Mouthwatering Basil Walnut Pesto with budget-friendly walnuts instead of expensive pine nuts. Recipe includes instructions to blanch basil which prevents pesto from turning brown. So easy. So good!
Why we love basil walnut pesto
There's nothing like homemade pesto made with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. But let's be honest, pine nuts are crazy expensive and not always available for this delicious summer condiment.
Walnut pesto is budget-friendly because it calls for walnuts in place of pine nuts, so it delivers rich flavor without the rich prices. My arugula pesto recipe is proof of the same! In fact, pesto with walnuts is as good as classic, pine-nut pesto on all things Italian. I especially love it in pesto tortellini salad.
- fresh basil leaves - The best quality and prices of basil are found during summer when it's grown in abundance.
- extra virgin olive oil - One of the best oils for pesto because it's nutty and rich, and is known for a host of health benefits.
- garlic - Always use fresh raw garlic (not granulated garlic) for classic pesto flavor.
- Parmesan cheese - I use either shaved Parmesan cheese and grated Romano.
- walnuts - These are a great substitute for pine nuts in traditional basil pesto. The flavor is equally rich but basil walnut pesto more budget-friendly.
- fresh lemon juice - This is optional but it brightens up any pesto and can help prevent browning.
- salt and pepper - Use these to flavor the pesto to your liking.
Blanch the basil
This step is optional but highly recommended because it reduces browning of basil pesto. I've tried other techniques and I find that nothing is more effective than blanching the basil. It's always worth it. Here's how I do it:
- Rinse the basil leaves in cold water to remove dirt and debris.
- Blanch the basil in boiling water for few minutes.
- Transfer basil to an ice bath and cool completely.
- Strain the blanched basil, then towel dry to remove excess water.
How to make basil pesto with walnuts
Basil walnut pesto is made the same way as classic pesto with pine nuts. You'll find the full, printable recipe below. Here's a summary.
- Gather ingredients. If not blanching basil, thoroughly wash and spin the basil leaves, and remove all excess water with an absorbent towel.
- Add basil, walnuts, lemon juice, and garlic to a food processor and blend.
- Add olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Blend until well-combined.
- Add salt to taste and serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.
How to use basil pesto
- As a dip with vegetables or simple charcuterie board.
- As a sauce for baked spaghetti squash.
- Make pesto hummus by adding it to this classic hummus recipe.
- Dollop on fig and prosciutto pizza.
- Add to Instant Pot Chicken Alfredo.
- Drizzled over baked smashed potatoes.
- As a marinade for for baked chicken thighs, broiled salmon, and seafood.
- Add walnut pesto to crustless quiche for a savory summer spin.
- Pair this crostini recipe with a summer tomato burrata recipe with fresh pesto.
- Make basil walnut pesto during summer when basil is abundant and on sale because it takes a fair amount of basil to make fresh pesto.
- Rinsing basil leaves is an important pesto prep step because it removes dirt.
- Blanching basil for pesto followed by an ice water plunge is the most effective way to prevent the pesto turning brown. It's not required, but it's SO worth the tiny effort because it keeps your pesto a gorgeous green color for days.
- Adding lemon juice can help prevent browning and adds a bright, acidic, flavor that helps balance out any bitterness.
- To store pesto, it can be refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoyed up to 5 days. I personally love how the flavor deepens with each day.
- When freezing basil pesto, I like to freeze it in 8 ounce deli rounds. You can freeze pesto in smaller amounts such as an ice cube tray. Freezing pesto not only reduces food waste, but delivers classic summer flavors all year long!
- Feel free to substitute the basil in this recipe with kale, spinach, or parsley.
- If you'd like to learn more about basil, check out this article on how to plant, grow, and harvest it.
Frequently asked questions
Blanching basil for pesto is a highly effective solution because it immediately stops food cooking and prevents enzymatic browning. Adding lemon to a pesto recipe can also help prevent discoloration.
Canning pesto is not recommended because canned herbs and oils may promote bacteria responsible for certain food-borne illness.
Pesto can be used as a sauce or spread for multiple foods including pizza, pasta, sandwiches, charcuterie, bruschetta, etc. It can also be used as a marinade for fish, poultry, beef, pork, tofu, and vegetables.
Basil Pesto with Walnuts
- 4 cups Fresh Basil, tightly packed
- ¼ cup Walnuts, or pine nuts
- 2 cloves Garlic, coarsely chopped
- ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ Lemon, juiced (same as 1 Tbsp)
- ⅓ cup Parmesan Cheese, shaved, shredded, or fresh grated
- ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt, or to taste
- Black Pepper, to taste
- Rinse BASIL leaves thoroughly in cold water to remove all dirt and debris.* If blanching, continue to the next section, otherwise, skip to "How To Make Pesto" section.
(optional) Blanching basil for pesto is recommended to prevent browning
- To blanch basil, prepare a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water.
- Submerge BASIL in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then use mesh strainer to transfer basil into the ice bath to cool.
- Pour basil into a colander to drain. Then, towel dry the basil to remove excess water. 4 cups will shrink to yield 1 cup basil.
- You can store the blanched basil in the refrigerator up to a few days until you're ready to make pesto.
How to make pesto
- Add BASIL, WALNUTS, LEMON JUICE, and GARLIC to the food processor or blender. Blend until ingredients are well-combined.
- Add OLIVE OIL and continue processing until incorporated.
- Add PARMESAN CHEESE and BLACK PEPPER. Blend until combined.
- Add SALT to taste.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container up to five days. See recipe for the notes about freezing pesto.
Traci's Recipe Notes
Nutrition data provided as courtesy estimates using unbranded ingredients from a nutrition database. Please consult preferred resource for precise data.