Lemon Pesto Sauce, a super simple basil pesto sauce recipe with tangy lemon juice and lemon zest. Ready in under 10 minutes and freezes well!
Love lemons? Put them in a pesto! Great as a topping for vegetables, pasta, or even pizza, this fresh lemon basil pesto is a tasty way to use up lemons that would otherwise go to waste.
👉 Ready to learn how to make pesto with fresh lemons? Let’s do it!
🌿 Ingredients you’ll need
- Basil: Fresh basill leaves are the base of this recipe. Not only do they add freshness to pesto, they also provide important vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and folate.
- Lemons: Both lemon zest and lemon juice are used to add acidity to the pesto sauce
- Nuts or seeds: Pine nuts are used in traditional pesto, but you can make it with other varieties of nuts, like cashews or walnuts. You can even make it nut-free with pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds!
- Cheese (or alternative): Parmesan or pecorino cheeses are traditional, but you can also use a vegan cheese-alternative like nutritional yeast.
- Olive oil: Adds flavor to pesto and helps maintain its texture so that it doesn’t become too thick.
- Garlic, salt, and pepper. These are common pesto seasonings that you can adjust to your liking.
- Recommended tools: A food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board, and salad spinner
🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)
1️⃣ Step One: Wash basil and prep lemons
Start with washing the basil by running it under water or submerging in a bowl of water. Remove any dirt from the leaves, then take it out of the bowl and lay flat on a plate or kitchen towel to dry. You can also use a salad spinner to dry the leaves.
Then zest the lemons with a hand grater, and juice the lemons.
2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the basil, lemons, nuts or seeds, garlic, and oil
Toss the basil, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor. Add nuts or seeds and garlic cloves, and pulse until finely chopped.
As the ingredients are being blended, slowly drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil but not completely smooth (you will want the pesto to be a little chunky)
Slowly drizzle in olive oil while pulsing the ingredients. Pulse until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil, but still chunky.
3️⃣ Step Three: Mix in cheese and spices
Finish off the pesto by slowly adding cheese or nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Give it a taste and add more seasoning until the pesto is flavored to your liking!
💡 Ideas for serving
There are so many fun ways to enjoy pesto! Here are some ideas for how to serve it:
- Use as a sauce or spread. Pasta, pizza, bowls, sandwiches – you can’t go wrong with using lemon pesto as your base spread or sauce.
- Use as veggie dip. Pesto and veggies pair perfectly! You can mix lemon pesto into hummus or use it on its own as a dip on a veggie platter.
- Add to salad dressings. Pesto can easily be mixed into salad dressing. Simply combine it with more olive oil and drizzle on salad.****
- Use it as a topping for potatoes. Pesto and potatoes are a match made in heaven, so drizzle it on top of roasted potatoes.
🧊 How to store
- Refrigerator storage: Keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- Freezer storage: Store in a sealed freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.
Pro tip: To prevent browning, it is a good idea to drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the surface of pesto before putting it in the refrigerator or freezer. You can add pesto to ice cube trays, freeze, and transfer to a freezer-safe storage bag. Having small amounts on hand are perfect for when you need a quick flavor enhancer!
♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips
Making lemon pesto is a great way to reduce food waste! Here are some ways to make it even better for the planet:
Make it during lemon and basil season. The growing season for basil is spring through fall in most regions and lemons are best in late winter and early spring.
Freeze for later! Make a big batch of pesto when it’s in season, then freeze to enjoy for months to come.
👉 More pesto sauce recipes
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Lemon Pesto Sauce
- 1 food processor
- 1 citrus zester
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ⅓ cup pine nuts or pumpkins seeds if nut-free
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast if vegan
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- Prep basil and lemons: Start by washing fresh basil leaves under running water or submerging them in a bowl of water and shaking them to remove any dirt. Use a salad spinner to dry leaves or lay them flat on a plate or kitchen towel to dry.2 cups fresh basil, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Blend ingredients: Toss the cleaned and dried basil in a food processor with lemon zest and lemon juice. Next, add nuts or seeds and garlic cloves. Pulse until finely chopped, slowly drizzling in olive oil until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil but still chunky.⅓ cup pine nuts, 2 cloves garlic, ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add seasonings to finish: Finish by adding in the cheese (or nutritional yeast), salt, and pepper. Give the pesto a taste and add more seasonings until it's flavored to your liking.⅓ cup parmesan cheese, ⅛ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper