Easy Thai Basil Pesto (without peanuts)

This homemade Thai basil pesto is an Asian-inspired pesto recipe that not only works for pasta but as a sauce for your seared fish and chicken, too. Add a spoonful of this Thai pesto to salads and sandwiches for an incredible flavor boost!

Spicy Thai basil pesto in a glass jar.

About the recipe

Pesto with Thai basil, bird’s eye chilies, walnuts and garlic has all the flavors you need for a dressing, sauce or as a spread. Unlike the Italian basil, Thai basil has a spicy-sweet flavor that goes well with chillies and garlic.

If you’re a regular visitor here, you’ll know my love for chillies as in chicken mince stir-fry, roasted garlic pesto recipe and red chilli pesto which I used in red pesto pasta.

As you can see, my obsession with green-colored sauces and chutneys did not end with spinach almond pesto, Indian mint sauce or the 5-minute avocado chutney. They are full of herbs and goodness, ridiculously easy to make and so good to eat! You’ll love the way these sauces help you make quick and easy dinners and appetizers.

I made this recipe the first time out of sheer necessity. My friend gave me a huge bunch of Thai basil leaves. She had bought a ½ kilo pack to make basil chicken and didn’t know what to do with the rest of the leaves.

I needed a recipe that could use up all of the leaves while they were still fresh.

The first thing that came to my mind was pesto, which can use up ALL of the leaves in the most delicious and healthy way!

Watch How To Make Thai Pesto

Can you make pesto with Thai basil?

Using Thai basil in place of regular Italian sweet basil gives a spicy twist to the pesto. Do you love the bold flavors of Thai basil, bird’s eye chilies and garlic in Thai dishes like green curry and basil chicken?

This easy Thai pesto will soon become your favorite. Though the aniseed-flavored Thai basil gives a distinctively spicy Thai flavor to the pesto, it tastes great with pasta.

That’s not all, you can also use this pesto on anything from salads to sandwiches and pizza for an Asian flavor punch. This is healthy fusion food at its best.

Love Thai flavors of lemongrass and Thai chilies? You might want to try the stir-fried Thai red rice and Thai basil tofu.

You might also want to make Thai green curry paste to cook keto Thai chicken curry.

Ingredient notes

Labelled ingredients for green chilli pesto with Thai basil.
  • Thai basil: 2 cups, tightly packed
  • bird’s eye chillies (Thai green chilies): for the spciy flavor punch
  • lemon juice and zest: for the tang and to balance the spices.
  • garlic
  • walnuts: well known for their heart-healthy fats and nutrients, they are also flavorful.
  • extra virgin olive oil: to keep the pesto flavor intact
  • parmigiano reggiano: it has a richer and nuttier flavor than parmesan. (You can settle for parmesan, if you can’t find it.)
  • salt

How to make Thai Basil Pesto: step by step instructions

(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this page.)

Making pesto can be as simple as throwing all the ingredients into the food processor and blending. But there are a few points to be noted if you want to make a GOOD basil pesto.

  1. Prepare all ingredients: Separate the basil leaves from stems, roughly chop walnuts and chillies, zest and juice the lemon, grate garlic and cheese.
  2. Toast the walnuts on medium heat until lightly browned and crisp. Let them cool.
  3. Place toasted walnuts, garlic, chillies, cheese, salt, lemon zest and juice in a food processor.
  4. Blend until you get a coarse, crumbly mixture. Scrape the sides and blend again until you get a uniform texture.
  5. Add Thai basil leaves and blend.
  6. While the blade is running, slowly drizzle olive oil in a steady stream and blend until well incorporated.
Thai basil pesto in a glass jar.

Recipe tips

  • Chop walnuts into small pieces. This helps toast them better. Well toasted walnuts = more nutty flavor. Roasting also helps in releasing the natural oils from the walnuts. It reduces the need for more olive oil in the pesto.
  • Grate the garlic and finely chop the chillies before blending. This ensures that they get blended well. You wouldn’t want to bite into pieces of raw garlic, or worse, chillies!
  • Avoid buying grated cheese, if possible. Grating a block of cheese is a better way to use parmesan or parmiggiano reggiano (to do justice to its flavor).
Thai basil pesto in a wooden spoon with a jar of pesto in the background.

What to do with Thai Basil Pesto?

