4 Ways To Make Pesto Without Basil

By Julia Mueller | Last Updated: May 6, 2014

4 Ways to Make Pesto Without Basil

4 Ways to Make Pesto Without Basil
Pesto is an easy sauce to love. It’s fresh, flavorful, and easy to make. And it’s versatile too! Toss it with pasta, slather it on a sandwich, or use it instead of tomato sauce on pizza. While traditional pesto is typically made with basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, there are so many ingredient and flavor options to try.

For your pesto enjoyment, I’ve whipped up four different types of pesto without basil, using cilantro, parsley, beets, and sun-dried tomatoes as the bases instead. The instructions for all four recipes is the same–put all of the ingredients except the oil and salt in your food processor, turn it on, and slowly pour the oil in through the feed tube until it reaches a consistency you like, stopping to scrape down the sides if needed. Season with salt and you’re done!

Ready to get your pesto fix times four? Let’s do this!

Cilantro PestoCilantro pesto can be incorporated into recipes the same way you would use basil pesto, but it also works well with Indian and Mexican food–think a dollop of cilantro pesto on a bowl of dal or spread onto a veggie-packed quesadilla. I used roasted walnuts, but you can use cashews or almonds if you have them on hand.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
If there’s one food that adds instant spunk to a recipe, it’s sun-dried tomatoes! Sun-dried tomato and caper pesto is perfect on pizza and is also great for making lazy-man pasta after work. It’s so full of flavor that you don’t need many other ingredients for adding pizazz to a meal. You can add a couple of tablespoons of pine nuts or parmesan cheese to this sauce, but I find this simple recipe to be delicious as is!

Beet Pesto
If you’re a beet lover, you must try beet pesto! My favorite use for beet pesto is to smear it on toasted bread with melted cheese and thick slices of avocado. Beet pesto may as well be called “superfood sauce” because it’s packed with nutrients! To make the roasted beets for this pesto, peel and cut your beets into 1 1/2-inch pieces, wrap them in foil, and bake them at 400º for 40 to 50 minutes, until tender. Allow the beets to cool completely before making the pesto.

Parsley Pesto
Pesto is the perfect place to stick your leftover parsley! Rarely do I skip the parsley when a recipe calls for it; however, most recipes only require a small amount. This means I end up with almost an entire bunch of parsley, with nowhere to put it. Enter: parsley pesto. Just like cilantro pesto, it can be used the same way as a traditional pesto–toss it with pasta, use it on pizzas, or use it as a sandwich spread.

About Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller writes the food blog, The Roasted Root, and is the author of Delicious Probiotic Drinks and Let Them Eat Kale!. A Lake Tahoe native, Julia loves to play outdoors, and enjoys developing recipes that are nutrient-dense and approachable to make any night of the week.

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You’re very welcome, Anne! I love the idea of arugula pesto because I absolutely adore the stuff. I bet it makes a wonderful sauce. This will be next on my pesto agenda!

High fives to pesto lovers! I’ve been sticking the sauces anywhere a sauce can go…which means I’ve been one happy camper in the food department lately. Le us know if you give any of the recipes a go 😀

Roasted beet pesto! What a great idea! So unique. Cannot wait to try it. I love using leftover herbs to make pesto to freeze and have on hand. I’m on a huge cilantro kick these days, so I’m definitely going to try the cilantro pesto ASAP 🙂

Thanks, Courtney! I’ve been putting my beet pesto on salads and on roasted vegetables – I absolutely love it! Hope you enjoy the cilantro pesto and let us know what you think 🙂

Truth: I ate the sun-dried tomato pesto with a spoon before I could use it in a recipe. No joke. It is that good 🙂 So happy you’re excited about the pestos!

I’m in love with the cilantro pesto! My mind is going crazy right now thinking of all the amazing ways I can use it!! Like you, I use parsley and cilantro for a lot of my recipes and am often left with a bunch of it after using just a few sprigs. Next time I find myself in that predicament, I will just pesto them 🙂

Heck yes! I actually have yet another bunch of cilantro and parsley that need to be used up, so I’ll be making more pesto soon. I love that it’s the perfect use for excess herbs, and love even more than you can freeze pesto and easily thaw it for later use. So happy this was a helpful post and thanks for your kind comment!!

I have a bumper crop of chives, do you think chive pesto is a viable use for them? What additional ingredients do you think would compliment it? I can’t wait to try the beet pesto recipe, I hae 3 beets I just got from my CSA and now have a different use for them.

