If you've ever had fresh basil in your garden, then you know it grows faster than you can use it all! My go-to recipe for using up extra basil is homemade pesto. This creamy basil pesto only requires a handful of simple ingredients and comes together in a food processor just 5 minutes!
Why This Recipe Works
This simple creamy pesto is an incredibly versatile sauce that tastes great on Italian favorites like pasta and pizza, but also makes a delicious dressing for salad!
It's quick, easy and requires minimal ingredients and clean-up!
More fun ways to use this homemade pesto include:
- Spread on roasted chicken and top with cheese.
- Use as a dip for crusty bread or veggies.
- Make a caprese style sandwich with pesto!
- Just eat by the spoonful 🙂
This creamy basil pesto only uses 6 simple ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and can easily be modified to fit any dietary restrictions!
- Basil - Did you know there are over 50 varieties of basil?? Thankfully, sweet basil is the most common variety and that's what we want to use for this recipe!
- Olive Oil - Make sure you use high quality, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor!
- Garlic - I am a big garlic lover, so this pesto packs a punch! So if you prefer a milder flavor just reduce the garlic to 1 clove.
- Pine Nuts - If you don’t like pine nuts, you can substitute walnuts, almonds, or pistachios in this pesto for a similar flavor and texture! Or just leave them out entirely if you have a nut allergy!
- Parmesan Cheese - You can substitute your favorite hard Italian cheese. I always use Pecorino Romano if I have it on hand.
- Heavy Cream - You can't have creamy pesto without the cream!
Optional - add in 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice to add a little bit of tanginess to the pesto!
Can I make this pesto vegan?
Absolutely!! Just swap out the heavy cream for you favorite dairy-free milk (cashew milk would be a great choice) and use nutritional yeast in place of the cheese! You may want to reduce the nutritional yeast to ¼ cup since it has a more concentrated flavor than parmesan.
How to Make Creamy Pesto
Add all of the ingredients except the cream, to a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is finely chopped and resembles a thick paste.
Add in the heavy cream and pulse until the pesto is mostly smooth and creamy! If you prefer a thinner pesto, add in more heavy cream 1 teaspoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.
That's it!! In just 5 minutes you have the most delicious creamy basil pesto sauce!
Tips for the Best Pesto
This pesto has a bright, fresh flavor so it's best eaten raw or added at the very end of cooking (for example, toss with cooked pasta just prior to serving).
Pesto will naturally lose its vibrant color overtime, so if you want to keep it bright green you can blanch the basil prior to blending!
To blanch the basil, fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add the and blanch for a quick 15 seconds!
Immediately remove the leaves from the boiling water and place in the ice water bath. After a about 10 seconds, remove and squeeze out any excess water, then pat dry.
You can store this creamy pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week!
Since this pesto contains heavy cream, it doesn't freeze as well as other varieties do. However, you can freeze it without the cream and then just add it in later after thawing! I recommend portioning small amounts of the pesto into ice cube trays to freeze. Then remove and store in a freezer bag. Thaw individual pesto cubes at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then blend with 1 tablespoon of heavy cream per cube.
Don't worry, this is completely normal! The basil oxidizes and loses it's color the longer it's exposed to air, but it has not effect on the flavor. But if the color is important to you, see my tips on blanching the basil first to keep it bright green!
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
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Homemade Creamy Basil Pesto
- Add all of the ingredients except the cream, to a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is finely chopped and resembles a thick paste.
- Add in the heavy cream and pulse until the pesto is mostly smooth and creamy! If you prefer a thinner pesto, add in more heavy cream 1 teaspoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.