Gluten-Free/ Sauces, Dips & Dressings

Lemon Basil Pesto

Quick and easy to make with fresh ingredients, this homemade lemon basil pesto sauce is perfect for all of your dipping, spreading and marinating needs!
Close up of the lemon basil pesto is a glass jar

Last Updated on September 10, 2020 by Betty Davies

Fresh homemade pesto sauce is so much fresher than store bought and it’s super quick and easy to make. This lemon basil pesto is zingy and bright and it’s perfect stir into pastas, spread on sandwiches and coat chicken or fish. Ready to use in less than 10 minutes and perfect to make ahead of time.

A jar of lemon basil pesto next to fresh lemon and basil leaves

Pesto is one of those ingredients, along with salad dressings, that I always make at home. It’s super easy to make a big batch in a few minutes and it’s so much more flavorful than store bought.

This pesto variation incorporates lemons for an extra layer of flavor and you can use it in so many ways. It’s super easy to make it vegetarian and it’s naturally gluten-free. I always have a batch of this in my fridge and it’s perfect for dipping, spreading and marinading!

Why you will love this homemade pesto recipe!

  • Fresh: The difference between store bought pesto and homemade is crazy! It’s so much more fresher and made with natural ingredients for and amazing fresh and zingy flavor.
  • Quick and easy: Made with simple ingredients, you simply pop everything in the blender and you are good to go!
  • Make ahead: Pesto freezes really well and it has a pretty good shelf life in the fridge. It’s great to have on hand and it’s a total life saver for quick and easy weeknight meals.

Ingredients

  • Basil: Use fresh basil leaves for this pesto. It gives the sauce that unmistakeable fresh and herby flavor.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves and a great base flavor.
  • Pine nuts: Pine nuts are high in oil and when blended with the other ingredients they make the sauce creamy and buttery.
  • Salt and pepper: Use freshly cracked black pepper for the best flavor and I prefer to use kosher salt.
  • Parmesan: It’s a bit of a hassle, but if you can use freshly grated parmesan rather than pre-grated. Pre-grated tends to have lost most of it’s moisture and can make the sauce grainy. If you are in a pinch you can use pre-grated.
  • Lemon: I use both the zest and juice of lemons to give that zingy flavor. As with the other ingredients, use fresh.
  • Sugar: I like to add a little sugar to help balance out the bitterness of the basil.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: I like to use EVOO for an rich depth of flavor, but standard olive oil or light olive oil will work well if that’s what you have.
Overhead shot looking into the jar of fresh pesto

How to make lemon basil pesto

Be sure to scroll down for the full recipe!

  • Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor (photo 1).
  • Blend into a paste (photo 2).
  • Slowly add oil to make a sauce (photo 3).
Three photos to show how to make the pesto in a blender

Recipe Variations

This lemon basil pesto is pretty tasty as it is, but there are a few tweeks you make to suit your tastes perfectly.

  • Adjust amount of olive oil added to make this into a runnier dip or a thicker stir in sauce.
  • Use a rennet free parmesan to make this pesto vegetarian.
  • Pine nuts are a more expensive nut. You can swap them out for almonds or walnuts if you like.
  • Sugar can be added to taste. I like to add a little but it is optional.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it keep?

Homemade pesto will keep in the fridge for around a week in a sealed glass jar. You can extend the shelf life a little further by topping the jar up with olive oil to stop the air getting in if you aren’t planning on using it right away.

Can you freeze it?

Yes! Pesto freezes really well and will keep for up to 6 months this way – it’s a perfect solution if you have an abundance of fresh basil you need to use! I like to freeze the pesto into an ice cube tray and then you can stir it straight into freshly cooked pasta in perfect portions. You can thaw a batch of frozen pesto in the fridge overnight.

Is it best to use a food processor or blender?

I used a blender to make this pesto but it’s much easier in a food processor which has a larger surface area. If you use a blender you will have to scrape down the sides and give everything a wiggle every now and then to get everything blended. You can also add in a little olive oil at the start if you are using a blender to help it process.

Serving Suggestions

There are so many ways to use this bright and zingy lemon basil pesto!

  • Stir it into pasta.
  • Use it as a sandwich spread.
  • Use as a salad dressing
  • Add it to a frittata for a burst of flavor.
  • Add it to chicken or fish before baking.
  • Use it as a dip with vegetables or breadsticks.
The pesto on a small spoon

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • Use the freshest ingredients you can for the best flavors.
  • Add in the olive oil slowly whilst processing on a smooth speed so that you can control the consistency.
  • Add in more lemon. This recipe isn’t overpowering lemon flavor, it’s a hint. If you want a stronger flavor add in the zest of another lemon.
  • Taste before serving and adjust salt, pepper or lemon juice to suit your taste.

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Close up of the lemon basil pesto is a glass jar

Lemon Basil Pesto

Quick and easy to make with fresh ingredients, this homemade lemon basil pesto sauce is perfect for all of your dipping, spreading and marinating needs!
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment, Dip, Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Diet: Gluten Free
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 143kcal
Author: Betty Davies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients apart from the oil into a food processor or blender.
  • Blend on high speed until you form a paste.
  • With the blade running on low, slowly pour in the olive oil to form a sauce.
  • Store or serve.

Notes

  • Use the freshest ingredients you can for the best flavors.
  • Add in the olive oil slowly whilst processing on a smooth speed so that you can control the consistency.
  • Taste before serving and adjust salt, pepper or lemon juice to suit your taste.
  • Nutritional values are an estimate only.

Nutrition

Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 139mg | Potassium: 44mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 292IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 1mg

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Sandy
    October 15, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    How long does this lemon pesto last in fridge? Lovely recipe.

    • Reply
      Betty Davies
      October 15, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Sandy! It will keep for around a week in the fridge. I like to pour an extra little bit of oil on top of it to stop any air getting in. It also freezes really well if you have leftovers.

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