How to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto

Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes

Basil pesto is easy to make and freeze, preserving the fresh flavors of summer. Healthy and versatile – pesto is perfect brushed on grilled meats, tossed with steamed veggies, or stirred into soup.

Putting pesto on pasta

I love preparing homemade basil pesto in bulk during the summer when fresh basil can be found in bunches. I can prepare the sauce in just minutes, and it’s also extremely versatile and ideal for freezing. When you’re in need of a quick lunch or dinner, you can take a cube of frozen pesto and have a sauced up pasta in minutes! It’s actually super simple, and I’ll show you how easy it is to make and freeze your own basil pesto.


  • Fresh basil: Whether from your own yard or the store or farmer’s market, it needs to be fresh!
  • Parmesan: Nutty and salty, it adds texture and flavor to the sauce.
  • Pine nuts: Instead of using raw pine nuts, I like to toast them to add a deep, rich flavor.
  • Garlic: Earthy, nutty, and somewhat spicy, it adds rich flavor to the pesto.
  • Lemon juice and zest: Brightens up the flavor while adding an acidic balance to the olive oil, cheese, and nuts.
  • Olive oil: Helps to evenly distrubute the ingredients as they blend and gives the pesto its spreadable consistency.

how to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto

Toasted pine nuts

Start making your pesto by toasting your pine nuts. Toss them in the oven at 350 for about 6 or 7 minutes, until nice and brown.

Drying basil

While the pine nuts are toasting, you can wash and dry your fresh basil.

Adding basil leaves to food proccessor

Then pick the basil leaves off of the stems and add to a food processor.

Adding parmesan cheese to food processor

Followed by the grated parmesan cheese.

Adding lemon zest to pesto

Then add your garlic cloves and fresh lemon zest.

Adding pine nuts to pesto

Next add your toasted pine nuts.

Adding salt to pesto

Finish with some salt and pepper to taste, before turning on your food processor.

adding olive oil to pesto

As your pesto blends, slowly add the olive oil until it arrives at your desired consistency.

Adding lemon juice to pesto

Finish it off with the fresh lemon juice, and you are ready to serve over some pasta, brushed onto grilled meat, or whatever you can think of!

How to make and freeze basil pesto.

However if you aren’t using it all for your dish, take a clean ice cube tray and fill with the pesto. Cover (plastic wrap will work if your trays don’t come with lids), and place in the freezer. Alternatively, you could put dollops of pesto in plastic wrap or in Ziploc bags and freeze them that way! You’ll now have basil pesto at the ready for months going forward!

Easy Substitutions

  • If you don’t have basil: spinach, parsley, arugula or cilantro
  • Instead of the parmesan : pecorino, romano, or Grana Padano cheese
  • In place of the pine nuts : walnuts, pistachios, or cashews

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does homemade pesto keep for?

Pesto keeps for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

How long does frozen pesto keep for?

Frozen pesto will keep for at least 3 months.

Does olive oil have to be used to make pesto?

Olive oil prevents oxidation and slows the pesto from turning brown. I’ve never tried not using olive oil.

How to make and freeze basil pesto on pasta.

Recipes with Pesto

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Liz eating fresh basil pesto.

Eat it now, or eat it later, now that you know how to make and freeze basil pesto, you’ll start using it all the time!

Your fork is waiting.

Putting pesto on pasta

How To Make And Freeze Basil Pesto

Liz Della Croce
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.
4.29 stars average
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 24
Calories 119 kcal


  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • ½ cup pine nuts toasted
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon juice and zest of
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • To toast pine nuts, place on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 350 for 6-7 minutes until browned.
  • In a large food processor, pulse together basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and zest.
  • Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 119kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 2gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 64mgPotassium: 42mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 245IUVitamin C: 3.2mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 0.3mg
Keyword how to make and freeze pesto
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89 responses to “How to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto”

  1. Herb Avatar

    Hi. Wondering how the basil is measured: loose, packed or ? Do you have a weight instead of the measurement?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      4 cups of loose basil leaves, not packed. I’ll have to weigh next time!

  2. Tom Avatar

    Loved the recipe tasted great i put walnuts in mine. I want to ship some from Ma to Florida overnite should i send frozen or just as it was made

  3. Louise Avatar

    Hi Liz, I saw where one of your commenters asked if you have to use olive oil in your pesto recipe. I have made it using avocado oil and it’s a great substitute. I personally missed the flavor of the olive oil, but for those who don’t like olive oil, I think they will like the avocado oil version. I have also used macadamia nuts and they were also a great substitute for the pine nuts.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Oh that’s great to know! That sounds delicious!!!!! Thanks so much!

  4. Art Vickers Avatar
    Art Vickers

    You gave purpose to all the basil growing in the tomato planter. First time ever making pesto and your recipe (substituted roasted cashews for pine nuts) è delizioso. Many thanks!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Oh great!! So glad! Enjoy!

