This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

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.

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Dried basil pesto

Dried Basil Pesto

  • 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.


  • ¼ cup raw unsalted cashews, pine nuts, or walnuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ⅛ 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

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.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I dry my pesto basil on a rack. It does not go brown . I pick it and wash it. Cold water. Then rack it. When it is dry it is still green and crispy..
    I put it in a coffee grinder and turn it into a coarse powder. It does not go brown.
    Excellent on tomatoes from the garden. Well everything.

  2. I make a tub of your dried basil pesto at least once a month. We use so much pesto on a regular basis that fresh basil pesto wasn’t practical or within our means. Thank you!

  3. A BIG THANKS! Now I know what to do with basil from my 2 plants. I have been sharing with friends and neighbors. Drying them will SAVE SPACE, be handy when needed and can share with family who appreciate the herbs.

  4. My husband came home with semi-dried basil from the store when there wasn’t any fresh available (had no idea this was a thing!). This recipe was a life saver! I made this recipe vegan by replacing the parm with a cashew parm and it was delicious!! Happy to have this in my back pocket!

  5. “Why on earth would you want to eat dried basil pesto? Yuck! If you promise you can’t get any, here’s how to make nasty dried basil pesto anyways (but we recommend fresh!!)”

    You guys are jerks. I’m unemployed, low on cash, and can’t afford $5 for a tiny leafet of flavor, so yes- I have to make (and consume!!) your icky brown dried pesto.

    Even worse youre replying to comments thinking youre in the right and not totally being rude. You post recipes for the reader’s benefit, not to bash them for not making fresh pesto.

  6. I had a recipe this week that included pesto and I couldn’t find any fresh basil to any of the stores I visited. Your article helped me be more confident in trying out the “lightly dried” basil found at Walmart. Thank you!

  7. Thank you for offering this recipe and bailing me out! I had a recipe for tonight and had just been to the store for the cherry tomatoes. Naturally after I got home I found I did not have the jar of pesto sauce I thought I had. So I looked around on the ‘Net for a home made version using dried basil. Voila! I found your website. I made it almost as written except for using peanuts as the nuts and I added a half bunch of fresh parsley. It was delicious! Obviously I don’t have a way to compare but I think my dinner turned out very similar to the original one as printed. Thanks for posting. This is a lot easier and cheaper than running out for a jar of pesto sauce or buying a pack of fresh basil.

  8. This was delicious and so easy. I used two Tablespoons over 5 spinach Ravioli. I prefer the dried basil because for one person I wind up tossing spoiled fresh basil. How much fresh basil replaces the dried?

  9. I use dried basil all the time. I freeze dry my herbs at the end of summer. I use 1 part dried basil to 1 part dried parsley. In this instance it would 1.5 tablespoons of dried basil and 1.5 tablespoons of dried parsley. That seems to work nicely. This is a great recipe. I like the idea of using cashews. 💕😺💕

  10. I have been storing my fresh basil in a paper lunch sack under the kitchen cabinet – it keeps its color! I steamed it for a couple minutes and then made the pesto —- OMG!!! I loved it and I love you all!!!

  11. PS: I meant to add, I left the above for anyone else dairy-free, and would love to hear other ideas/substitutions. I’m saving this recipe! Even when I grow basil I never get all that much, and it’s nice to be able to know I can make this anytime. I did also use fresh parsley, as suggested by commenter above, Kay : )

  12. Thank you for this recipe! Being dairy free and not having any cheese or faux cheese on hand, but still wanting some pesto… I added 5 green olives, a few capers + double the cashews/nuts for extra creaminess and piquant-cy. Alternately considered adding a cooked anchovy, but forwent the effort.
    I also read to always add pepper to pesto, and I did, but would caution to add maybe a little less than you would for fresh. Perhaps that is why it was left out of this dry recipe. Thanks again! Mine is sitting a few hours waiting to be made into pizza!

  13. Finding your recipe for pesto on the run has been a lifesaver. Many many many thanks. May your life be blessed. With love, Chris.

    And BTW, it tastes fantastic!! I may never buy or make another pesto again apart from this recipe. (Sent by someone who almost never provide comments online.) Just saying. :-)

  14. Wow, this recipe is great! I had to increase the amount of basil for my dried and used pistachios, but it was perfect and saved dinner! I also tried this just Italian seasoning, not basil pesto, but awesome!

  15. When I went to make the pesto for a particular recipe I found that I forgot to buy fresh basil and fresh Italian parsley! It was storming outside so returning to the grocery was not an option. I turned to the internet for help and found your recipe. IT WAS DELICIOUS! One would be hard pressed to notice the difference. In the past when I’ve used, probably, too much of my dried spices like basil the food tastes like it has tobacco in it. Your guidance helped me make a perfectly balanced pesto without the tobacco-like taste. The second thing I would like you to know is that my pesto was not all brown. I did have a green hue to it, just not as vibrant as the fresh basil version. I used pistachios. Perhaps that helped to obtain a green color. Thanks for saving my meal!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

    1. Who expressed hate? All I read was that they strongly recommend fresh basil for pesto if you can get it.

      I hope you’re a little less insecure since you left that comment. Seems like you’re projecting your personal discomfort with your own preferences and circumstances on to others. It’s not okay.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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!!)

    1. 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! :)

See More Comments