This Lemon Pesto recipe with basil and arugula is the perfect sauce to add to pasta, chicken, seafood, and veggies. The lemon adds an extra level of freshness that will make this pesto recipe your new go-to!
Ingredients needed for Lemon Pesto
- Lemon- to give the pesto extra freshness and "pop"
- Basil- a staple in any classic pesto sauce. Remove the basil leaves from the large stems (a little stem is okay), rinse them, and let them dry completely.
- Arugula- this is not traditional but I love the added peppery flavor that arugula gives. You can always skip and add more basil if you are unable to get arugula.
- Pine nuts- In Italy, they keep the pine nuts raw since this is a "raw sauce." I personally love the added nuttiness of toasted pine nuts. You can purchase them pre-toasted, or better yet, freshly toast them on the stovetop. I keep my pine nuts in the freezer to make them last longer. You can also play around with other nuts, such as walnuts or almonds.
- Parmesan- I love using freshly grated parmesan. To make this pesto dairy-free and vegan, omit the parmesan and add a pinch more salt.
- Garlic- I always use fresh garlic, as opposed to jarred minced garlic, which has a different taste.
- Red pepper flakes- these add just a slight mild kick! You can omit if you are sensitive to spice.
- Extra-virgin olive oil- you can add more or less if you prefer your pesto thicker or thinner. It doesn't need to be super expensive, but you'll absolutely be able to taste the flavor of it so make sure it is a yummy one.
What does adding lemon to pesto do?
Lemon adds a touch of freshness to the pesto! The acidic flavor pairs deliciously with the basil and peppery arugula. The lemon also helps keep the pesto fresh and will prevent it from browning too fast.
Quick How To
- Add all ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor and pulse.
- With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.
Make ahead tips
Pesto can be made up to 3-5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before sealing, add a thin layer of olive oil to the top to help prevent browning (the lemon also helps prevent browning!).
You can freeze pesto up to 3-4 months. Place the pesto in an airtight tight container. Alternatively, you can place the pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop them into a freezer-safe sealed bag to use defrost little bits at a time.
- Make sure the basil and arugula leaves are completely dry before using them to help prevent the pesto from turning brown.
- To make the pesto thicker or thinner, add less or more olive oil.
- I make this pesto in a food processor, but you can use a blender or mortar and pestle if that is what you have on hand.
Ways to use lemon pesto
Serve this lemon basil pesto with:
- Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto
- Chicken Pesto Bowl
- Your favorite pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes
Please be sure to leave a comment if you try this lemon pesto with basil, I'd love to know what you think!
- 3 cups basil leaves packed
- 1 cup arugula packed
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes use less if you don't want a slight kick
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add basil, arugula, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, red chili flakes, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a large food processor.
- Pulse while simultaneously drizzling in olive oil. Pesto is done when it is just combined and ingredients are very small (but not a paste).
- Makes approximately 1 cup of pesto.
- Can be refrigerated in an airtight container with an extra drizzle of olive oil layered on top up to 3-5 days, or up to 3-4 months in the freezer.