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Not your ordinary pesto

Updated on January 27, 2014

Alternative pesto recipes

Green and gooey things tend to be a little disgusting. Unless it's pesto, which is a yummy proof that there are exceptions to every rule. Pizza loves pesto, pasta is its best friend and the only thing not entirely happy with pesto is your wallet. Unless you're a curious soul who likes kitchen experiments. Here's some alternatives to classic ingredients. Mix according to your taste and enjoy!

Photo by Tiggered

basil public domain
basil public domain

Classic recipe for pesto

Pesto has become a sort of culinary celebrity in recent years, so it's pretty likely there is no human being left on the planet who doesn't know what is it made of. If you happen to be the rare exception, here's the list of what you need for a classic pesto genovese:

- fresh basil - loads and loads of it

- pine nuts

- garlic

- olive oil

- grated parmesan

Mix everything until smooth and that's basically it.

Now, if you grow your own basil, you have no problem, but if you are to buy the quantity required, your wallet will scream in pain. It won't be happy either when it's time to pay for pine nuts - pretty much the most expensive you can get. Let's explore some alternative options.

Photo source

How to make basil pesto?

Pesto poll

One quick question to warm you up.

Have you ever made pesto with anything other than basil?

See results
parsley public domain
parsley public domain

Parsley pesto

Just the opposite end of price spectrum in the herb world. In my local veg market they give bunches of stuff away, maybe yours happens to have the same marketing strategy? It's dead easy to grow, too. Works great mixed with any other herbs. Use parsley for non aggresive base and add other greens to deliver taste kick!

Photo source

rocket arugula public domain
rocket arugula public domain

Rocket / Arugula pesto

If you like things spicy, go for the rocket. It's strong, peppery taste will make your pesto one-of-a-kind.

Oh, and did you know rocket is one of the easiest plants to grow? Even if you don't have a garden, you should have no problem growing it in a container. It is really hardy and will reward your minimum effort with plentiful harvest.

Photo source

Pesto battle!

Basil lovers vs experimental squad!

Which pesto is better - basil or any of the alternatives?

spinach public domain
spinach public domain

Spinach pesto

Not only cheap, but also healthy like hell. You want to be strong like Popeye, add some spinach to your pesto! Remember, only fresh leaves, frozen mush will not do.

Photo source

Coriander pesto

Coriander, known also as cilantro, is another great alternative for pesto base.

Photo source

nasturtium flower public domain
nasturtium flower public domain

Nasturtium pesto

What a fantastic plant this is! Not only looks pretty, but also you can eat it whole. Leaves, flowers, seeds, everything. Flowers can be deep-fried or stuffed, seeds pickled and leaves make fabulous pesto.

Photo source

dandelion flowers public domain
dandelion flowers public domain

Dandelion pesto

Your pesto can't get cheaper than this. Free food from a meadow, that's the way to go. Choose young leaves, because they get bitter as they grow. Unless, of course, you like bitter greens. Then dandelion pesto is just perfect for you.

Photo source

mint public domain
mint public domain

Pesto with other greens

Basically, you need anything green and leafy to make pesto. Some herbs taste really strong, so use them as extra rather than a base for your recipe. Parsley or basil work great with mint, thyme, sage, dill or any other herb, I've even heard of pesto made with lettuce. Most of wild herbs from a meadow work great too, and you can play them around in endless combination, the only trick is you need to know which to pick in order not to poison yourself.

Pick and mix, the recipe is yours to play with.

Photo source

mixed nuts public domain
mixed nuts public domain

Nutty problem

Although classic, pine nuts are not a necessary ingredient for your pesto. They can be easily substituted with any other nut (well, I would be cautious with coconut...). The most popular alternatives are almonds and cashew nuts, but you can also try hazelnuts, pecans or even peanuts. Whichever you choose, roast them first. It makes hell of a difference tastewise.

Photo source

red chili public domain
red chili public domain


What else can you add to your pesto? Possibilities are endless. Sun dried tomatoes. Chili peppers. Sunflower seeds. Ginger. Sesame seeds. Olives. Capers. Anything.

You can also experiment with cheese (anything you can grate) and oil.

It may not resemble the classic recipe, but as long as you like it, who cares?

Photo source

Need some recipes?

These books can help. Just think about it - there are people who loves pesto enough to write a book about it! They are sure to know some great tricks.

I'm itching to hear your opinion. Do you like pesto? Do you like this lens? Do you want to say anything else? Go ahead!

What's your favourite pesto?

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    • victoriahaneveer profile image


      6 years ago

      I love pesto. I love it on toast!!! And with pasts of course.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You mentioned that you couldn't find any public domain images for coriander greens -- did you search for cilantro? (I see public domain images for that.)

    • elyria profile image


      7 years ago

      Love the lens, will have to try and make the pesto, never done it before!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      I love pesto, usually use a combination of basel and parsley, but without pine nuts. Blessed and added to vegetarian and vegan recipes.


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