11 Fresh Takes on Traditional Homemade Pesto

We’ll always love the classic! Delicious basil-based pesto with pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil is fresh, vibrant, and versatile. But there’s more to pesto than a single traditional recipe can contain. As Chef John explains, “Pesto isn’t a recipe, but a technique” — and as such, it’s friendly to all manner of updates and substitutions. Try these exciting takes on traditional pesto in pastas, as coatings for roasted chicken and salmon, as toppings for pizzas and toasts, and much more.

1. Pesto with Arugula

Here’s a uniquely peppery pesto that combines arugula with fresh basil. “Use as a spread or on pasta,” says Mark. “My favorite is on baguette slices or on whole wheat crackers.”

Arugula Pesto with Sauvignon Blanc | Photo by Meredith

Arugula Pesto with Sauvignon Blanc | Photo by Meredith

2. Walnut and Parsley Pesto

“The buttery walnuts temper the fire of the mashed garlic and pair beautifully with the aromatic, bittersweet parsley,” says Chef John. “Use on toasted bread, pizza, pasta, or on roasted chicken — it’s that versatile!”

Walnut and Parsley Pesto

Photo by Chef John

3. Faux Pesto

Secret ingredients here are fresh baby spinach and pecans. “This is good and easy to make,” says Allison. “I’ve used it in the White Bean Breakfast, as well as for pesto mayo. Very versatile.”

4. Mexican Pesto

Fresh cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and cotija cheese get it done here! Serrano chile pepper provides a touch of heat.

Mexican Pesto

Photo by Fero

5. Ginger Garlic Pesto

This variation features green onions and fresh ginger. “A delicious sauce for almost any type of dish,” says Amy. “It’s full of flavor, and we love it on fish, pasta, or chicken. We make multiple batches and store in the fridge for quick use throughout the week.”

Ginger Garlic Pesto

Photo by Baking Nana

6. Mushroom Pesto

“Rich, earthy sauce that clings to penne pasta to make a hearty, meatless meal,” says Jewels Cooks. “Stir pesto into freshly cooked penne pasta, add to the top of crostini, or use as a dip for Italian-seasoned pita crisps.”

7. Creamy Avocado Pesto

“This is an ingenious way to make pesto,” says nickbobkysr. “If you like avocado or guacamole even a little bit, you need to try this recipe!”

Creamy Avocado Pesto

Photo by Grace Wenzel

8. Thai Pesto

Fresh cilantro, peanut butter, fresh ginger, and a touch of fish sauce deliver a full-flavored Thai-inspired pesto.

Thai Pesto

Photo by Bernadette

9. Swiss Chard and Pecan Pesto

Swiss chard mingles with fresh basil and pecans in this version. “I love this pesto,” says HAZELNUT. “I have so much Swiss chard in my garden that I’ve made 6 batches so far — it’s the best use of all this delicious chard that I can think of.”

10. Easy Kale Pesto

Kale gets it done in this twist on the traditional. “Kale pesto never loses its vivid green color and can be prepared year-round,” says ScandoGirl. “Use a robust extra-virgin olive oil for maximum flavor.”

Easy Kale Pesto

Photo by Diana71

11. Chef John’s Almond Arugula Pesto

“Arugula is a beautiful herb,” says Chef John. “Fragrant, spicy, crisp; it makes a great pesto. I paired it with raw almonds for a combo that was just amazing on a grilled hanger steak.”

Chef John's Almond Arugula Pesto

Photo by Chef John


Check out our collection of Pesto Sauce Recipes. Or explore 9 Make-Ahead Pesto Dinners Ready in 30 Minutes or Less.


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