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Freshly made pistachio pesto with basil in a small white bowl, with a wooden spoon and more fresh basil in the background.

Pistachio Pesto with Basil

Basil and pistachio pesto is fragrant and absolutely packed with flavor, and it’s easy to make in a food processor or blender.

This pretty green sauce goes well with so many foods. I mostly use it to make a pistachio pasta sauce, adding extra olive oil and parmesan, and a good squeeze of lemon juice. It’s also great as an accompaniment to grilled meat and chicken, and I serve it as a finishing touch to my chicken, pumpkin and chorizo sheet pan dinner.

I love pesto in all its variations, but this pistachio pesto recipe is my favorite. It’s like the more traditional pesto with pine nuts, but when you sub in pistachio nuts you’ll get a pesto sauce that’s deeper green, with a slightly sweeter finish. Pistachios pair really well with all the other ingredients in pesto, so it’s a winning combination and I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

As with other pesto recipes, pistachio basil pesto is easy to make if you have a food processor or blender, or you can make it the traditional way with a mortar and pestle. Grab a handful of pretty green nuts and let’s get going.

a round, dimpled metal plate shot from the top, with a bowl of pistachio pesto, a spice grinder, a garlic clove and fresh basil leaves on the plate.
pesto in bowl, fresh sauce

What goes in pistachio pesto?

To make my pistachio pesto recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients.

  • Fresh basil; if basil isn’t in season or you don’t have enough, you can use half baby spinach and half basil. You only want the leaves, no stalks as they’re a bit stringy and tough (although if my basil is flowering I throw in the flowers).
  • Shelled pistachio nuts; I bought mine shelled but if yours have shells on, pop them off before beginning the recipe.
  • Fresh garlic; please please don’t use pre-chopped garlic from a jar here, it will make the entire batch of pesto taste strangely metallic.
  • Kosher or flaky salt; I use Maldon salt flakes but you don’t need to buy it especially for this.
  • Ground black pepper; I go fairly heavy-handed on pepper as it’s a beautiful complement to the slight peppery notes of the basil.
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese; pre-grated will work but you may need a little extra because the flavor of pre-grated isn’t as intense.
  • Extra virgin olive oil; this is the recipe to use that special bottle of fancy oil, because you’ll taste it in the finished pesto.

Note the requirement for fresh items above. It’s really important here to use fresh herbs, fresh garlic and, preferably, fresh parmesan that you grate yourself from a block. All these will be the difference between a fabulous sauce with loads of aroma and flavor, and a sad bland one.

How to make pistachio pesto with basil

I told you my pistachio pesto was an easy recipe, and it really is.

First, pop the basil, nuts and garlic into a food processor bowl with the salt and pepper. Pulse until everything is a coarsely chopped paste.

Add the parmesan and olive oil to the bowl and process again until you have an almost smooth mixture that’s somewhere between pourable and ‘able to stand up a spoon’.

That’s it! You can use your pistachio basil pesto immediately or store it for later.

Pesto recipe variations

Although pesto is most traditional with basil and pine nuts as the main ingredients, there are loads of ways to vary it to your taste or ingredients. Try some of these:

  • Swap out some or all of the basil for other soft herbs. Fresh parsley, tarragon, cilantro (coriander) and baby spinach leaves are all great.
  • Swap the pistachios for pecans, cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts. Each will give its own nuance to the pesto.
  • Make it spicy. Add some red pepper flakes when blending the pesto for an extra kick.
  • Make it creamy. Jamie Oliver has a trick where he crumbles and stirs a cooked potato into his pesto. It’s not pesto potatoes, rather it makes your pesto really creamy and silky. Sounds weird but it’s great!

Ways to use pistachio basil pesto

Chorizo Pumpkin and Chicken Tray Bake served on a patterned plate, with rosemary and green pesto garnish.

I mentioned above a few ways I like to use pesto. Here are plenty more!