Salad dressing: Drizzle a couple of spoons on salads like easy Italian pasta salad and spicy chicken pasta salad. The Asian flavors of this pesto go well with Indian chickpea salad and chana dal salad, too.

Mix it with cooked noodles and veggies to make Thai basil pesto noodles.

Pizza sauce: Spread on pizza with your favorite veggies and feta cheese for a homemade pesto pizza.

On bread/bruschetta: Make easy appetizers with Thai basil pesto on bread topped with tomatoes, cured meat or cheese. Or make the 5-ingredient pan-fried prawns and peppers to use as toppings.

Baked chicken breast: Add a dollop of Thai pesto on baked chicken breasts with beet and mandarin orange salad for a quick and easy dinner.

Grilled or Baked fish: Use the pesto to add more complex flavors to spicy baked lemon mustard fish.

Give an Asian twist to baked pesto crust salmon by using this Thai pesto instead of spinach almond pesto.

How Long Does Pesto Last?

Thai basil pesto lasts for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator if stored in a dry airtight jar. Freeze it if you want to store it longer. It stays fresh for about 2 months in the freezer.

How To Reheat Thai Pesto?

Thai basil is quite sensitive to heat. When you reheat frozen pesto, thaw it first in the fridge overnight. Warm it only until it reaches room temperature.

If you’re using it for pasta, toss thawed (or refrigerated) pesto directly with hot pasta. This will prevent the basil from turning slightly bitter and changing the taste of the pesto.

More sauces and chutneys

Green chilli pesto with Thai basil in a glass jar.

Homemade Thai Basil Pesto Recipe

This easy Thai basil pesto is an Asian-inspired pesto recipe that not only works for pasta, but as a sauce for your seared fish and chicken, too. Add a spoonful of this chili pesto with Thai basil to salads and sandwiches for an incredible flavor boost!
Author: Sheeba
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course sauce
Cuisine Asian, Italian, Thai-inspired
Servings 1 cup
Calories 197 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups Thai basil tightly packed
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 2 bird's eye chilies (Thai green chillies)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano grated
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Instructions
 

Prepare the ingredients

  • Separate the Thai basil leaves from stems and rinse well.
    2 cups Thai basil
  • Roughly chop walnuts and chilies.
    ¼ cup walnuts, 2 bird's eye chilies
  • Grate garlic and cheese. Zest the lemon.
    2 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Toast the pieces of walnuts on medium flame until they are slightly brown and crisp. Let them cool.

Blend

  • Place toasted walnuts, garlic, chillies, cheese, salt, lemon zest and juice in a food processor. Blend until you get a coarse, crumbly mixture. Scrape the sides and blend again until you get a uniform texture
    3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Add Thai basil leaves and blend. While the blade is running, slowly drizzle olive oil in a steady stream and blend until well incorporated.
    ¼ cup olive oil

Video

Notes

  1. Chop walnuts into small pieces. This helps toast them better. 
  2. Grate the garlic and finely chop the chillies before blending. This ensures that they get blended well.
  3. Buy parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano as blocks, if possible. Grating a block of cheese (rather than a packaged pre-grated one) is a better way to use it, for maximum flavor.
  4. This recipe makes 1 cup of Thai basil pesto that can be added to about 300 grams of pasta (4 to 5 servings).
nutrition information for Thai basil pesto

★★★★★Did you try this recipe? Please give a star rating in the comments below ★★★★★

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14 thoughts on “Easy Thai Basil Pesto (without peanuts)”

    1. Hi Shaveta,
      Thanks for stopping by!
      This pesto will stay fresh for about 3-4 days. If you want to store it longer, freeze it. That way, it can last for about 2 months. You let it thaw overnight in the fridge and use. Do not reheat at high temperatures. IF you’re using it for pasta, just mix the thawed pesto (or from the fridge) directly with hot pasta.
      Thank you Shaveta for bringing it up! I’ve included the storing suggestions in the post now.

  1. 5 stars
    Simply wonderful thank you. I grow Thai Basil in the greenhouse and even here in the UK in thrives. This recipe makes such tasty use of it!

    1. Hi Maria, thanks for stopping by! You can substitute walnuts with pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. If you’re allergic to seeds too, you can use cooked white beans or edamame. The flavor may not be the same, but it gives you the required creamy texture and tastes good, too.

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