Creamy, luxurious almond pesto with basil and garlic is a snap to make. Just a few easy ingredients and 10 minutes and you'll be serving up this crave-worthy Italian sauce!
What inspired this recipe
Pesto is served year round and it's fun to put seasonal spins on it too. An Italian classic, pesto is a great way to use fresh herbs and garlic. For a vegetarian spin on a classic, drizzle almond pesto over these Vegan Meatballs.
When served on pasta, almond pesto pairs really well with my Rocket and Pear Salad.
Almond pesto only takes 6 ingredients and I bet you have at least 3 of them already. Olive oil, salt and garlic are pantry staples and an important part of tying the other ingredients together. Read on for the other 3 important ingredients.
- Almonds - Regular, whole shelled almonds are easy to find and perfect for this. The fresher the better because these are one of the two main flavors. (Fresh out of a new bag is fine, they do not have to be freshly shelled.)
- Fresh Basil - Dried basil will not work for this. Any variety of fresh basil will work wonderfully but the classic for Italian pesto is the large leaf Genovese basil.
- Fresh Parmesan - Again, fresh Parmesan is required for this recipe, the dried, shake containers of parm will not work. Parmesan helps created the creamy texture and gets even more creamy when tossed with warm pasta.
See recipe card for quantities.
Add almonds and salt to a small food processor. (A small processor works best but you can use a full size food processor or a mortar and pestle and grind this by hand.)
Blend until the almonds are fine crumbs, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides if needed. This will take approximately 1-3 minutes depending on the sharpness and power of your food processer. (If using a mortar and pestle, this will take a little longer.
Add in garlic cloves and pulse a few more times.
Add your basil in 2 stages. Half a cup first, pulsing until shredded, then add the remaining ½ cup. This will help it shred up well instead of balling up in the machine.
Once the basil is chopped up well, add in the olive oil and finely grated parmesan and pulse until you reach desired consistency. This should be a medium thick paste.
Your pesto is now ready to eat! Use immediately or place in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature before serving.
- Use more or less olive oil depending how thick or runny of a consistency you prefer. When I make this for my children's pasta, I use ¾ cup of olive oil to make it easy to spread over. If making this for crostini, I use the ½ cup so it is thicker and will stay put on the bread.
- If I am freezing my pesto, I like to top the packed container of pesto with a thin skim of olive oil to further help keep air off before putting the lid on and popping it in the freezer.
Easily made vegan, this is already naturally vegetarian and gluten free. If you or your dining guests cannot tolerate gluten, be sure to choose gluten free pasta or bread when serving or bake it onto slices of zucchini, tomato or eggplant.
- Vegan - this is easily made vegan by omitting the parmesan cheese and adding extra salt to taste. This results in a bit of a brighter flavor and some in my family prefer the vegan almond pesto to the regular!
- Dairy-Free - proceed the same as the vegan version above. Parmesan is the only omission needed.
Pesto is fun to make and this almond pesto is easily customized with different soft herbs or nuts. Here are my favorite variations.
- Nuts - instead of almonds, try an equal amount of pistachios, cashews or walnuts.
- Herbs - basil is the classic but I love substituting half the basil with mint or parsley.
- Deluxe and Untraditional - Add in ¼ teaspoon chili flakes and ½ teaspoon anise seed with the almonds before blending. Then add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange zest with the basil. This makes an exceptionally bold and wonderful pesto that can also be used as a base or enrichment for bean or seafood soup.
What goes with pesto?
Pesto is delicious and traditional on pasta but that's not all.
Thin Italian grissini (hard breadsticks) served with a dish of almond pesto to dip in makes a wonderful appetizer paired with a little wine. Ditto for crostini. Spread your toasts with pesto and top with some fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for a bite in the colors of the Italian flag.
Spread your pizza with almond pesto instead of tomato sauce or dollop some on top of a Margherita pizza.
Try adding a scoop to basic vinaigrette recipes for a flavorful salad dressing or dollop it on a burrata and tomato salad.
Leftover bits of pesto are perfect for sautéing as a base for tomato sauce, soups and stews.
If you love Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup, top it with a dollop of goat cheese and a scoop of the almond pesto. This might be my favorite recipe pairing on my site.
Pesto will lose it's vibrant green color after a day but it will still taste delicious. This keeps well, covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To store almond pesto longer you can freeze it. Pack it into a container, top it with an extra teaspoon of olive oil to lock out the air and cover with a lid before putting in the freezer. This pesto will last easily up to 3 months if frozen and still be delicious.
No. It is important to chop the nuts first to get them fine enough for the right consistency. Chop up the basil next. The basil chops up quickly but if the oil is added at the same time, the basil gets slippery and will not chop well. (Trust me, I learned this the hard way.)
While pesto is calorie dense, you only need a small amount because it is so flavorful. A 2 tablespoon serving (30 mls) is 114 calories with 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber. Almond pesto is very nutrient dense and an excellent part of a balanced diet.
Be sure to use quality ingredients in this simple recipe for the best results. Use olive oil that you like the taste of and the freshest nuts you can. This will pay off in flavors that pop and wow your guests and yourself.
I hope you love this recipe as much as my family does. If you try it, please give it a rating or let me know in the comments below.
- ½ c Almonds
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 2 c Basil
- 1 c Grated Parmesan (3 oz)
- ½ c Olive Oil or up to ¾ cup
- Add almonds and salt to a small food processor and blend until it is the almonds are fine crumbs, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides if needed. (Approx 3 minutes) *See notes for mortar and pestle instructions.
- Add in garlic cloves and pulse a few times, then add basil, a half cup first, pulsing until shredded, then add the remaining ½ cup.
- Add in olive oil and finely grated parmesan and pulse until you reach desired consistency. This should be a medium thick paste.
- Use immediately or place in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature before serving.