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Bowl filled with lemon basil pesto on a wood surface surrounded by a basil plant, parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

Lemon Basil Pesto

  • Author: Sabrina Russo
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/4 cups 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This Lemon Basil Pesto includes all of the traditional ingredients of a Pesto Genovese with a little fresh lemon juice added in. I love the acidity and brightness the lemon brings to this simple pesto.


  • 6 cups (2 bunches) basil leaves, loosely packed 
  • ½ cup pine nuts or nuts of choice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of half a lemon (optional)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
  • ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated (omit if vegan)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Toast pine nuts: To toast pine nuts, add them to a small, cold pan. Turn heat to medium. Toss frequently as nuts gently toast, for about 3-4 minutes or until fragrant and golden, being cautious not to burn. You can also toast them in a 350F oven for 5-7 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine nuts, garlic and basil: Add nuts and garlic in a food processor or good quality blender, and pulse until finely ground. Add basil, season lightly with salt and drizzle in a small amount of the oil. Process until finely chopped, but do not over-process.
  3. Add oil, lemon and cheese: Stream in olive oil slowly while blending until emulsified. Add cheese and pulse to combine. Stir in lemon zest (if using) and juice. Season with salt. Add more lemon juice or zest to taste, if desired. Enjoy.


You can easily cut this recipe in half or double it, if desired.

You can use almonds, walnuts or pistachios instead of pine nuts. For any of these nuts, toast at 350F for 8 minutes or until golden brown, stirring half way through. Cool completely before using.

For a thicker pesto, cut back on the oil. Start with 1/2 cup and add more, as desired, for the consistency you want.

Use domestic parmesan cheese if you can’t find the Italian variety.

To store, place in a jar and coat the top with enough olive oil to cover. This will create an airtight seal. Store in the fridge for up to a couple weeks, or in the freezer for up to 4 months or so. Omit cheese if planning to freeze.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Grind, blend
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 210
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 74mg
  • Fat: 22g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 18g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 3mg

Keywords: lemon basil pesto, basil pesto, lemon pesto, pesto sauce