Simple Spinach Almond Pesto with Basil

Healthy pesto recipe that’s delicious without added calories from extra oil. Use this spinach almond pesto to make pesto pasta. Or drizzle it on your favorite soups and salads for a flavor boost.

Almond spinach pesto in a white bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

I don’t know if this recipe can be technically called a pesto.

Wondering WHY?

A classic pesto recipe is made using fresh uncooked leafy greens like spinach/kale or herbs like basil/parsley/mint.

We make this pesto by sautéing spinach with almonds. This not only removes the raw taste of spinach but also enhances the pesto flavors.

We also add fresh basil and chilies to retain the “pesto” freshness and a depth of flavor.

Isn’t it thrilling to bend the rules, especially if the outcome is delicious? πŸ˜‰

Guess what?

This basil almond pesto with spinach satisfies your daily requirement of leafy greens and fibre from spinach, in addition to protein and calcium from almonds and parmesan. More about the health benefits of this almond pesto later.

Now let’s take a look at what you need and how to make this healthy pesto.

Ingredients

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

Labelled ingredients for almond spinach pesto.
  • Spinach: Baby spinach works great here. If not available, use the regular one.
  • Almonds: I’ve used almonds with skin here. If you want a very smooth and creamy pesto, use blanched almonds.
  • Basil: Use Italian basil for an authentic flavor, or Thai basil for a peppery flavor (bending rules again!)
  • Lemon: I’ve used lemon zest in addition to lemon juice for added citrus flavor.
  • Cheese: I use Parmigiano-Reggiano which is more flavorful than parmesan.
  • Chillies: Fresh green chilies, jalapenos or bird’s eye chilies, anything works here. If none of these are available, use red chili flakes.
  • Olive oil: Use regular olive oil to sauté and extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle on the pesto while blending. This will ensure that you enjoy the maximum flavor and health benefits of olive oil.

Heating extra virgin olive oil destroys its nutrients and defeats the purpose. That’s why I use them mostly in salads and pesto recipes.

How To Make Spinach Almond Pesto: Step by step photos

Sauté

  1. Roughly chop garlic and green chilies. Heat oil in a pan and sauté almonds along with the chopped garlic and chillies.
  2. Add spinach and stir for a couple of minutes until they are wilted.

Blend

  1. Allow the sautéed spinach mixture to cool down.
  2. Place them in a food processor jar. Add fresh basil, lemon zest, and grated parmesan.
  3. Add lemon juice.
  4. Blend until you get a coarse paste.
  5. While the processor is still running, slowly drizzle olive oil.
  6. Blend until you get the pesto of desired texture: very smooth and creamy, smooth or coarse.
Basil almond pesto with spinach in a black bowl.

Personally, I love my pesto coarse with tiny bits of crunchy nuts. After all, pesto is all about going nuts πŸ˜€

How To Use Spinach Pesto With Almonds

Almond pesto pasta with spinach on a white plate.

To make pesto pasta, of course. But it can be used for many other things, too.

Salad dressing: Drizzle a couple of spoons on salads like easy Italian pasta salad, Italian quinoa salad and spicy chicken pasta salad.

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

On bread/bruschetta: Make easy appetizers with this spinach 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 almond 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.

Easy panko pesto crusted salmon fillets on a white plate.

Pesto crusted salmon (Click here for the recipe)

Delicious baked salmon recipe with a layer of pesto, topped with another layer of crunchy breadcrumb mixture.

Juicy salmon fillets covered in a crunchy flavorful crust!

Tips To Make The Best Almond Spinach Pesto

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Always buy blocks of cheese and grate them whenever required. Freshly grated cheese makes a WORLD of difference to the pesto.
  • Spinach: Sauté the spinach on medium flame only for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat as soon as it’s wilted. This will preserve the flavor as well as the nutritional benefits of spinach.
  • Pesto Pasta: This recipe gives you about 1 cup of pesto that can be used with 250 to 300 grams (8.8 to 10.6 oz) of uncooked pasta. You get delicious pesto pasta with lots of sauce that can serve 4 to 5 people.
Basil almond pesto with spinach scooped out with a spoon from a black bowl in the background.

Common Questions About Basil Almond Pesto With Spinach

Is homemade pesto unhealthy?

When you look at the ingredients for pesto individually, each of them has great health benefits like antioxidants, heart-healthy fats, fiber and a whole lot of nutrients.
However, the pesto has a bad reputation of being high in calories due to the large quantities of olive oil.
In this basil almond pesto recipe, I’ve used an optimum quantity of olive oil (1/4 cup for 1 cups of pesto that equals 4 servings when added to pasta) that gives a nice balance. So the pesto is delicious and saucy, yet not so greasy with too much oil.

