How To Make Walnut Basil Pesto

Walnut Basil Pesto

Learn how to make walnut basil pesto in mere minutes in your food processor. It’s perfect on pasta, pizza, and just on a slice of toast!

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Walnut Basil Pesto

Oh my good grief, this pesto is good.  I made it for the first time a few years ago and this year I planted three basil plants to ensure that I would have enough basil to make this stuff by the bucketful. My recipe makes quite a bit of pesto so if you don’t have access to that much basil or you don’t want a truckload of pesto, feel free to cut the recipe in half or even in a third.

Let’s talk ingredients and substitutions:

  • Basil-I personally love the sharpness that basil adds to pesto, but really any leafy green will do. I planted basil so I have a lot of it, but if you find yourself short on basil, or just like a little bit softer flavor, add in 1/3 or 1/2 of the quantity in spinach leaves.
  • Walnuts-you can pretty much use any nut you like here. I like walnuts because they are a somewhat neutral nut (rather than say, peanuts that can overpower the other flavors-although this cilantro peanut pesto looks pretty good).
  • Garlic-important for tang, if you’re not a huge garlic fan, reduce the amount that you put in but don’t eliminate it.
  • Parmesan Cheese-or any hard, sharp cheese. I’ve used Asiago or Romano with excellent success
  • Olive Oil-Use regular olive oil rather than extra virgin olive oil, which can make your pesto bitter. If you don’t have olive oil, any neutral oil will work.

What nuts are best for pesto?

Traditionally pesto is made with pine nuts. However, pine nuts are crazy expensive and hard to find in my area. Also, I’m not a huge fan. Instead, we’re using the cheaper walnut. Personally, walnuts are my favorite nut to use in pesto but pretty much any meaty nut will do.

Basil leaves for pesto

Why is my pesto bitter and how do I fix it?

There are a couple reasons why your pesto might be coming out bitter. The first is the kind of olive oil you’re using and the second might be your basil.

Polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil can get released in the food processor and make your pesto bitter. Use regular olive oil rather than extra virgin to avoid this problem.

Some people find too much basil makes their pesto bitter. You can increase the amount of cheese and nuts you use in the pesto to mute the flavor of the basil but a really cheap and easy way is to substitute spinach for 1/2 or 1/3 of the basil.

A third potential cause for bitterness in your pesto might be your nuts. Walnuts can go rancid if they’re old and then they are quite bitter. Store your nuts in the freezer. If you want to really eliminate any bitterness from your nuts, toast them before using them in your pesto.

What can I put pesto on besides pasta?

  • Homemade Pizza-use instead of sauce
  • Slather on a slice of crusty bread (my favorite way to eat it)
  • Grilled cheese-use it on the inside with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes
  • Pasta salad-instead of Italian dressing
  • Grilled chicken or vegetables
walnut basil pesto

How do I store pesto?

You can store pesto either in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer.

To freeze: pour pesto into freezer safe container. Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto. Put lid on container and store in freezer up to 6 months. I like to freeze my pesto in 2 cup portions for the winter time when I’m craving all the basil.

Um, my pesto turned brown…

No worries. Basil is known to oxidize (or turn brown) pretty quickly (like overnight in the fridge). It doesn’t mean your pesto is bad. To help prevent oxidation, pour a thin layer of olive oil over your pesto before storing it.

How long does pesto last?

Pesto will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.

Walnut Basil Pesto

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 cups


  • Food processor


  • 6 cups sweet basil leaves
  • 9 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese


  • In the bowl of your food processor add walnut halves and garlic cloves. Take for a spin and process until the walnuts and garlic are all evenly chopped up.
  • Add in Parmesan cheese and basil leaves. Process together until uniform in appearance.
  • With the food processor still running, pour in olive oil and process to combine.
  • Enjoy!
  • To store: cover with a thin layer of olive oil over surface of the pesto. Keep in fridge or freezer.


This recipe makes a lot of pesto.  Feel free to cut the recipe in half or even in a third.

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