Spinach Pesto

This fresh spinach pesto goes great with pasta, chicken, shrimp, veggies, and more!

Pesto is one of the simplest sauces you can make. You need just a handful of common ingredients and it doesn’t require any cooking.

This recipe is so flexible. Feel free to substitute some of your favorite herbs or leafy greens for some of the spinach and use your favorite nut.

Pesto tastes great tossed with pasta and roasted vegetables or try serving it on toast with some sliced tomatoes.

Traditionally pesto is made with just basil. Why did I make this pesto with spinach instead of basil? I am not a huge fan of basil. I think it tastes too much like black licorice.

Also spinach is cheaper than buying lots of basil which makes this pesto budget friendly. Plus spinach gives this pesto a pretty vibrant green color.

close up of spinach pesto in a white bowl

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spinach pesto ingredients on a dark background

Ingredients

Olive Oil: I recommend using extra virgin olive oil because of it’s milder flavor. Save regular olive oil for dishes that are cooked.

Parmesan Cheese: If you don’t have Parmesan you could substitute another hard dry cheese like Romano.

Garlic: I prefer fresh garlic especially because it can go into the blender whole and I don’t have to chop it but you could also use jarred minced garlic.

Nuts: Traditionally pesto is made with pine nuts. But they can be expensive and are not something I keep in my pantry. Pretty much any nut will work, use whatever you have in your pantry. You make this pesto with walnuts, pecan, peanuts, or my favorite cashews.

Lemon Juice and Zest: Lemon juice’s acid helps to brighten the pesto’s flavor. You could also try substituting three tablespoons of balsamic or apple cider vinegar.

Spinach: Fresh spinach works best. I wouldn’t recommend using frozen spinach.

Equipment

Salad Spinner: Salad spinner make quick work of washing a drying a variety of leafy vegetables and herbs.

Blender or Food Processor: Easily puree the spinach and the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have either a blender or food processor you could also use a stick blender.

Rubber spatula: For folding batters together and scraping the sides of bowls, I prefer a stiffer spatula like this one from OXO. It fits comfortably in my hand, is dishwasher safe, and is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the handle and head are silicone coated which makes it easy to clean and safe to use with my non-stick cookware and bake ware.

Directions

pesto ingredients in blender

Rinse the spinach really well under cold water. Pat dry or use a salad spinner to spin the spinach dry.

pesto ingredients in blender

Add the oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper to a food processor, puree until a paste is formed. Scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula if necessary.

pesto ingredients in blender

Add the spinach, processing it for as short a time as possible to maintain its color.

pesto ingredients in blender

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Frequently asked questions

How long can you store pesto?

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about five days.

It can also be frozen for up to three months. Pour any unused pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once the pesto has frozen place the pesto cube in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents. I really like these silicon ice cube trays. They are flexible which makes removing the cubes easier.

Can you use frozen spinach to make pesto?

I haven’t tried it so I can’t recommend it. If you do decide to use frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach, be sure to drain it really well. The extra moisture will make your pesto too soupy.

Can you use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh lemon juice?

Yes, but fresh lemon is ideal because you can use some of the zest as well.

How do you keep pesto from turning brown?

Pesto turns brown when the pureed spinach comes into contact with oxygen and begins to oxidize. To prevent browning float a little olive oil over the top of the pesto. This creates an airtight seal and will prevent the pesto from turning brown.

Can you use grated Parmesan instead of fresh Parmesan?

If you mean the powdered Parmesan found in those green shakers on a pantry shelf, no. Your pesto won’t taste as good plus there are a bunch of additives in powdered Parmesan.

If you mean the tubs of freshly grated Parmesan cheese in the refrigerated section of the grocery store yes.

Cooking Tip: Parmesan cheese freezes really well. If you don’t use Parmesan very often buy a wedge, grate all of it and use what you need. Freeze the remaining grated Parmesan on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once the Parmesan has frozen, place it in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents. The next time you need Parmesan you can portion out the amount you need. Parmesan cheese can be frozen for up to a year. For more information about freezing Parmesan read this post from Can You Freeze This?

Tips

  • Toasting the nuts before adding them to the pesto brings out their nutty flavor but isn’t necessary.
  • Increase pesto’s flavor by adding a couple of roasted red peppers, a charred jalapeno, or sun -dried tomatoes.
  • Add more or less olive oil based on your personal texture preference. I you prefer a more paste like consistency add less olive oil. If you prefer a looser more sauce like pesto add more olive oil.
  • Pesto freezes really well. Pour any unused pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once the pesto has frozen place the pesto cube in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents. Pesto can be frozen for up to three months. I really like these silicon ice cube trays. They are flexible which makes removing the cubes easier.

How to use spinach pesto

  • Toss with cooked pasta and roasted vegetables and chicken for a quick dinner.
  • Use it as a sauce for homemade pizza.
  • Spread it on toast with sliced tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Stir some into you favorite pasta salad.
  • Use it as a salad dressing.
  • Mix with sour cream to create a dip.
  • Stir into mashed potatoes instead of using butter.
  • Use it as a sauce for steak or grilled chicken.
close up of spinach pesto in a glass jar

Spinach Pesto

Yield: 1 Cup
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Pesto is one of the simplest sauces you can make. You need just a handful of common ingredients and it doesn't require any cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (100g) of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (50g) Parmesan cheese - cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup (28g) of your favorite nut
  • 2 cloves of garlic - peeled
  • 1 lemon - juice and zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups (75g) fresh spinach

Instructions

  1. Add the oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper to a food processor, puree until a paste is formed. Scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula if necessary.
  2. Add the spinach, processing it for as short a time as possible to maintain its color.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Notes

  • Toasting the nuts before adding them to the pesto brings out their nutty flavor but isn’t necessary.
  • Increase pesto’s flavor by adding a couple of roasted red peppers, charred jalapeno, or sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Add more or less olive oil based on your personal texture preference. If you prefer a more paste-like consistency add less olive oil. If you prefer a looser more sauce-like pesto add more olive oil.
  • Pesto freezes really well. Pour any unused pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once the pesto has frozen place the pesto cube in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents. Pesto can be frozen for up to three months. I really like these silicon ice cube trays. They are flexible which makes removing the cubes easier.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 2 Tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 35Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 73mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 2g

This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from an online calculator. Although raspberriesandkohlrabi.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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close up of spinach pesto in a glass jar

Spinach pesto without basil

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