Kalyn's Kitchen

Basil Pesto with Lemon

Basil Pesto with Lemon is the pesto recipe I’ve been using for years, and this post also has ideas for using basil pesto! And this perfect way to use basil is low-carb, Keto, and gluten-free.

PIN Basil Pesto with Lemon to make it later!

Basil Pesto with Lemon

This recipe for Basil Pesto with Lemon makes me remember the first time I tasted basil pesto, which was simply called pesto back in the days before this type of uncooked Italian sauce started being made from many different herbs or vegetables! My first basil pesto was made by a guy named Steve, who not only was a fantastic cook, but who had a food processor! This was years before I thought of purchasing such an exotic cooking tool, but now I can’t imagine living without it.

Since then, I’ve made many types of pesto, and I make basil pesto every year when the garden is bursting with midsummer basil. Many years ago I had the winning idea of adding some fresh-frozen lemon juice to my basil pesto, and I’d never make it again without the lemon, which brightens up the flavor and keeps the pesto bright green much longer in the fridge.

This ultra popular recipe for Basil Pesto with Lemon is my Friday Favorites post for this week, and a reminder to everyone who’s growing basil that it’s time to be trimming the basil and making pesto! And if you really have a lot of basil it’s time to be freezing fresh basil as well!

One of my favorite tricks when I make a lot of pesto is to freeze it in ice cube trays (old ones from the thrift store!) Then when the pesto is frozen, pop the cubes out of the trays, vacuum-pack it with a FoodSaver (affiliate link) into a plastic bag, and store in the freezer, and you’ve got fresh-tasting pesto to enjoy all winter! You can also just store the frozen cubes of Pesto in a Ziploc bag, but it keeps better when it’s vacuum packed.

My Pesto never stays around in the fridge that long at my house, but if you want ideas for using it, check out the list in this post or click to see My Favorite Low-Carb and Keto Recipes with Pesto for even more pesto goodness!

Process photo collage for Basil Pesto with Lemon

Steps for Making Basil Pesto with Lemon:

(This is just a description of the steps shown. Scroll down for complete recipe, including nutritional information.)

  1. If you’re using basil from the garden, start by rinsing it and drying well. I use a salad spinner (affiliate link), but you can also rinse it in the sink and dry with paper towels.
  2. The 2 cups of basil used in this recipe means a 2 cup measuring cup packed with as much basil as you can fit into it.
  3. Put the basil and garlic cloves into the food processor (affiliate link) and process with steel blade until basil and garlic are chopped, adding 1/2 cup olive oil through the feed tube.
  4. Add pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh squeezed or fresh-frozen lemon juice and process until well blended, about 1-2 minutes more.
  5. Season the pesto to taste with a bit of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
  6. I store pesto in a glass jar in the refrigerator, where it will last for more than a week, but it can also be frozen.

Basil Pesto Variations:

You can replace some of the basil in this recipe with other greens like arugula, kale, or spinach and/or add other things like green onions or shallots to this recipe if you want to experiment with variations.

basil pesto with lemon

Ten Recipe Ideas for Using Basil Pesto:

1) Make Grilled Zucchini, then top it with a few tablespoons of basil pesto.
2) Use basil pesto in Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash with Pesto and Parmesan.
3) Try Asparagus with Basil Pesto.
4) Make Georgette’s Really Lemony Greek Pilafi, then mix in a little basil pesto.
5) Use the pesto to replace basil puree in Basil Vinaigrette, then drizzle over fresh tomatoes.
6) Make Foil Baked Salmon with Basil Pesto and Tomatoes.
7) Use some of the basil pesto for Baked White Fish with Pine Nut, Parmesan, and Basil Pesto Crust.
8) Use rotisserie chicken to make Leftover Chicken Pesto Salad.
9) Toss pesto and Parmesan with Roasted Summer Squash.
10) And of course you can always eat your Basil Pesto with delicious Whole Wheat Spaghetti!

basil pesto with lemon

Basil Pesto with Lemon

Yield Makes about 12 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Basil Pesto with Lemon is the perfect summer sauce and this freezes beautifully if you have an abundance of fresh basil.


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed into measuring cup)
  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (choose a a flavorful olive oil for pesto)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


  1. Wash basil leaves if needed and spin dry or dry with paper towels.
  2. Put basil leaves and sliced garlic into food processor that’s been fitted with the steel blade and process until basil and garlic is finely chopped, adding oil through the feed tube as you process. (You may need to take off the lid and scrape the sides with a rubber scraper if you have a hard time getting the basil all chopped.)
  3. Add pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice to the chopped basil mixture and process 1-2 minutes more, until the pesto is mostly pureed and well mixed. (I like to keep it slightly chunky, but you can make it as finely pureed as you wish.)
  4. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and pulse a few times more.
  5. Store basil pesto in the refrigerator in a glass jar, where it will keep for more than a week.
  6. Pesto can also be frozen. Many cooking experts recommend leaving out the cheese if you’re going to freeze it, and then adding the cheese when you thaw the pesto. (I’ve done it both ways and haven’t noticed that much difference.)


You will need a food processor to make this. There are many brands, but I love my Cuisinart Food Processor. (affiliate link)

Nutritional information is calculated based on a serving size of bout 2 tablespoons.

