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.
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. 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
Start by toasting your pine nuts by tossing them in the oven at 350 for about 6 or 6 minutes, until nice and brown.
While the pine nuts are toasting, you can wash and dry your fresh basil.
Then pick the basil leaves off of the stems and add to a food processor.
Followed by the grated parmesan cheese.
Then add your garlic cloves and fresh lemon zest.
Next add your toasted pine nuts.
Finish with some salt and pepper to taste, before turning on your food processor.
As your pesto blends, slowly add the olive oil until ilt arrive at the desired consistency.
Finish 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!
However if you aren’t using it all for your dish, take a clean ice cub tray and fill with the pesto. Cover (plastic wrap will work if your trays don’t come with lids), and place in the freezer. You’ll now have basil pesto at the ready for months going forward!
- Basil : spinach, parsley, arugula or cilantro
- Parmesan : pecorino, romano, or Grana Padano cheese
- Pine nuts : walnuts, pistachios, or cashews
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long can you keep homemade pesto for?
Pesto keeps for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.
How long does frozen pesto keep for?
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.
Recipes with Pesto
- Pesto Chicken Pasta with Swiss Chard
- Grilled Turkey Burgers with Pesto
- Tomato Caprese Skewers with Pesto
- Grilled Pesto Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella
- Sausage Pesto Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Peas
Did you try this method? The next time you make it, snap a picture and share it to your socials! Tag @thelemonbowl and #thelemonbowl so we can admire and share your meal.
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.
How To Make And Freeze Basil Pesto
- 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.
For more great recipes, check out my Pinterest board!
87 thoughts on “How to Make and Freeze Basil Pesto”
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
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.
Oh that’s great to know! That sounds delicious!!!!! Thanks so much!
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!
Oh great!! So glad! Enjoy!
Do you have to use the lemon for freezing, or can you omit?
You can skip it!
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.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it Adam!
I heard freezing the garlic can make the pesto bitter. Can you add garlic at time f use?
Yes absolutely!!! Just grate it first.
Simply wanna remark that you have a very nice site, I enjoy the pattern it really stands out.
Thank you so much!!
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…
1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon zest. :)
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.
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?
If frozen in an ice cube tray how much will it be defrosted?
Just 30 minutes I’d say!
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!
Ok I just re-did the calculations and I get 119 per two table spoons!
You say it is 169 calories per serve but don’t say how many servings your recipe makes.
Just revised the nutrition facts to include serving size!! It’s grately lower now. :)
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?
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!
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!
Made pumpkin ravioli with the pesto last night!! Delish!!!
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?
I bet it would be delicious if you leave out the nuts!
Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds?
I have never used either actually – only pine nuts or walnuts!
I’ve made it with pecans it’s awesome:)
What a great idea!
I use roasted drained chickpeas because of my children’s nut allergy.
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.
Yes I agree it is worth the work! So glad you love it!
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?
I’m not sure how you could make pesto without oil but if you try it please let me know!
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.
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!
I’m pretty sure it would taste awesome without the nuts!! :)
Add 3 crushed cream crackers to give it some consistency