I’m intrigued by the idea of chive pesto, although I think it may end up being too spicy…It’s worth a try and if the flavor is too strong, you could always add an herb like mint or basil. If you want to try the beet pesto, perhaps add the chives to it! Hope you have fun on your pesto adventure and let us know if you have any more questions!

I made the chive pesto a couple of nights ago and it was amazing. I put copius amounts of chives into my food processor and then added grated parmesan, almonds and a dash of sea salt. I whipped that for a few seconds, just til it was combined, and then streamed roasted garlic grapeseed oil in until it hit the right consistency. I put it all in little mason jars in the fridge. The next day I used it as a spread on my sandwich. OH MY! It was good. I was surprised at how much it thickened. I guess the parm did that to it. It is the perfect consistency for a spread. Tonight it will be thinned with a little more roasted garlic grapeseed oil and tossed with pasta. Yum!

Jean, that sounds great!! I had no idea you could make pesto using chives – now that I know, I’ll definitely be making it – I adore chives.

I add oil in order to thin out pesto after it has sat in the refrigerator, too. – I’ve actually added water in the past and this seems to work well. Thanks so much for letting us know about your chive success and have a great weekend!

Yes! I LOVE the parsley pesto! I actually used it on pizza last night and it was amazing. I will no longer feel bad about buying a bunch of parsley to use as garnish for photos, haha! Into the pesto it goes 🙂

Oh man, I didn’t use any of the pesto from this post on a grilled cheese! Welp…looks like I need to whip up another 4 batches 😉 So glad you like all them pestos, Jennie!

Great post, thank you! I actually just finished eating a lazy pasta dinner with brocc, chickpeas and BASIL pesto. I definitely want to give some of these variations a try.

Thanks Ami! Yup, beet pesto is definitely different from your average sauce. But it’s so flavorful and healthy!

Ah yes, pesto is a great place for beets. Especially for those who need to mask some of the beet-y flavor a little 🙂 Enjoy!

This is great! Is there any other nut in the parsley pesto that you’ve found also works besides cashews? I’m allergic.

Thanks, Samantha! I feel like you can’t go wrong using most nut and herb combinations. My first choices would be roasted almond or walnuts, but you could also do pine nuts or pecans. Let us know what you end up deciding and enjoy!

Thank you for the ideas! I recently made a pea shoot pesto, but had not considered using something like beets when making pesto. Can’t wait to try it (especially on the sandwich you described!)

I’ve been meaning to make pea shoot pesto – it sounds lovely and so spring-y! I hope you enjoy the beet pesto – it’s one of my go-to sandwich spreads, especially for a toasty sandwich with gobs and gobs of avocado. Glad you’re interested in trying out both the beet pesto and the sando!

I tend to roast huge amounts of beets all at the same time too! I chop them up and put them in my salads for the most part. But whenever I end up with an over-stock of roasted beets, it’s nice knowing I can just toss them in the blender and make pesto. Let us know if you try the recipe!

Hi Mani! Actually, all of those would work but balsamic vinegar sounds the best to me. It’d probably give the pesto a nice depth of flavor! Let me know how the pesto turns out!!

Hi Julia!

In the end I made it with 2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, I also added parmesan cheese.
My husband and I both loooved it.
We had it on sandwiches three days in a row, spread on ciabatta bread topped with tomatoes and avocado the first time, then tomatoes and cucumbers, and lastly just tomatoes. So delicious.

I freeze my basil pesto each summer and enjoy using it year round. Do you know if these variations freeze as well as basil pesto does? Do they hold their flavor and color when frozen for a while?

Hi Hillary! Freezing the cilantro and parsley pestos will work just fine. These herbs are actually heartier than basil, so they may fare even better in the freezer than basil pesto.

I would avoid freezing the sun-dried tomato pesto because I think the consistency would turn out strange. The beet pesto is a wild card…I personally wouldn’t freeze it, because I assume it would darken when frozen and then get watery when thawed, but I’ve never tried it so I can’t be sure. Let us know if you try it out, though!

I kept all of these pestos in my refrigerator for two weeks (using parts of them within that two-week timeframe) and they all kept wonderfully. In fact, they probably could have lasted longer, but I didn’t want to push it. If you plan to use the pesto within a two weeks I’d say there’s no need to freeze.

Oh yes, if you enjoy beets, you’ll love the sauce 🙂 Worst case scenario, you could pawn it off on your beet-loving friends 😉 Just kidding, it’s really a wonderful sauce. I used it on pizza this week and it was one of the best pizzas I’ve had. Have a great weekend, John!

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