This recipe inspired by many basil pesto recipes through the years, with the idea of adding lemon juice something Kalyn has been committed to for quite a few years.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 148Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 164mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

If you make this recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out. Leave a star rating or share on social media with the hashtag #KALYNSKITCHEN, thanks!

basil pesto with lemon

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Basil Pesto with Lemon is high in fat, but pesto is generally used in fairly small amounts, which would make this suitable for any phase of the South Beach Diet, and of course it’s perfect for low-glycemic and low-carb diet plans.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Fresh Herbs or Sauces to find more recipes like this one. Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Pinterest image of Basil Pesto with Lemon

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    91 Comments on “Basil Pesto with Lemon”

  1. What's better than fresh basil pesto? Nothing, I say!

    Your recipes, as always, use it so wonderfully!


  2. Quit Eating Out, thank you! Hope you will enjoy the blog.

    Jacqueline, you have been busy! Hope you like the touch of lemon in it!

  3. Do you know I haven't made pesto for a while, which is unusual for me. I din't get around to planting basil this year, what with the baby and all and have just been getting by on luttle pots of supermarket basil. I must make some this week. I will give it a go with the lemon.

  4. Glad to find your site! You have such wonderful recipes, this one included that I'm anxious to try. Looking forward to following…

  5. CJ, hope you like it with the lemon!

    Christy, you're welcome. That's pretty funny, I loved the beans with lemon.

    Have fun making pesto with that new food processor!

    I buy my pine nuts at Costco, where they are much cheaper than that. I keep them in the freezer so they last for a long time.

  6. Thanks for the recipe, I love pesto! I bought pine nuts last week for the first time in awhile, when did they get to be so expensive? I think they were around $30 per pound!

  7. Since I read about your basil/pesto a wk.or so ago, I felt the need to order one of those small food processors..which I'm waiting for now. Hopefully my basil will hold out until I receive it. Thanks Kalyn for answering my questions. rj

  8. Used your inspiration the other day to make roasted green beans tossed with minced lemon basil. I thought it could be even more lemony and might add some zest to go with the lemon basil, but my husband said he couldn't taste the beans! Different strokes. Thanks for your great work!

  9. Getting ready to make another batch of pesto and the addition of lemon sounds like a winner. I love lemon-basil combos, so preserving some of that summer goodness in this form is fantastic.

  10. TW, I think Lydia's idea with the ice cube tray is the way to go for freezing!

  11. OK – you've convinced me to give this a shot. There is so much basil growing at the farm that I have to give this a try. Especially if I can freeze it!

  12. Year on the Grill, I like the idea of using walnuts; will have to try that. And your flatbread snack with goat cheese would be a hit around here!

    Anonymous, thanks for that tip!

    Joanne, I love it with the lemon, makes the flavor so much brighter.

    Shirley, glad this was helpful for you. Pesto is a great gluten-free food!

    Jeanne, I do like pesto with more texture too; I make it both ways. Pesto with mashed potatoes sounds delicious!

    Lydia, I need to try that. I think those cubes of pesto would be so useful in winter cooking!

    Italian Dish, Pesto lasagna sounds fantastic!

    Susan, I think there are so many good brands of olive oil, and it's kind of a personal thing. If your town has a store where they let you taste the olive oil, that's a good way to do it. (Granatos in Salt Lake will do that.) I've had good luck with Costco Kirkland Olive Oil (be sure to get the one that says "extra virgin" and "first cold pressed" because the regular one is not good.) I haven't tried Kirkland's newest Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil, but I want to.

  13. I have been looking forward to seeing your pesto recipe ever since you mentioned it a couple days ago. Thanks, I am anxious to try this one.
    I have one question – do you have an olive oil that you would recommend?

  14. One of the best things about summer, Kalyn – basil pesto! I just posted a Pesto Lasagna that we love for summer. I've never put lemon juice in my pesto. I will try that next time, sounds good!

  15. I love to make pesto and freeze it for use throughout the winter. I leave out the cheese, and freeze it in an ice cube tray (I have one tray specifically for pesto, because I can never completely get the smell of garlic out of the tray!). Then pop the cubes into a freezer bag. When you want to use, either add the frozen cubes directly to a saute pan, or defrost and blend in the food processor with grated parmesan cheese and bit of oil, pepper and salt.

  16. Oh look how GREEN that pesto is! Beautiful. My windowsill basil plants hever have enough leaves to make a big batch like this so I always have to buy in, but it's worth it. I like leaving mt pine nuts & cheese quite roughly chopped/grated so that the pesto has more of a texture. And one of my favourite new uses for pesto is to stir it into mashed potatoes!

  17. Great step-by-step tutorial, Kalyn! Thanks for the recipe ideas, too. I've only made pesto once before, but it's naturally gluten free and another gluten-free blogger (Linda of Gluten-Free Homemaker) has issued a pesto challenge, so your post will help me with that. 🙂


  18. Pesto has to be one of my favorite sauces and yet I've never thought to put lemon in it! Great idea.

  19. A friend who is an Italian chef told me once that pesto will keep a long time if you put it in a good jar, pack it down well and then float some good olive oil on top. The oil keeps the air out and the pesto will last for weeks. You can also freeze it this way. To use, just pour off the oil (use it for a vinaigrette) and spoon the pesto out. Re-cover it with oil before refrigerating.


  20. I made a batch of Basil Pesto just last week. I am too cheap to use pine nuts, so I added Walnuts instead. had a great earthier nuttier taste (pine nuts are expensive and have a mild taste that to me gets lost in the pesto). I made a flatbread snack with goatcheese from mine. And a mango bacon pizza.

    So many great ways to use this stuff. Perfect post you did. Will be making a few of these recipes soon