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. i put lemon juice and lemon zest in everything, it brings such a nice fresh zesty tartness to a dish! love the first photo.

  2. Connie, here is a French sauce called Pistou which is like pesto without the nuts or cheese. (I'm sure you could add cheese if you like.)

  3. My husband is allergic to nuts of all kinds. Would pesto still taste good sans-nuts?


  4. Anonymous, glad you are enjoying the blog. Hang in there with the diet; I promise it will work!

  5. I remember the first time I made pesto linguine for my husband who commented, "What's this green crap?" but went back for seconds! If I had only one herb to grow, it would be basil (and he insists!) and like other commenters, I freeze it in icecube trays. I throw a couple cubes into a pot of veggie soup to really perk it up and use it as a base for pizza. Getting more ideas from your other readers & am looking forward to trying them!
    Love your blog and while the weight is coming off sloooowly, it's wonderful to be eating so tastily especially on a phase 1. Thanks!

  6. Maurice, have never tried that but it makes sense!

  7. I think it adds a lot of flavor when you heat the pine nuts in a pen on mild heat until they start smelling lovely and turn light brown. It loosens up the oils. This enriches the pesto's flavor.

  8. Christina, you're welcome! Glad you liked the ideas.

  9. Thank you for the ideas! Those all look so great 🙂

  10. Thanks Chriesi!

  11. That pesto looks very mouthwatering! Great post!

  12. Jenny, have fun freezing your pesto!

    Beth, most of my basil was started from seed too, although I always have to buy a few plants for early season basil!

    Sangeeta, lucky you to have a garden with lemons! That would be my idea of heaven.

    Kevin, I love the touch of lemon; makes a huge difference for me.

    Robyn, I love pesto too; glad you liked it.

  13. I have such a soft spot for pesto, and I LOVE this version of yours. Thanks for the ideas, too!

  14. Now is certainly the time for basil pesto! The lemon adds that extra kick of summery freshness to it.

  15. Came here for the first tie and checked out many of your recipes….low glycemic food is good in many ways and i love experimenting with whole food too.

    The basil pesto looks wonderful in the pic…… i use the pesto for many recipes too , but i rarely use pinenuts , almonds or walnuts or both are good for me..lemon will be grat in pesto for sure.
    I have basil and lemons both in my garden 🙂

  16. This is my first year growing basil. I've tried keeping one of those grocery store plants alive..unsuccessfully. But I now have a wash tub full of basil that I started from seed. After reading your blog and all the posts, I do believe I can make a tasty pesto. In the morning it's off to get some olive oil, lemons, and a cheap ice cube tray. I'm so excited to have found all this wonderful info. Thanks for blogging.
    Beth in Penna.

  17. I just love pesto! I grew my very own basil this year and had such a great time with my daughter picking out the leaves and making pesto. You just can't beat homemade pesto sauce. 🙂

    Thanks for the tip on freezing it. I will try that this weekend.

  18. Sharona, you're very welcome. Good for you with all that pesto!

  19. I am so happy that my basil plants have been healthy this year producing an abundance of basil. I have clipped and made pesto to freeze twice already this year. Thanks for all the great pesto ideas.

    Sharona May

  20. Thanks Donna! You're always so sweet.