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A close-up overhead shot of a spoon holding up basil pesto from a jar. The jar sits on a white plate with lemon wedges atop a white surface.

5-Minute Lemon Basil Pesto Sauce

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Condiments
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


I grow a ton of fresh basil during the summer months & am always looking for ways to make the most of my harvest. Of course, fresh basil pesto is always at the top of that list. This Lemon Basil Pesto Sauce is my go-to pesto recipe.

This bright & herbaceous sauce is a pretty classic Genovese-style basil pesto, but a twist of lemon makes it especially irresistible. Fresh lemon zest & juice cuts through the richness of toasted pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, & olive oil to create the perfect balance in flavor. As a bonus, its acidity preserves the basil’s vibrant green color!

The fun thing about fresh pesto is you can pair it with just about anything. Pesto pasta is an obvious choice, but we also love rolling it into breakfast burritos, folding it into juicy turkey burgers, serving it with grilled shrimp or chicken, & drizzling it over a tomato salad. Check the blog post, above, for lots more inspiration to get you started. ♡ Happy cooking!


  • 1 ½ cups loosely packed fresh basil (approx. 2 ounces basil leaves & tender stems)
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ½ lemon, zested & juiced
  • ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • optional: up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season


  1. Pulse the garlic & pine nuts: To food processor, add the toasted pine nuts & garlic. Pulse just enough times to break the garlic & pine nuts into small pieces without pulverizing them.
  2. Prepare the lemon basil pesto: Add the basil, lemon zest & juice, & parmesan to the food processor. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Pulse to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Taste & adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. Serve: Enjoy your lemon basil pesto immediately. It’s, of course, great tossed into your favorite pasta dishes. (this Pesto Pasta with Seared Scallops is one of my all-time favorites). It’s also great in breakfast burritos, drizzled over a gorgeous summer salad, whipped into an herbaceous aioli, folded into a turkey burger, & so much more. Get creative & have fun with it – sky’s the limit!


  • Jess’ Notes & Tips:
    • Easy Recipe Variations: The beauty of pesto is its versatility. If you do not have pine nuts on hand, feel free to swap them out with toasted walnuts or pistachios. Similarly, you can use another hard cheese like asiago or pecorino romano in place of the parmesan. Doing so will result in a slightly different flavor profile, but your pesto sauce will be delicious nonetheless!
    • Dietary Restrictions: This lemon basil pesto sauce is naturally meatless. To ensure it’s vegetarian, be sure to use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan, opt for your favorite non-dairy parmesan.
  • Storage & Freezing: The wonderful thing about pesto is that it’s incredibly make-ahead friendly. Feel free to make a double batch & store in your refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to use it.
    • Storage Instructions: Transfer the lemon basil pesto sauce to an airtight container or jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
    • Freezer Instructions: To freeze lemon basil pesto pesto, transfer to a freezer-safe container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – these are my absolute favorite freezer containers! – & freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen pesto sauce in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw.