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. thank's very good with the lemon juice!

  2. Jacki, glad you're enjoying the blog.

    I do think the Vitamix would blend the pesto much more finely than I did, so that might be it.

  3. Hi Kalyn! I love the site, love your recipes!

    I used your recipe to make basil pesto for the first time (from fresh basil from my first garden).

    It was delicious, but it turned out to be a lot less than 1.5 cups. I used 2 packed cups of basil and the same amount of olive oil/cheese as the recipe.
    I did use my Vitamix blender. I wonder if that affected the amount?

  4. Robert, great tips. Sorry I have been a little slow to respond; I'm cleaning out my dad's house with my siblings for the next couple of days so I'm pretty distracted from the blog.

  5. I just made this pesto but included the lemon zest from 1/2 lemon. It's FANTASTIC! For those who can grow their basil on the back porch in pots, the basil will go to seed at the end of the season and often re-seed itself. If you collect a little seed from your plants, and want to grow more, just throw the seed on top of the ground and it will come up, no digging necessary. Be sure to thin and pinch back to get lots of big leaves!

  6. Judy, I'm loving the sound of your pesto variation, especially the Peperoncini juice! Great idea.

  7. I love pesto .. didn't have pine nuts so I used chopped up roasted almonds and no lemon juice so I used a splash of peppercini juice .. all worked out great. Now I gotta get a food processor as my blender is just too much work 😉

    Judy from Oregon

  8. I'm going to try the lemon. Also, toasting the pine nuts adds flavor and I substitute some chicken broth or boullion for some of the oil to cut down on the fat.

  9. I've just made my first ever pesto, using fresh basil which I grew in my upside-down tomato planter. The basil has grown magnificently, but I can't say the same for the tomatoes. Oh well. I'll use your hint about floating some olive oil over the top, to preserve it.

  10. Oh Michelle I am so jealous hearing about your basil. My whole garden is under six inches of snow right now! Glad you enjoyed the pesto!

  11. Iv'e made pesto before but without the pine nuts so I feel like this is my first "real" pesto. I too have TONS of basil in my garden so this was perfect to use some of it up. It's delicious and I kept on eating it straight out of the blender! Used it on your pesto chicken…thanks!

  12. Joshua, lucky you to get those pesto deliveries. I love the idea of freezing in small cups.

  13. Our firefighters friend from Genoa bring a batch in the spring when they visit and taught us to freeze the rest in small throwaway plastic cups. All you need to do is peal off the cups and then thaw and eat.
    I love pesto on toast (either toaster toast of bruschetta from the grill.)

  14. What a great idea, love it (especially the idea of being able to break off just the amount you want!)

  15. A trick that I do is to freeze the pesto with out the parmesan in quart size freezer bags. I flatten the bag before putting it in the freezer. All you have to do when you want some is break off the amount you need and put the rest back in the freezer. No smelly ice cube trays to deal with. Works great to get just the right amount for 1 person or many.

  16. I'd definitely try adding more basil and pine nuts, and maybe a bit more cheese too.

  17. Help! Need your thoughts. I mistakenly added lime juice (had fresh in the freezer, but forgot to label it) instead of lemon juice to the pesto recipe….any thoughts? I tasted it and it has a lot of citrus taste. Should I just add more basil and pine nuts? I don't want to throw it out as I did a double batch 🙁

    Thanks for the recipes and thanks for your help!

  18. Love hearing I have inspired you to get a food processor, and that you found a good one for a reasonable price too! You will love it. Glad you liked the recipe.

  19. HI, Just had to come back and leave my 2cents about your pesto recipe. I love it!…Short story, I didn't have a food processor,so I ordered one from Amazon,for $25. w/good reviews. It turned out to be a winner!…then I made the recipe acc.to your directions…I refrigerated it for a few days,and put it on my chicken w/ penne pasta..A WINNER! So good,a million thanks for such a good recipe. And now I'm also ready to chop up anything with this handy little mini processor. Thanks friend. rj

  20. PJ, I'm a lemon freak, love lemon in everything too. Thanks for feedback on the photo!