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How to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto

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.

homemade basil pesto in a mason jar


I love preparing homemade basil pesto in bulk during the summer. I can prepare the sauce in just minutes, and it’s also extremely versatile and 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 Bowl

Chances 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!), 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 :: spinach, parsley, arugula or cilantro
  • Parmesan :: pecorino, romano, or Grana Padano cheese
  • Pine nuts :: walnuts, pistachios, or cashews
Pesto in Food Processor - The Lemon Bowl

Brighten up the flavor with fresh lemon juice and zest while adding a great acidic balance to the olive oil, cheese, and nuts. Pro tip: Instead of using raw pine nuts, toast them to add deep, rich flavor in less than 10 minutes!

Easy Pesto Recipe - guide to freezing

Pesto is packed with health benefits including heart-healthy monounsaturated 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.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long can you keep homemade pesto for?

Pesto keeps for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

How do I freeze pesto?

To freeze, pour the pesto into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove from frozen pesto cubes and store them in a resealable plastic bag until future use.

How long does frozen pesto keep for?

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.

homemade basil pesto in a mason jar

How To Make And Freeze Basil Pesto

Liz DellaCroce
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.
4.26 stars average
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 24
Calories 119 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.
    Pesto in Food Processor - The Lemon Bowl
  • Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition

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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Liz DellaCroce

Liz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been sharing delicious recipes that just so happen to be healthy. By using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality, Liz has built a growing audience of loyal readers who crave good food for their families.

86 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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. 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!

    2. 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. 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. 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. 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.

                  1. 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!

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