The Best Spinach Pesto Recipe
This is the only pesto recipe you'll ever need! Seriously. I've been making and sharing this spinach pesto recipe for my entire adult life, and it never disappoints! Simple, classic and absolutely delicious. My kids call it the yummy green sauce 🙂
This recipe is influenced by my mom's 1970-something edition of Better Home Recipe Binder. I'm telling you...this recipe book guided my early cooking all the way through today. I'm definitely not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but this has become my go-to pesto for life.
💚 Why is This Spinach Pesto the Best?
- Healthier than other pestos - spinach adds extra nutrients, for sure!
- Easy & fast - takes less than 10 minutes with hardly any prep. Only one step!
- Great for kids - in my experience kids love this pesto and love to help make it!
- So flexible - loads of substitute options!
- So many uses! Spread this spinach pesto on bruschetta or garlic bread. Use it as a baste or dip for caprese kabobs. You can also make a veggie bowl by mixing this pesto with quinoa and roasted veggies. Or use this pesto in a sandwich, like caprese paninis. Some other excellent uses: drizzle on skirt steak or shrimp, or mix into pasta with chicken or veggies. See our Simple Pesto Pasta!
Note: If you love homemade pizza, try our Homemade Whole Wheat Pepperoni Pizza and swap the marinara for pesto!
Notes on ingredients:
Greens - I do equal parts spinach, basil and parsley, but you can play with this ratio. Kale and arugula also work as substitute greens.
Nuts - Pine nuts are the typical choice, but walnuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds work too!
Cheese - I always use the good ol' Kraft parmesan standby "shaky cheese" (or generic version), but any parmesan or pecorino will work. Sub with nutritional yeast to make the pesto vegan.
Olive oil - use a great olive oil if you can, preferably EVOO, either Italian or Spanish, stored in a dark glass bottle. I really love Carapelli olive oil (note - a different oil is pictured above because I ran out of Carapelli at the time).
👩🍳 How to Make This Spinach Pesto
Couldn't be easier. Just put everything in a food processor, blender or Vitamix, and blend. Add olive oil and water slowly as you blend. And pause the machine a few times to scrape down the sides of container with a spatula.
Best Tools for This:
Vitamix (obvs), kitchen shears (if you need them), a garlic mincer, Thermoworks silicone spatula, and Core mini spatula.
Making Pesto with Kids
Prep: kids can help to snip any of the greens apart using these fun Kuhn Rikon duck snippers.
Counting/Measuring! A tiny math lesson you can sneak into this is explaining fractions (via measuring cup sizes). And because it's a very short lesson using tangible things, your kid might actually listen and be interested. Admittedly, mine was more interested in math when we were making cookies, haha.
Blending! Blending kind of seems like magic, right?! Once your child measures out each ingredient and pours into your food processor/blender/ Vitamix, they can have the ultimate honor of pressing the 'Start' button!
- Feel free to adjust the ingredients. Increase or decrease anything in this recipe according to your preferences or to taste as you're making the pesto. It's really hard to go wrong!
- Get a good olive oil. If you can splurge a bit on any one ingredient, choose a great olive oil, preferably EVOO, either Italian or Spanish, stored in a dark glass bottle. The amount is up to you; I just keep pouring it in (along with the water) until there's enough liquid for the pesto to blend evenly.
- There are loads of ingredient swap options. You can use almonds, walnuts or cashews instead of pine nuts. You can sub in more water for the oil, if you're looking to cut down on the fat content. For greens, you can use spinach, basil, parsley, arugula, kale or even mint.
- If you're making pasta, set aside a cup of the pasta water after the pasta has been cooked; use this pasta water for the pesto.
- Make it vegan by replacing the parmesan cheese with 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
Can I make pesto with spinach?
Yes! You can make pesto with spinach...or basil, parsley, kale, arugula and even mint. Use up any greens or fresh herbs of yours that are about to go bad. It's hard to mess this up!Can I make pesto without pine nuts?