  • Pistachio pasta or gnocchi. Simply mix the pesto through freshly cooked pasta or gnocchi, for a simple and super tasty meal. Extra parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice are all optional but recommended. I also like adding cooked green beans or broccoli, which go so well with the pesto and bump up the nutritional value of the meal.
  • Dollop it over sheet pan chicken or fish.
  • Stir through creamy mashed potatoes for pesto potatoes.
  • Serve as a garnish for soup or slow cooked meat.
  • Rub it under the skin of a chicken before roasting (I sometimes do this with my favorite roast chicken method, omitting the butter and gently pushing the pesto under the skin of the bird before cooking).

How to store homemade pesto

A small white bowl piled high with pistachio pesto, with extra fresh basil leaves garnishing the bowl and in the background.

You can store pesto in the fridge for a few days, or the freezer for a couple of months.

To refrigerate pesto, put it into a jar or plastic container and smooth out the top. Cover with a thin layer of olive oil to stop it browning. Keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

To freeze pesto, you can put it into a container with olive oil as for refrigerating, but I prefer ice cubes of pesto. Divide your pesto up in an ice cube tray and freeze. Once it’s frozen, you can pop the cubes out into a freezer bag or vacuum seal bag, then seal and store for up to 8 weeks.

I hope you try my pistachio pesto recipe soon, it’s such a great thing to have on hand (and if you make too much, you can always gift some to friends and family! No one I know has ever been sad to receive a little jar of pesto).

Happy cooking see you here again soon.

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Freshly made pistachio pesto with basil in a small white bowl, with a wooden spoon and more fresh basil in the background.
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Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio pesto with basil is a twist on the original and every bit as good! Fragrant basil, bright pistachio nuts and the salty kick of parmesan cheese make it a great accompaniment to all sorts of dishes.
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pistachio basil pesto, pistachio pesto, pistachio pesto recipe
Servings: 1.5 cups
Calories: 1269kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil leaves freshly picked, firmly packed
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts shelled volume, unsalted nuts (if you can only get salted, use less salt in the recipe)
  • 3/4 tsp flaky salt or kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated volume, use a little more if your cheese is pre-grated

Instructions

  • Put the basil leaves, garlic, pistachio nuts, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until everything is finely chopped and beginning to form a coarse paste.
    2 cups basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, 3/4 tsp flaky salt, 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Scrape down the processor bowl and add the parmesan cheese and olive oil to the bowl. Process again until the mixture is almost smooth. If it seems too thick you can add a little water or extra olive oil – this comes down to personal preference and what you plan to use your pesto for. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
    2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • Decant the pesto into small jars, containers or ice cube trays (see notes). Use immediately or store for later.

Notes

  1. This recipe makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of pesto. Feel free to halve it if you don’t need that much. 
  2. The nutritional calculation for this recipe is for the whole batch. Serving sizes can vary, please divide the nutritional values by the number of serves you end up with. 
  3. To refrigerate pesto, put it into a jar or plastic container and smooth out the top. Cover with a thin layer of olive oil to stop it browning, and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  4. To freeze pesto, you can put it into a container with olive oil as for refrigerating, but I prefer ice cubes of pesto. Divide your pesto up in an ice cube tray and freeze. Once it’s frozen, you can pop the cubes out into a freezer bag or vacuum seal bag, then seal and store for up to 8 weeks.
  5. Swap out some or all of the basil for other soft herbs. Fresh parsley, tarragon, cilantro (coriander) and baby spinach leaves are all great.
  6. Swap the pistachios for pecans, cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts. Each will give its own nuance to the pesto.
  7. Make it spicy. Add some red pepper flakes when blending the pesto for an extra kick.
  8. Make it creamy. Use Jamie Oliver’s trick where he crumbles and stirs a cooked potato into his pesto to make it creamy and silky. Sounds weird but it’s great!

Nutrition

Calories: 1269kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 126g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Monounsaturated Fat: 83g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 1879mg | Potassium: 586mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2211IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 639mg | Iron: 4mg

2 Responses

  1. Any hard/aged cheese with low moisture content would work well; pecorino, romano or similar would be my choices if I couldn’t get parmesan.

  2. Please advise a substitute for parmesan cheese as well. Thankyou

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