Different Kinds of Pesto: Exploring Delicious Variations

Are you tired of always using the same old pesto recipe and craving variety? Well, look no further! This article will delve into the world of pesto and explore different delicious variations, like peas, sun-dried tomatoes, and more, that will satisfy your taste buds. So, if you’re curious to discover the diverse range of pesto options, read on!

Different Kinds of Pesto

In this guide, we will be exploring:

  • The versatility of pesto and how it can elevate various dishes, from pasta to sandwiches.
  • Different pesto variations using ingredients like lemon, Thai basil, and kale offer unique flavor profiles.
  • Tips and techniques for making classic basil pesto and variations using other nuts and cheese options.

What Makes a Great Tasting Pesto?

Before jumping into the different kinds of pesto, we thought it would be a good exercise for you to understand the fundamentals of making the perfect pesto paste.

To make a great-tasting pesto, you can elevate the flavor and add personality to the dish by making small changes.

pesto variations

Here are a few ideas we like to make to the traditional pesto recipe:

  1. Roast your nuts: Toasting the pine nuts or walnuts before adding them to the pesto can bring out their natural oils, enhancing their taste and providing a richer flavor profile.
  2. Use different herbs: While basil is traditional for pesto, you can experiment with herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley to give your pesto a unique twist. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the overall flavor.
  3. Add citrus zest: Grating some lemon or lime zest into your pesto can brighten the flavors and add a refreshing touch. The citrus notes pair exceptionally well with seafood-based dishes.
  4. Include roasted garlic: Roasting garlic cloves before adding them to your pesto will impart a sweet and caramelized flavor that is milder than raw garlic, creating a more nuanced taste.

While making changes is good, there are a few key aspects to all good pesto recipes that you should remember. These are:

  1. Fresh ingredients: Choose fresh herbs, high-quality cheese (like Parmesan or pecorino), fresh garlic cloves, and good-quality nuts.
  2. Balance of flavors: Always taste your pesto as you go. The key is to keep the flavors balanced to have a delicious paste.
  3. Proper technique: Crush garlic with salt for maximum flavor extraction. Gradually add ingredients while pounding them into a paste-like consistency. Drizzle in olive oil slowly until the desired texture is achieved.
  4. Store it right: Store leftover pesto in an airtight container covered with olive oil to maintain freshness and prevent oxidation.

Different Kinds of Pesto – Moving Away from Basil

basil in bowls variations

With the traditional pesto recipe, there are three (3) main ingredients that you can have fun with fresh basil, pine nuts, or cheese.

In this section, we’ll explore the different ingredients you can substitute for fresh basil.

Lemon Basil Pesto

Lemon basil pesto is a fun twist on the regular pesto sauce.

It’s easy to make by adding some lemon zest and juice to your usual basil pesto recipe.

The lemon gives it a fresh and tangy taste that helps balance out the rich flavors of the parmesan cheese and oil. When you bite, you’ll enjoy a subtle hint of citrus that makes the pesto even more delicious!

Thai Basil Pesto

If you want to try something different and exciting with pesto, Thai basil pesto is a great option!

Thai basil has a unique flavor that’s peppery and different from the sweet basil we’re used to.

When you use Thai basil in your pesto, you can add ingredients commonly found in Thai cooking, like peanuts. Just check for any allergies before serving it to friends and guests.

This gives your pesto a more complex and interesting taste. It’s a fun twist on the traditional pesto recipe that you might enjoy exploring!

Arugula Pesto

Arugula Pesto is a delicious alternative to the classic basil pesto.

Instead of basil, you use arugula, which has a peppery taste that adds a zesty flavor to your dish.

You must substitute the basil with arugula in your usual pesto recipe and keep the nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

We also recommend adding a little bit of lemon juice to balance out the bitterness of arugula.

This pesto is great for tossing with pasta or drizzling over roasted veggies. It’s super easy and will make your meals more flavorful.

Cilantro Pesto

This one may be controversial because cilantro (coriander) can be a polarizing herb. You either love it or hate it.

Fortunately, we fall in the camp that LOVES it, so try making a Cilantro Pesto for an exotic twist.

The vibrant herb lends a fresh, bold flavor that pairs well with Mexican and Indian dishes.

Replace the basil with cilantro and use nuts like cashews instead of the traditional pine nuts. Incorporate this cilantro pesto into recipes like dal or veggie-packed quesadillas for a delightful change.

Mint Pesto

Mint pesto is a delicious and fragrant sauce instead of regular basil pesto.

It has a cool, soothing taste with grilled meats or vegetable salads.

To make mint pesto, replace the basil with fresh mint leaves and add some almonds for a lovely nutty texture.

Then mix it together with cheese, olive oil, and a little bit of lemon for some extra flavor. This sauce is versatile and will make your taste buds happy!

Kale Pesto

To make kale pesto, you only need some garlic, almonds, cheese (like Parmesan or Pecorino), olive oil, salt, and pepper. You blend all these ingredients together until they form a smooth sauce. Since kale has a strong texture, the sauce will turn out thick and rich.