You don't need pine nuts to make pesto. Walnuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are all delicious in pesto, as well!How long will pesto last in the fridge?
Pesto should last a week at most in the fridge, in an airtight container. If you add a thin layer of olive oil on top, the pesto will stay fresher. To freeze, pour pesto into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop the pesto ice cubes out, put in a sealed Ziplock bag, and store in freezer.Is pesto healthy?
Pesto is normally made with all whole foods. To make your pesto healthier, you can replace some of the oil with water (pasta water if you're making pasta), use spinach as one of the greens, and swap some (or all) of the cheese with nutritional yeast.
🧶 Craft for this Recipe
Play Food Olive Oil Bottle! If your kids like to play restaurant or chef, this is the perfect craft. Take an empty glue bottle and turn into an adorable olive oil bottle! You'll feel better recycling the bottle and your kid will have a new item for the play pretend kitchen time!
🍽 If You Love Spinach...
Italian Vegetable White Bean Soup
Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta with Tomatoes
Healthy Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs
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The Best Spinach Pesto Recipe
- ▢ 1/2 cup spinach packed firmly
- ▢ 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves packed firmly
- ▢ 1/2 cup fresh parsley packed firmly
- ▢ 1/2 cup parmesan cheese finely grated
- ▢ 1/4 cup pine nuts
- ▢ 1-2 cloves garlic quartered
- ▢ 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ▢ 1/3 cup olive oil add more, as needed
- ▢ 1/4 - 1/2 cup water if you're making pasta, set aside some of the pasta water for this
- Combine greens, cheese, nuts, garlic, salt and a small amount of the olive oil into a Vitamix or blender. Blend for a few intervals, stopping to scrape sides down with spatula in between. Turn machine on low and gradually add in remaining olive oil and water, increasing speed slowly. Again, stop to scrape the sides as needed.
- 🌱 Yield: This recipe makes roughly 400 mL or 1 ⅔ cup pesto.
- 🌱 Ingredient swaps: there are many! For greens, you can use spinach, basil, parsley, arugula or kale. For nuts, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds all work.
- 🌱 Flexible amounts - feel free to increase or decrease anything in this recipe. The water and olive oil amounts depend on how well the sauce is blending. You may need more or less liquid.
- 🌱 If you're making pasta, set aside a cup of the pasta water for the pesto. Use it when you make your pesto.
- 🌱 To make it vegan, replace the parmesan with 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
- 🌱 If you can splurge on any one ingredient, choose a great olive oil...extra virgin olive oil, either Italian or Spanish, stored in a dark glass bottle.
Oh, MAN!!! I have basil bushes going ganbusters right now, due to the heat - I always make batches of pesto at the end of summer, to preserve through the winter. Total fluke, but I have both spinach and Swiss chard at the moment! This is on tomorrow's menu!!!
I actually never even thought of doing it with mint, but I have mint plants going gangbusters, also!!! I'm gonna try it - actually gonna make a small batch with some feta, to go straight Mediterranean... If that works, I cannot WAIT to make and freeze more!!! I do it in 1/2 pt jars, so that basically covers 1 pound or 12 oz of pasta, cooked.
I have a recessive gene that makes pine nuts taste like soap - for, like, a month after eating!!! Seriously!!! It was horrible to discover!!! I knew I had the gene (I can taste litmus paper), but every now and again, I discover the hard way that other things are affected! Of all the nuts that I find give pesto the most "pesto-ish" taste and flavor, it's pecans, of all things!!! They're another soft nut, not as bitter as walnuts (also soft), and not as firm as (pistachios, which aren't a bad alternative). Almonds stay "gritty" when blended. I have ABSOLUTELY had good luck with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sunflower seeds. Sometimes, I use a combination. A GREAT pesto combination is cilantro and pepitas!!! Thanks so much for the idea to add spinach/greens!!! I have no doubt it will be wonderful!!! Can't wait to get my jars ready... it almost makes me look forward to January, when I thaw and open a jar of summer's lovely bounty!!! Cheers!!! ~Chrissie