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You’ll want to drizzle this basil sauce on everything! It’s herby, garlicky and bright green: like a pesto without cheese and nuts.

Basil sauce

Here’s a sauce you’ll want to put on just about everything…bright green basil sauce! It’s packed full of garlicky, herby flavor: essentially like a pesto without the nuts and cheese. It’s more intensely packed with flavor than pesto: like a garlic and basil oil. Use it on just about anything for a punch of fresh flavor: pasta, seafood, juicy ripe tomatoes, Caprese salad…anything is better with basil sauce. Here’s how to make it, the trick to making it stay bright green, and more ways to use it!

Ingredients in basil sauce

The nice thing about basil sauce? Pesto is what we usually make when our basil plant is bushy and overflowing. But pesto calls for pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, which aren’t cheap. Basil sauce drops those pricey ingredients, but you still have all that great fresh basil flavor. It’s a dairy-free and nut-free pesto, similar to a French pistou. This bright green, delicious sauce is endlessly versatile. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Basil leaves
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
Basil sauce

How to blanch basil (to keep it bright green!)

This basil sauce starts with a step to make sure the sauce stays beautifully bright green. It’s called blanching! Blanching is a cooking method where you boil vegetables until they’re crisp tender, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. The point of it? To lock in the bright green color of vegetables that turn brown. Here’s how to get a beautifully bright green basil sauce:

  • Boil only 30 seconds to 1 minute! The boiling time is quick: you just want it to be bright green! Add the basil to a small saucepan of boiling water and boil until bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Immediately plunge into an ice bath. This stops the cooking process and locks in the color. Once the leaves are cool, remove them from the water and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Basil sauce

Blend it up!

Once you’ve blanched the basil, this basil sauce takes no time at all. Simply add the basil to a blender with the other ingredients and whiz it up! A few notes on blending: you can use a standard blender or even better, a smaller blender like an immersion blender. The amount of sauce is not large, so if you have a small blender it’s easier to blend. You can also use a food processor if you have one.

Ways to use basil sauce

There are so many ways to use this flavor-packed basil sauce! Here are some ideas to get you started:


All about basil

Basil is easy to grow, and by mid-summer you’ll likely have a big bush of it! If you don’t grow your own basil, it’s time to start. It’s easy to do and requires little tools and planning.

This basil sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Basil sauce

Easy Basil Sauce

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 9 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 minute
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: ½ cup 1x


You’ll want to drizzle this basil sauce on everything! It’s herby, garlicky and bright green: like a pesto without cheese and nuts.


  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Blanch the basil: This preserves the bright green color. Start a small pot of water to boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Remove the basil leaves from the stem and wash them; measure out 1 packed cup of leaves (make sure to pack the cup full for the best flavor). Once the water is boiling, add the basil and boil until bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Immediately turn off the heat, remove the basil and plunge it into the ice bath. Once the leaves are cool, remove them from the water and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
  3. Blend the sauce: Place the blanched basil, olive oil, garlic and salt in a blender or in the cup for an immersion blender. Blend until fully combined. Taste and add lemon juice and additional salt to taste. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Basil sauce

More basil recipes

Basil is one of our most used herbs in the kitchen! Here are a few more great basil recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. First time I used any recipe of yours. I made the basil sauce recipe and was pleased to see this and how it had no cheese or nuts. I am trying to watch the calories. I had bought some scallops and I pan seared them. I roasted some grape tomatoes, broccoli , and mushrooms (I had these in my house) and added all this to brown rice pasta, which is very good, by the way, and healthier. The basil sauce is fabulous and will use it again for other foods. What a great recipe. Oh, I forgot to mention, I only had a small amount of basil, so I added some spinach and used my food processor and extra garlic and yummy!

  2. I’m pretty sure I followed the recipe faithfully, having a wonderful amount of basil, my favorite herb, but it came out awful. Over oiled, even with more lemon. Uneatable, sadly I must have done something catastrophically wrong, but I can’t figure out what it was

    1. Hmmm this is interesting! Next time really pack the basil leaves into the cup when you measure it out. You could also start with half the oil and continue to add oil to your own taste. It is intended to be more of an oily sauce than a pesto — with a more runny texture.

  3. I freeze this in an ice cube tray then bag it. It works out very well! I tossed one cube in a lackluster pasta dish and it really changed it up!

    1. Thank you Kathy: I just made the sauce and will now freeze some. Cant wait to use it on home made pizza tonight.