The great thing about using kale in pesto is that it adds extra nutrition to your meal. Kale is packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for your body. Plus, it gives the sauce a unique taste that you might enjoy!

Red Pepper Pesto

red pepper tomato pesto

Red Pepper Pesto will add a sweet and smoky flavor to your meals.

First, you’ll need to roast some red peppers. Roasting them gives them a deeper flavor and a pleasant smoky taste.

Once your red peppers are roasted, you can blend them with garlic, almonds, cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This combination of ingredients will create a flavorful pesto sauce.

The great thing about Red Pepper Pesto is that it’s very versatile. You can use it in many different ways! It goes well with fish or chicken, giving them an extra kick of flavor. You can also spread it on top of pizza for a unique twist or even use it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Frozen Pea Pesto

Okay, so this one goes against our rule of using ‘fresh’ ingredients, but we’ve often used frozen peas when we don’t have enough basil.

The basic premise is replacing basil with frozen peas that have been boiled until they are bright green. Make sure to allow the peas to become overcooked and retain their vibrant colors. The taste will be the same. However, the color of your pesto may seem a bit off.

So before you discount this idea, give it a shot. You never know. It may just save you come dinner time!

Carrot Pesto

Surprise your friends and family with a unique Carrot Pesto! It’s a special sauce you can make using carrots instead of basil.

Carrots have a mild, sweet taste and add a nice color to your dish. Mix grated or cooked carrots with almonds, garlic, cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Carrot Pesto tastes good when you serve it with pasta, roasted root vegetables, or stir it into soups for a colorful finish.

It’s a fun way to make your food extra delicious!

Pesto with Different Nuts

pesto in jar with pine nuts

The second way to create tasty variations with pesto is to substitute different nuts.

Here are a few ways we’ve jazzed up our pesto.

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio pesto is a tasty variation of the classic basil pesto.

Instead of using pine nuts, you use unsalted pistachios.

This gives the pesto a rich, buttery flavor and adds a fun twist to the traditional recipe. You can use it on pasta, salads, or even as a spread on sandwiches.

Almond Pesto

Almond pesto is a delicious sauce you can make by replacing pine nuts with almonds. It gives a nice, subtle, nutty flavor to the pesto. To make it, you’ll need almonds, basil, parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Let’s discuss what you can do with this yummy almond pesto! You can toss it with pasta for a tasty meal. It also tastes great when spread on bread for sandwiches or as a dip. If you want something healthy, mix it with vegetables as a side dish.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut pesto is a delicious twist on the classic pesto sauce.

Instead of pine nuts, we use walnuts, which have a deep, earthy flavor. Don’t worry.

When all these ingredients blend together, you get a creamy sauce with an unusual tang that makes your dishes even more interesting by adding depth to the flavors.

Try this walnut pesto with pasta, gnocchi (those yummy potato dumplings), or roasted vegetables.

Sunflower Seed Pesto

If you’re looking for a tasty pesto safe for people with nut allergies, you could make a sunflower seed pesto instead.

It may sound strange, but it tastes as creamy and delicious as regular pesto.

You must replace the nuts with sunflower seeds using other yummy ingredients like basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

This nut-free pesto can be used in many ways- like pasta dishes, sandwiches, and salads. Give it a try, and enjoy the flavors!

Pecan Pesto

Try something new with your pesto recipes using pecans instead of pine nuts.

Pecans give a slightly sweet and nutty flavor to your pesto sauce. Mix pecans with Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This combination creates a delicious and versatile pesto blend.

You can enjoy this pecan pesto in many ways! Spread it on crispy crostini, mix it with roasted vegetables for a tasty side dish, or stir it into pasta to give your favorite dishes a delightful twist.

Mixing It Up with Pesto Cheese Variations

mixing pesto in bowl

In the world of pesto, there are plenty of variations that you can use to make delicious, flavorful sauces. One important aspect of a classic pesto is the cheese used.

Let’s explore some popular replacements for the traditional Parmesan Cheese recipe and how they can impact your pesto creations.

Cheeseless Pesto

If you want to skip cheese or can’t have it, you can still make a delicious pesto! Instead of cheese, this type of pesto uses basil, nuts (like pine nuts or cashews), garlic, and olive oil. It’s a lighter sauce that still tastes great.

To ensure your cheeseless pesto has lots of flavor, add extra nuts and try different types. More pine nuts or cashews can give a creamy texture like cheese. Adding some salt and pepper will make the flavors even better. And don’t be afraid to taste as you go and adjust things as needed – that’s how you become a better foodie!

Both parmesan and cheeseless pesto should have a nice balance of flavors. So, take your time to experiment with the ingredients until it tastes just right for you. Trust your taste buds and keep exploring – it’s all part of enjoying the adventure of making pesto!

