This homemade basil walnut pesto comes together in less than 10 minutes and can be frozen for up to six months. Perfect for sandwiches, soups, and more!
It’s August, and our garden has produced enough basil to exceed our (high!) expectations. I only had 32 square feet of garden room, and I tried to maximize it with food that either tastes better or is cheaper than what you can find at the store. Basil falls into both of these categories, so I was eager to plant it. But while having so much basil is exciting, it’s been a little overwhelming trying to use it all up. Enter: this simple walnut pesto. Not only does pesto require a generous amount of basil, but it’s also easy to freeze for later use (more on how to do that in a bit).
Related: Best Basil Recipes
When making this pesto, I highly recommend grating your own Parmesan cheese at home. The fresh blocks of cheese from the cheese counter are much higher quality than the pre-packaged stuff on the shelves. However, it’s also more expensive, so I understand if you’d prefer something a little more budget-friendly. If the cheese counter isn’t for you, go for the pre-shredded Parmesan rather than the powdered stuff in a shaker (the powdered stuff doesn’t remotely compare to freshly grated Parm). And if you want to do away with cheese altogether, go right over to our Vegan Cashew Pesto recipe!
In the spirit of staying on a budget, we’ve replaced the traditional pine nuts in homemade pesto sauce with walnuts. Walnuts aren’t quite as flavorful as pine nuts, but they’re a fraction of the price and give pesto a fantastic texture. Make sure to buy raw, unsalted walnuts for this recipe since Parmesan cheese tastes quite salty on its own.
For extra flavor, you can toast the walnuts in a frying pan (without oil, just use heat!) or in the oven. However, I think raw walnuts work perfectly well here. Technically, you can use any nut you’d like in this homemade pesto recipe (pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds, etc), but we like walnuts for their neutral flavor and good price.
How to freeze pesto
Pesto freezes beautifully. I recommended freezing this walnut pesto in an ice cube tray, and then transferring the cubes to a sealed baggie once completely frozen. Pesto stays fresh for about six months this way, and it lets you thaw exactly how much you need for a recipe (1 frozen pesto cube is perfect for 1 serving of pasta, for example). You can also freeze pesto in small jars or any other containers you have on hand, but it’ll be trickier to thaw out the exact amount you need for a future recipe.
When you’re ready to use the pesto cubes, simply take a few out of the bag and pop them into whatever dish you’re making. Because pesto is oil-based, it thaws quickly, meaning you don’t need to take it out of the freezer ahead of time!
Looking for more easy pesto recipes?
- 5-Minute Pesto Arugula Breakfast Sandwich
- Greek Grilled Veggie Skewers with Pesto Quinoa
- Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara
- Vegan Basil Pesto
- Ricotta Dumplings with Kale Pesto
- Garlic Scape Pesto
- Italian Pizza with Pesto
This recipe is…
Vegetarian and gluten-free.Print
This homemade walnut pesto comes together in less than 10 minutes and can be frozen for up to six months. Perfect for sandwiches, soups, and more!
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, large grated
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In a small dry skillet, toast the walnuts over medium high heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Remove the nuts to a bowl and allow them to cool slightly.
In food processor, combine walnuts, cheese, and garlic. Process until finely ground, 20 to 30 seconds.
Add the basil, lemon juice and kosher salt. Turn on the food processor and gradually pour in the olive oil. Once combined, turn off the food processor. Add a bit more olive oil if desired.
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Raw
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: walnut pesto, walnuts, basil pesto, how to make pesto, pesto with lemon, lemon juice
About the Authors
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 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.