I swear this basil pesto recipe truly is the best of the best. In fact, my brother-in-law swears it’s the best he’s ever had! I know I’m partial and all but if he and my husband both agree, then surely there’s some truth to it.
The flavors are bright, fresh, crisp, and oh so rich. I just love the richness basil brings to any dish. Surprisingly pesto doesn’t even need the cheese! This recipe is 100* dairy-free as well as gluten-free and sugar-free.
And my favorite part… There are so many ways to use pesto! From a sandwich, to a dip, the list is never ending.
How to Incorporate Healthy Best Pesto Recipe: Meal Ideas!
Serve Basil Pesto as a Dip, Appetizer, or Snack
This might be my favorite way to enjoy it because the basil flavor is ultra-strong since it’s not being diluted by much else in the way of food. Pair your basil with some crackers, carrots, celery sticks, or cucumber spears. Serve it along side a bowl of hummus and some cheese wedges (if you’re not dairy-free or vegan!) and you have a well-rounded appetizer. I love this idea to have for my friends and family to snack on when they come over and are waiting for dinner to finish up.
Use Pesto as an Alternative to Salad Dressing
When you don’t have the time or energy to think up a salad dressing, slather it all over whatever greens and veggies are in your fridge. Top it with a protein and bam, you have a super tasty salad ready to eat.
Spread Pesto Recipe on a Sandwich
If you’re not feeling a salad, put your salad on a sandwich. Add a chicken breast or some sliced turkey meat and an avocado. You can even swap out the mayo for the pesto. Or use both! I don’t like my sandwiches dry, so I’m a fan of layering on the sauces.
Stir Basil Pesto into Pasta
Stir a generous amount of pesto into some freshly cooked pasta. Saute some ground turkey or beef with some tomatoes, salt, and olive oil. Add it all together, and you have a whole other meal option.
Top a Homemade Pizza with Basil Pesto
I love pesto on my pizza! With or without marinara sauce, you can’t go wrong. So if plan on a homemade pizza at some point during the week, make an extra batch so you have enough for a sandwich or dip as well as to top a pizza.
Use Pesto as a Stuffing
Mix the pesto with shredded chicken, ground turkey or even marinate some tofu and start stuffing. Stuff peppers, pasta shells, or even sweet potatoes. I've mixed this pesto with ground turkey and stuffed some baked sweet potatoes at least three times this last month! It's an easy go-to meal.
Add Pesto to Soups & Sides
Basil has a tendency to make everything taste better in my opinion. Made a soup that's lacking in flavor? Stir it in. Mashed potatoes need to level up? Mix in some pesto.
Try a Pesto Infused Burger
I plan on making a recipe for this soon because it's just so good! Talk about an easy way to help give a a burger just what it needs to melt in your mouth.
Substitutions for Healthy Basil Pesto Recipe
For having so few ingredients, there are a surprising number of things you can do for substitutions.
Swap out the nuts: Classic basil pesto recipes are made with a toasted pine nut and I've seen a lot of them made with walnuts. Personally, I've made this with pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, and cashews... and all are good! Of course, my favorite variation is with pecans, which is why I call for pecans in this recipe.
Lose the spinach: Instead of using any spinach at all, use all basil, or more basil than spinach. This will make for a super rich flavor which I love but isn't for all. I think this is a great option if you're going to be incorporating the pesto into a meal (like a stuffing) where the flavor will get diluted.
Change out the oil: I absolutely love the flavor of olive oil but if I feel like my meal is already health-fat heavy, I'll swap it out entirely for water. In fact, I often do this for holiday meals when I know all the food options alone will leave us feeling quite heavy. The good news is that the pesto still tastes great - even with water!
Use garlic powder: If you don't have any fresh garlic on hand, feel free to use garlic powder. I actually had to do this the other week and it still worked. And if you don't like things uber garlickly, simply use less cloves or just a hint of garlic powder.
Incorporate apple cider vinegar: There have been a handful of times I simply run out of lemons. The easiest swap I've found is using an apple cider vinegar instead. It may not be the same as lemon, but it still does a well-enough job to brighten up the flavors!
Basil During Pregnancy
Overall, basil is safe and healthy for everyone, including pregnant women. But when I was studying to become an herbalist (which I ultimately decided wasn't for me), one of the biggest takeaways I got from the program is that basil in large amounts might be best to be avoided by pregnant women. There's some controversy around its use in pregnancy as it has been used traditionally as an abortifacient and antifertility herb in some cultures.
Large amounts of basil = pesto. Therefore, pesto is considered to be a medicinal dose of basil by many herbalists and should be avoided in pregnancy.
Personally, I chose to consume it myself when I was pregnant with baby Beckett; however, I limited the amount I'd normally eat considerably just to be safe.