  5. Janne Dean Avatar
    Janne Dean

    Do you have to use the lemon for freezing, or can you omit?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      You can skip it!

  6. Adam Avatar

    This was my first time making basil pesto, and it was great! I did save pine nuts for garnish, and think I will also garnish with a touch of lemon zest when I have a fresh lemon in the fridge. Basil plant going crazy, another batch of leaves washed and spun to be processed tomorrow. Thank you for the recipe.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Adam!

  7. Deena Johnson Avatar
    Deena Johnson

    I heard freezing the garlic can make the pesto bitter. Can you add garlic at time f use?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Yes absolutely!!! Just grate it first.

  8. Betsey Lefthand Avatar
    Betsey Lefthand

    Simply wanna remark that you have a very nice site, I enjoy the pattern it really stands out.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Thank you so much!!

  9. Eileen Pedersen Avatar
    Eileen Pedersen

    Is there any way you could be more specific on the lemon juice and zest, they can vary in size so much? Right now I have a huge lemon, so I’m sure I don’t want to use the whole thing, but I’m not sure how much is the right amount…

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon zest. :)

  10. Conni Avatar

    I use almonds & pre-grind them in a coffee bean grinder.
    I pour the pesto into ziplock freezer bags, lay them flat on a cookie sheet to freeze, then break off what I need &?reseal. Great space saver for the freezer & has lasted me all year.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Sounds great!!!!

  11. Mattie Zedlitz Avatar
    Mattie Zedlitz

    Delicious recipe but I went a little lighter on the lemon juice. I don’t have ice trays.. can I put it in mini muffin tin?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Great idea!

  12. Kathy Ahern Avatar
    Kathy Ahern

    If frozen in an ice cube tray how much will it be defrosted?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Just 30 minutes I’d say!

  13. Nathalie Avatar

    Hi Liz! Thank you for this delicious recipe. I was calculating the pesto calories however as per my calculation 2 tbsp has 157 calories, 1.8 g carbs, 16.2 g fat (since you added 1 cup olive oil) and 2.3 g prot… correct me if I am wrong :) thanks again!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Ok I just re-did the calculations and I get 119 per two table spoons!

  14. MAJ Avatar

    You say it is 169 calories per serve but don’t say how many servings your recipe makes.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Just revised the nutrition facts to include serving size!! It’s grately lower now. :)

    2. Alena Avatar

      If substituting the pine nuts for walnuts/cashews/pistachios:
      1) do I still toast them? How long and at what temperature?
      2)can I use a mix of the three kinds of nuts or should I stick with all of one kind?
      Thank you!

      1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
        Liz DellaCroce

        Yes I would toast them – 7-9 minutes or until brown (you can smell them when they’re done!) You can use three that’s fine!

  15. Marlene Denton Avatar
    Marlene Denton

    The whole lemon and zest was too much lemon for me so I added more garlic and pine nuts. Seemed to even it out a bit. Just putt in the freezer!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Sounds good!!

      1. Marlene Denton Avatar
        Marlene Denton

        Made pumpkin ravioli with the pesto last night!! Delish!!!

        1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
          Liz DellaCroce

          Sounds incredible!!

  16. Jenn Avatar

    I love Pesto, however my daughter has a nut allergy. Do you have any suggestions other than the ones you posted for swapping them out for something else?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I bet it would be delicious if you leave out the nuts!

    2. A Avatar

      Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds?

      1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
        Liz DellaCroce

        I have never used either actually – only pine nuts or walnuts!

        1. Tanya Avatar

          I’ve made it with pecans it’s awesome:)

          1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
            Liz DellaCroce

            What a great idea!

    3. Don Avatar

      I use roasted drained chickpeas because of my children’s nut allergy.

      1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
        Liz DellaCroce

        Great idea!

  17. Angela Avatar

    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.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Yes I agree it is worth the work! So glad you love it!

  18. LouAnn Avatar

    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?

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I’m not sure how you could make pesto without oil but if you try it please let me know!

      1. Do not wish to be a member of this site Avatar
        Do not wish to be a member of this site

        To make pesto w/o oil or cheese, for freezing: Just use the same proportions of fresh basil, garlic and lemon juice that you normally use for your pesto and pound, crush or blend in a food processor then freeze in half pint batches. When ready to use defrost, add cheese and oil and mix by hand and add to your recipe.

  19. michelle Avatar

    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!

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      I’m pretty sure it would taste awesome without the nuts!! :)

    2. Pat Avatar

      Add 3 crushed cream crackers to give it some consistency

      1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
        Liz DellaCroce

        Interesting idea!

Liz Della Croce eating black bean dip

Hi I’m Liz!

Hey there, I’m Liz Della Croce and I’m thrilled to have you here! My aim is to motivate and ignite your passion for cooking amazing meals for your loved ones.