Dried Basil Pesto

Can you make dried basil pesto? And does it even taste good? Someone asked us this question, and we set about to find out!

Dried basil pesto

Can you make dried basil pesto? When someone asked us this question, our first thought was: why on earth would you want to? Fresh basil is one of the most delicious flavors on the planet: it’s peppery and herbaceous — not to mention a beautiful bright emerald green. Dried basil, on the other hand, tastes bitter and is a dull brown color. It’s also tough, with a texture kind of like a pile of brittle autumn leaves. So dried basil pesto? Not sure. But it got us to thinking…why not find out? As a little experiment, Alex and I took a stab at a recipe. Was it good? Keep reading to find out!

Dried basil pesto
Here’s the color difference: basil pesto vs dried basil pesto

Why make dried basil pesto?

That’s a great question. If you want to make classic pesto, we implore you: make our best basil pesto recipe! Head to your local grocery and find some fresh basil. Or grow your own at home. Or make a different type of pesto, like kale pesto. Or spinach pesto.

However, I suppose we can imagine a scenario where you really want to make a pesto with only pantry ingredients. And you don’t have any store bought pesto on hand…and you can’t order it from Amazon Prime because there’s an epic snowstorm.

So then — then would you want to make basil pesto? You read the part about how it tastes bitter, is dull brown, and has the texture of fallen leaves? OK, keep reading.

Dried basil pesto

How to make dried basil pesto

As an experiment, Alex and I mixed up a batch of dried basil pesto using the same method of traditional basil pesto, substituting the dried basil for fresh. We added dried basil, Parmesan cheese, nuts, garlic, and a little lemon juice to a food processor. We whizzed it up and it made a dull looking brown paste. (No surprise.) We took a taste, and…

Oddly enough…it tasted kind of, good? While it’s really nothing to look at, dried basil pesto is kind of tasty. I mean, what wouldn’t be with Parmesan and garlic? It does have a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but it’s actually not too bad. A huge surprise to us, for sure!

As you can see above, the color difference is quite stunning: so if you can swing it, fresh basil is absolutely worth it.

But if you promise you have no access to fresh basil, here’s how to make dried basil pesto:

  • Throw dried basil into a food processor with Parmesan cheese, garlic, cashews, lemon juice, and salt. Blend for a few seconds until combined.
  • Add olive oil in a steady stream until a thick sauce forms! Store 1 week in the refrigerator or several months frozen.
Basil pesto
Fresh basil makes our basil pesto and vegan cashew pesto bright green

Pesto recipes!

Outside of this dried basil pesto, we have several more pesto recipes that we’d recommend making:

Other sauce recipes

From homemade teriyaki to barbecue sauces, we’ve got dozens of fantastic sauce recipes here on A Couple Cooks! Here are some of our favorites:

This recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Dried basil pesto

Dried Basil Pesto

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (159 votes, average: 3.04 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 12 tablespoons 1x


Can you make dried basil pesto? And does it even taste good? Yes, through we recommend making it with fresh basil if at all possible! Here’s our recipe for dried basil pesto.



  • 1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews, pine nuts, or walnuts
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil


  1. In a food processor, place all ingredients but the olive oil. Blend for a few seconds until fully combined.
  2. With the food processor on, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue to blend until combined and a thick sauce forms. Store 1 week in the refrigerator or several months frozen.
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Dried basil pesto

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    Kristin W
    April 15, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Whoa! I made this for dinner tonight when I realized I did not have enough pesto for the meal I was planning to make! Having all of these basic ingredients made it super easy to whip up and it made the perfect amount for our family of 6.
    Thanks so much! What a delightful surprise to have this recipe come up first in my google search. (I have your book, and have made many recipes so I knew I would most likely find this one a win, too!!)

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 15, 2020 at 10:10 pm

      Too funny! I’m glad we have this one in the archives for these desperate situations! :)

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      April 16, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      So happy that you enjoyed it! Thank you for the kind words and so glad you’ve enjoyed our book. We appreciate that so much! :)

  • Reply
    Patricia Demski
    May 2, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    As we are in quarantine, fresh basil in bulk is hard to come by at the moment. I was so happy to find this recipe. Thank you! It tastes great even without the cheese.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2020 at 9:48 am

    I prefer dry basil pesto.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    As someone who’s trying to cook for double the amount of people that all have dietary concerns (we can’t do tomato sauces because of GERD, we can’t do alfredo because dairy, etc) pesto has been a lifesaver. But we also don’t have the funds to regularly buy fresh basil from the store. Learning how to cook with pantry items is great for those who want fun food but can’t afford or have the space to grow their own fresh herbs. Consider that next time.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Gall
    December 19, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I appreciate the recipe, but not the hate on dried basil and judgment on people who might use it. My husband and I have a basil plant without a ton of space, so we have to harvest basil regularly and dry it. As a result, we have both fresh and (home-grown) dried basil. Another commenter can’t afford to have lots of fresh basil from the store. Lots of people live in apartments and can’t grow their own. Please consider such factors and don’t write so harshly about someone with different circumstances than your own.

  • Reply
    Mom of “Pesto Heads”
    January 1, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    My kids grew up loving dried basil pesto and used to dance around the kitchen singing “I’m a pesto head” as I made it. 😂. We always make pesto with dried basil and even *gasp* Kraft Parmesan cheese. We have always used Almonds instead of pine nuts due to cost and never having them on hand. Fresh grated Parmesan on top and sun dried tomatoes chopped and mixed in make it perfect. The texture is different than fresh for sure but if you can make it ahead an let it sit in the oil for a bit it helps soften the texture a bit. I prefer fresh basil pesto, but my kids have textural issues and the dried basil is the texture they are used to so we stick with that.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Trying to be more efficient with what I have on hand so I searched the web for dry basil pesto and landed here and very pleased. I improvised a lot. I used dry basil,
    and dry kale (which I had on hand since buying on a whim weeks prior). I added some dry parsley because I do appreciate the esthetics and my dry parsley was a brighter green than the basil and kale. I used pecans because that’s what I had available.
    Final product was very good and the flavor was enhanced by the knowledge that I didn’t splurge on ingredients that would end up spoiled and discarded and was able to utilize what I had on hand.

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