Fresh basil leaves blended with hearty spinach, sweet and nutty pecans, and traditional pesto ingredients like parmesan, garlic, and olive oil. You can use spinach pecan pesto on pasta, sandwiches, or as a marinade for a no-fuss way to add lots of flavor!
This year's summer and early fall have been so good for my herbs! While the weather was pretty lousy at least it's resulting in a tasty trade off. The basil around here has been growing like weeds.
What ingredients do you need for traditional pesto?
Traditional pesto ingredients are fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil.
Typically, traditional pesto is made using a mortar and pestle. The pine nuts are ground until almost pastelike before the other ingredients are incorporated.
For this spinach pecan pesto we're going to stray from traditional and make it easier by using the food processor, but our results will be just as tasty.
Substituting pine nuts in pesto
I love pine nuts. They're buttery, mild, and add texture as well as taste to any dish. They're also on the pricey side and sometimes you need to hunt them down in the store.
You can substitute other nuts for pesto. Pecans are a delicious substitute for pine nuts because they're also buttery, but bring a little sweetness as well. If you don't have pecans or pine nuts, walnuts are a common substitute.
If you're looking to substitute the nuts altogether for a nut-free, allergy-friendly version of pesto, try using pepitas!
How to make spinach pecan pesto
This recipe is so easy to fall in love with because it's so quick to make if you have a food processor! If you don't have a food processor you'll have to get the knives working and just chop everything super fine, but you can still have delectable basil forward sauce in a few minutes.
- In the food processor, pulse the basil, spinach, pecans, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt until the texture resembles really coarse coffee. You don't want a paste, but you want it finely diced.
- Run the food processor on low speed and pour the olive oil into the feed tube while it's running until the olive oil is incorporated.
- If you're not using a food processor, chop all the ingredients until they are very finely chopped and whisk all the ingredients together very vigorously in a large mixing bowl.
- Be sure to store in an air tight container in the refrigerator if you're not using right away!
Tips for perfect pesto every time
Use fresh, bright green basil leaves - remove any stems!
If incorporated green veggies like spinach and kale, the same applies. Baby spinach is best because it's so tender. If using kale leaves, be sure to remove the stem as it can be pretty bitter.
Make sure all the ingredients are well chopped before adding the olive oil so each bite of pesto will have all the ingredients.
Pulse the ingredients to chop them instead of just running the food processor on high. If the pecans fall to the bottom of the food processor and you're running it at full speed instead of pulsing you'll end up with nut butter.
Lemon juice and zest adds the perfect acidic flavor to the rich olive oil and nuts, while you don't have to use lemon in your pesto it's highly recommended!
Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator to help the basil and spinach keep it's bright green color!
Recipe ideas and uses for your sauce
You've put in the work and you are the owner of this beautiful jar of green goodness. Now what? Here are some of my most favorite recipes featuring pesto!
- Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi with Pesto
- Late Summer Veggie Pesto Pasta
- Lemon Ricotta Pesto Pasta
- Pesto on Grilled Flatbread
- Pesto on Zucchini Noodles with Blistered Tomatoes
If you're looking for even more pesto ideas, try some of these out. They're perfect any time of the year!
Whichever way you decide to use your pesto, be sure to let me know about it in the comments below and leave a star rating in the recipe card! Thank you as always for bringing my recipe into your kitchen!
Spinach Pecan Pesto
- 2 cups basil
- 1 cup baby spinach
- ½ cup pecans
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 lemon (zested)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a food processor, add the spinach, basil, pecans, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and parmesan cheese. Pulse 15 to 20 times until the ingredients are coarsely chopped.
- Set the food processor to run on low speed. Slowly pour the olive oil through the food chute until incorporated.
- Use the pesto right away or store in air tight container in the refridgeratorfor up to two weeks.
- Make sure all the ingredients are well chopped before adding the olive oil so each bite of pesto will have all the ingredients.
- Pulse the ingredients to chop them instead of just running the food processor on high. If the pecans fall to the bottom of the food processor and you're running it at full speed instead of pulsing you'll end up with nut butter.
- To freeze: Scoop the pesto into an ice cube tray, freeze, then pop out and store in an air tight container. You can also store in a reusable storage bag, press out the air, and freeze.