Vegan Parmesan cheese (made with nutritional yeast and nuts)

Vegan Parmesan cheese, made with nutritional yeast and nuts, is a wonderful option for those following a plant-based or dairy-free lifestyle.

When it comes to replacing traditional Parmesan in a pesto recipe, vegan Parmesan cheese is an excellent choice. It offers a rich and cheesy flavor that adds depth to the pesto.

To substitute regular Parmesan with vegan Parmesan in your pesto, swap them out in equal amounts. The nutritional yeast in vegan Parmesan brings a savory umami taste that enhances the overall flavor profile of the pesto. You can enjoy all the flavors of this classic dish while accommodating dietary preferences using vegan Parmesan cheese.

Inspirational Ways to Use Pesto – How Many Have You Tried?

Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be used in various dishes.

In this section, we’ll explore some delicious ways to incorporate pesto into your cooking, focusing on pasta, pizza, chicken, and fish dishes.

Pesto Pasta

Pesto and pasta are like the perfect pair. Trust us. It is a staple in our dinner rotation because they go together well!

If you want to make a yummy pesto pasta dish:

  1. Start by cooking your favorite pasta as it says on the package. While your pasta is cooking, you can make a delicious pesto sauce using basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese.
  2. Add some zucchini and peas if you want to add extra color and nutrients.
  3. Once your pasta is ready, mix it all up with the pesto sauce and serve it warm.

Recipe Depository TIP

When mixing through the pesto, remember to reserve a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. It helps develop the sauce into a wonderfully glossy sauce that will coat your pasta.

Pesto Pizza

Transform your pizza into an extraordinary culinary creation by swapping the usual tomato sauce with pesto. It’s effortless!

Begin by spreading a generous layer of homemade pesto on your preferred pizza crust.

Next, sprinkle some melty mozzarella cheese on top. Now comes the fun part – choose any toppings you love! Grilled veggies, tender chicken, or even different types of cheese can be fantastic options.

Pesto Chicken

Pesto chicken is a delicious and easy dish you can cook on busy weeknights.

First, you’ll want to marinate boneless chicken breasts or thighs in a mixture of pesto and olive oil.

Mix those together and let the chicken soak for at least 30 minutes to get all those yummy flavors in.

Once the chicken is marinated, you have a few options for cooking it. You can grill it if you have a grill, bake it in the oven, or pan-fry it on the stove.

When your chicken is fully cooked and looking delicious, you can serve it with some tasty grilled vegetables or over a bed of pasta for a complete meal.

Pesto Fish

If you’re a seafood lover, pesto can be a great way to enhance the flavor of different types of fish. To make pesto fish, you’ll want to pick a mild white fish like cod, halibut, or tilapia. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Take your fish fillets and spread a layer of pesto on top of them.
  2. Let the fillets marinate in the pesto for a few minutes – this will help the flavors soak in.
  3. Now, you have two cooking options: grill the fish or bake it in the oven.
  4. As the fish cooks, the pesto will form a flavorful and slightly crispy coating while keeping the fish tender and juicy.
  5. Finally, serve your delicious pesto fish with roasted or steamed vegetables on the side for a fresh and healthy meal. Enjoy!

Pesto Sandwich

Try using pesto instead of mayo or mustard to make your sandwiches extra tasty.

It has a way of bringing out the flavors!

Pesto goes well with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and grilled chicken or turkey.

And the best part is you can get creative and try various combinations with the variations of pesto we listed in this guide.

There’s no limit to what you can do with it when making delicious sandwiches!

Pesto Baked Potato

Here’s an easy way to upgrade your baked potato with a pesto twist:

  1. Cut a baked potato in half and scoop out some fluffy insides.
  2. Mix the potato filling with some spoonfuls of pesto and some sour cream.
  3. Stuff this delicious mixture back into the potato skins.
  4. If you like cheese, go ahead and sprinkle some on top.
  5. Pop the potatoes back into the oven until the cheese is all melted and golden.
  6. And that’s it! You’ve got yourself a delightful creation that will make you want more.

Give it a try – it’s simple but super tasty!

Pesto Appetizers

Last but not least, pesto is the star ingredient for various appetizers.

  • Crackers and Crostini: Spread pesto on crackers or crostini and top them with sliced tomatoes, olives, or your favorite cheese. They make perfect bite-sized treats for parties or gatherings.
  • Stuffed Mushrooms: Mix pesto with cream cheese, garlic, and breadcrumbs, then stuff mushroom caps with this mixture. Bake in the oven until the mushrooms are tender, and serve these delightful morsels to impress your guests.
  • Pesto Pinwheels: Spread a sheet of puff pastry with pesto and sprinkle with grated cheese. Roll it up, slice it into pinwheels, and bake until golden and crisp. You’ll love these flaky and cheesy pesto-infused bites.

These are just a few ideas on incorporating pesto into your meals in various ways. Don’t be afraid to get creative and explore the versatility of this delicious sauce. Enjoy making and trying all these pesto-based dishes!



  • Coriander. (2023, August 5). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriander

Similar Posts