How Long Does Homemade Pesto Last?

This spinach 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 Basil Almond Pesto?

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.

Can you put red pepper flakes in pesto?

If you don’t have fresh chilies, feel free to use chilli flakes. Did you realize that you need more heat in your pesto just before serving? Or after? No problem. Red pepper flakes will come to your rescue. Just sprinkle them on your pesto or pasta.

Can pesto be used as a dip?

Pesto tastes great as a dip for veggie sticks. It is a healthier option when compared to cream-based dips. For entertaining a crowd, make a quick and easy appetizer by toasting some breadsticks or tortilla chips and serve them with this spinach pesto.

Health Benefits of Basil Almond Pesto with Spinach

Benefits of Spinach

(Source)

Spinach is a superstar among green leafy vegetables. This low-calorie food is full of nutrients that are good for your body in several ways.

  • Boosts hydration: It is a vegetable that’s nearly all water.
  • Curbs appetite: It lowers levels of a hunger hormone and raises hormones that make you feel full.
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis: Spinach has calcium, manganese, and vitamin K, which are important for healthy bones.
  • Cuts risk of anemia: Spinach is a vegetarian source of iron which helps red blood cells bring oxygen to different areas of your body.
  • Strengthens the Immune System: Spinach has vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and magnesium that support your immune system.
  • Assists Baby Development: It is rich in folate and vitamin B6 that’s important for the baby’s development in the womb.
  • Keeps Eyes Healthy: Carotenoids and vitamin A in spinach support good vision.
  • Prevents cell damage: It has antioxidants that fight free radicals.
  • Supports heart health: Inorganic nitrate and potassium in spinach help keep your heart healthy.

Benefits of Almonds

(Source)

  • Nutrient-rich: Almonds are high in healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, protein and various important nutrients.
  • Promote heart health: Eating almonds helps to lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), and increase levels of the good kind (HDL).
  • Maintain a healthy weight: The protein and fiber in the nuts make you feel full faster, so you can better control your calorie intake.
  • Lower blood pressure:  They help lower your systolic blood pressure, which offers protection against heart disease.
  • Stronger bones: Almonds have calcium and phosphorus, which improve bone health and can protect you from fractures.
  • Better sugar control: They help curb blood sugar spikes after meals, which is key for people with diabetes.
  • Better gut health: Almonds can protect the health and immunity of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Looking For More Pesto Recipes?

Spinach almond pesto in a white bowl.

Basil Almond Pesto with Spinach

Healthy pesto recipe that's delicious without added calories from extra oil. Use this spinach almond pesto to make pesto pasta. Or drizzle it on your favorite soups and salads for a flavor boost.
Author: Sheeba
Prep Time 8 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 13 mins
Course dip, sauce, Spread
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 cup
Calories 188 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (regular)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 green chilies
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • 3 cups spinach
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or parmesan)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
 

Sauté

  • Roughly chop garlic and green chilies.
    3 cloves garlic, 2 green chilies
  • Heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté almonds along with chopped garlic and chillies.
    2 teaspoons olive oil, ¼ cup almonds
  • Add spinach and stir for a couple of minutes until they are wilted.
    3 cups spinach
  • Allow the sautéed spinach mixture to cool down.

Blend

  • Place the cooled ingredients in a food processor jar. Add fresh basil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and grated parmesan.
    a handful of basil leaves, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2½ tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Blend until you get a coarse paste. Scrape the sides and blend again. While the processor is still running, slowly drizzle extra virgin olive oil.
    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Blend until everything gets combined well and you get the pesto of desired texture.

Notes

  • Pesto pasta: This recipe gives you about 1 cup of pesto that can be used with 250 to 300 grams (8.8 to 10.6 oz) of uncooked pasta. You get delicious pesto pasta with lots of sauce that can serve 4 to 5 people.
  • Spinach: Baby spinach works great here. If not available, use the regular one.
  • Almonds: I’ve used almonds with skin here. If you want a very smooth and creamy pesto, use blanched almonds.
  • Basil: Use Italian basil for an authentic flavor, or Thai basil for a peppery flavor.
  • Lemon: Use lemon zest in addition to lemon juice for added citrus flavor.
  • Cheese: I use Parmigiano-Reggiano which is more flavorful than parmesan. Do not buy pre-grated cheese. Buy a block of cheese and grate it whenever required.
  • Chillies: You can use fresh green chilies, jalapenos or bird’s eye chilies. If none of these are available, use red chili flakes.
  • Olive oil: Use regular olive oil to sauté and extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle on the pesto while blending. This will ensure that you enjoy the maximum flavor and health benefits of olive oil.
Nutrition facts for spinach almond pesto.

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