fragrant fresh herbs.

Drying Basil for Pesto - The Lemon Bowl

For a simple guide on washing and storing dark leafy greens (including basil!) be sure to check out my tips and video tutorial. It’s the best way to make fresh greens such as romaine, kale or Swiss chard last longer in the fridge.

If you don’t have every ingredient listed, get creative and use what you have on hand with this easy swap-out guide:

  • Basil can be replaced spinach, parsley, arugula or cilantro.
  • Parmesan can be replaced with pecorino, romano or Grana Padano cheese.
  • Pine nuts can be replaced with walnuts, pistachios or cashews.

Pesto in Food Processor - The Lemon BowlFresh lemon juice and zest brightens up the flavor and adds a great acidic balance to the olive oil, cheese and nuts. Toasting the pine nuts takes less than 10 minutes and provides a deep, rich flavor that you simply don’t get with raw pine nuts.

Pesto is packed with health benefits including heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids from the olive oil, iron from the leafy greens and vitamin C from the lemon. Added bonus? Iron helps boost the absorption of vitamin c so consuming them together is a win win.

Stay tuned this week for more delicious ideas and recipes for basil pesto. In the meantime, here are a few tasty suggestions to get you started:

Grilled Baby Portabella Pesto Flatbreads from Aggie’s Kitchen
Pesto Quinoa & White Bean Cakes with Roasted Tomatoes from Oh My Veggies
Foil-Wrapped Grilled Tilapia with Pesto, Tomatoes and Green Onions from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Pesto Potato, Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad from Cookin’ Canuck
Caprese Panini (Gluten Free) from With Style & Grace

5.0 from 3 reviews
Basil Pesto Recipe + Tips for Freezing
Lemon juice and zest adds brightness and freshness to this traditional basil pesto recipe. Perfect for freezing and using later in pastas, soups, marinades and more.
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • ½ cup pine nuts - toasted
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. To toast pine nuts, place on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 350 for 6-7 minutes until browned.
  2. In a large food processor, pulse together basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and zest.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To freeze, pour into ice cube tray and place in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove from frozen pesto cubes and store in a resealable plastic bag until future use. Pesto will last up to 3 months frozen.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 tablespoons Calories: 169 Fat: 18 g Saturated fat: 3.3 g Unsaturated fat: 14.7 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 2 g Sugar: .3 g Sodium: 49 mg Fiber: .4 g Protein: 2.8 g Cholesterol: 4 mg

Want more delicious gluten free recipe ideas using summer herbs? Head to the Udi’s Gluten Free Community and join the discussion.


  1. says

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to try this! I love, love, love pesto, but have never tried the freezer method. Now I just need to go load up on basil and other yummy greens :-)

  2. says

    I laughed when I saw the title- this post couldn’t be more timely! We have a ton of basil in our garden. I made sunflower seed pesto a few days ago, and just harvested a whole colander full of basil this afternoon. It’s so nice to know that the basil cubes will be patiently waiting for me in the freezer come December :)

  3. says

    ALL of these years I’ve been making basil pesto and never considered freezing it! What a brilliant tip, Liz. This is so useful, especially since I can’t get enough of the stuff year-round and homemade tastes SO much better than store bought.

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      Yes freezing it is the best!!! So much tastier than those tiny bottles for $6 at the grocery store. :)

  4. says

    I totally freeze pesto the same way!! This is how I made my kids baby food too. Ice cube trays are so versatile! ha ha. We have several basil plants growing in our backyard here in Vegas. My 5 year old will pick leaves and eat them like they are chips or something. Crazy kiddo

  5. says

    Exactly what I plan to do this weekend. Our basil is going to seed so fast I’ve been plucking it like crazy; now to do something with all of that amazing abundance!

    I have been using toasted walnuts of late in pesto; as much as I love pine nuts; their $20/lb price tag needs some adjusting before it can regain it’s place as the favored kitchen nut!

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      I love the idea of toasting walnuts!! Pine nuts are so dang expensive but we buy them at Costco in bulk and freeze the bag. It lasts us about 3 months-6 months.

  6. Jodi says

    I have never thought to freeze my pesto either! Also, due to a nut allergy in the fam, I use Pumpkin Seeds instead of Pine Nuts and it turns out great!

  7. says

    I’ve never thought to add lemon zest to my pesto–great idea. I make mine thicker (usually because I’ve got so many leaves vs cheese and nuts) and use a small disher or cookie scoop to freeze it on trays. The act of freezing bursts the cell walls, and the pesto is . . . well not runny, but let’s say liquid . . . when thawed. (I have a shortage of ice cube trays and don’t like to tie them up, so I tried it this way with success.)


  8. michelle says

    My daughter has a severe nut allergy. I’m growing fresh basil & wanting to make pesto. Anything I can use instead of pine nuts? Or just completely omit the nuts & hopefully still taste awesome? Thanks!

  9. LouAnn says

    I try not to use oil or consume oil of any kind in my food. Do I HAVE to use olive oil when making your pesto?

  10. Angela says

    Great recipe but it is taking more then 2 hours to freeze. It may take longer to freeze then 2 hours. It tastes good,also I did not use the lemon juice or Zest it still turned out great. Al if you do not have a food processor you will need one a blender will not work. Love this it is worth all the work.


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