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How to Make and Freeze Amazing Basil Pesto (Recipe & Tips)

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It’s so easy to make delicious basil pesto to freeze for the winter months when basil isn’t easy to get! With just a few ingredients, you can have loads of this tasty, flavorful sauce to enjoy now and freeze for later. 

a bowl of pesto sitting on a counter with cheese, garlic, and basil

One of the greatest delights of summer (I say this a lot because there are truly many!) is a big batch of fresh pesto. I love putting it on pretty much everything in the summer because that fresh basil is to be enjoyed while it lasts!

Fortunately, the delicious flavor of pesto can be savored year-round thanks to freezing. With a little effort in the summer when basil is plentiful, you can have pesto on hand all winter long!

What is Pesto?

Basil Pesto, or Pesto Genovese, is a traditional Italian sauce made of basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and hard cheese such as pecorino or parmesan. Pesto is a delicious sauce for pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and more. 

Pesto can be purchased at the grocery store in the fresh prepared foods section or jarred in the pasta aisle. However, homemade basil pesto is the best way to enjoy this simple Italian sauce.

A bowl of pesto on a counter with cheese, basil, and a mortar and pestel

Can You Freeze Pesto?

Yes! Freezing pesto is a great way to preserve and prevent food waste when you have a ton of fresh basil to use up. Pesto freezes well and once it’s thawed, freezer pesto tastes nearly as good as fresh pesto. 

If you find yourself loaded with tons of fresh basil from the garden, make a big batch of this easy pesto recipe to pop in the freezer. You’ll be so glad to have a taste of summer when it gets too cold to grow a basil plant!

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Equipment Needed

How to Freeze Pesto

It couldn’t be easier to freeze pesto for later use. Once you have prepared your fresh basil pesto, here’s how to freeze it.

Ice Cube Trays

  1. Spoon your pesto into individual cells of a silicone ice cube tray. Freeze for several hours, until the pesto is fully frozen.
  2. Pop the frozen cubes of pesto out of the ice cube trays and transfer them to a freezer bag or large jar.
  3. Label with the contents and the date, then return the container of pesto cubes to the freezer immediately.

Mason Jars

  1. Spoon your pesto into small glass jars, leaving at least ½ inch of space at the top of the jar. Be sure to use jars that are small enough for a single serving of pesto so you can thaw the whole jar and use it without re-freezing.
  2. Label the jars with the contents and date, then put them in the freezer without the lid on. Leaving the lid off prevents your jars from breaking if there isn’t enough space for the pesto to expand.
  3. Allow the pesto to freezer solid overnight, then screw the lid on tight and return to the freezer. 
an ice cube tray filled with pesto

How to Use Frozen Pesto

To use your frozen pesto, it is best to remove it from the freezer and thaw it at room temperature 6-12 hours before you’d like to use it. Remove only the amount you wish to use so no pesto has to be re-frozen. 

If you forget to take your pesto out of the freezer far enough in advance, you can thaw it in the microwave on the defrost setting.

Once your pesto is fully thawed, use it in pesto pasta, salad dressings, and more.

How to Make Toasted Pine Nuts for Pesto

Making your own toasted pine nuts is very easy and adds so much tasty nuttiness to the pesto. Toasting pine nuts elevates the flavor of your pesto drastically, so don’t skip this step!

To toast the pine nuts, all you will need is a skillet.

  1. Place the pine nuts in a skillet without any oil. Be sure they are in a single layer. 
  2. Toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning.
  3. Watch the pine nuts closely to ensure they don’t burn. Turn down the heat if they are toasting too quickly.
  4. Once the pine nuts are golden brown, remove them from the heat and allow them to cool fully before using them in your pesto.
a skillet with pine nuts in it


Make it dairy-free: If you are avoiding dairy or simply don’t have a hard cheese on hand, you can omit the cheese or substitute nutritional yeast or vegan cheese, such as Violife parmesan.

Swap the nuts: Toasted almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pistachios are all delicious in pesto instead of pine nuts!

Mix up the greens: Your pesto doesn’t have to be solely basil. While I recommend using basil for at least half of the greens, the other half can be made up of spinach, kale, arugula, and other leafy greens.

Tips for Making Your Own Pesto

  • If you don’t have enough basil to make a full batch, feel free to substitute part of the basil with a different leafy green. I like to use spinach or kale. 
  • I’ve found that the food processor doesn’t work well for small batches. If you are going to make just a little pesto, I recommend using a blender.
  • If you plan to store your basil pesto in the refrigerator before using it or freezing it, try pouring a little water or olive oil onto the top of the pesto to prevent it from browning.
looking down on a bowl of pesto

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I freeze store-bought pesto?

Yes, absolutely! Follow the same methods above to preserve any pesto you purchased at the store.

What if I’m allergic to pine nuts?

You can make pesto without pine nuts! In fact, I have a recipe for nut-free pesto.

a bowl of pesto sitting on a counter with cheese, garlic, and basil

Basil Pesto for Freezing

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
It’s so easy to make delicious basil pesto to freeze for the winter months when basil isn’t easy to get! With just a few ingredients, you can have loads of this tasty, flavorful sauce to enjoy now and freeze for later. 


  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted*
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • ⅔ cups extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed


  1. Wash your basil leaves and spin them in a salad spinner to dry. Add them to the bowl of a food processor or a blender and pulse to chop the leaves roughly.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil, to the basil leaves and start the food processor or blender on high. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in until the pesto has a smooth consistency and a creamy texture.
  3. Using a rubber scraper, transfer the pesto to ice cube trays or small glass jars to freeze.


*To toast your pine nuts, add them to a skillet without any oil and warm over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until golden brown

spooning pesto into ice cube trays

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