Can you freeze pesto? Yes! If you have an abundance of garden basil, making and freezing pesto is the best way to taste those summer flavors all year round! Learn how to freeze pesto with this thorough tutorial.
What is Pesto?
Pesto is a sauce made of fresh basil, garlic, oil, pine nuts, and grated cheese (as defined by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary). This simple sauce has roots in the Liguria region of Italy, home of Genoa - where Genovese basil comes from (a type of basil commonly used in pesto).
There's an ancient Roman dish called moretum that pesto is loosely inspired from. Moretum is more cheese-based than modern day pesto, like a cheese salad, also featuring oil, salt, and aromatic herbs.
How to Make Pesto
Traditionally pesto is made by grinding ingredients in a mortar (pesto in Italian can actually mean pound or crush).
Ingredients typically include fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan. However, there are many variations you can make with pesto:
- Try using other herbs or leafy greens.
- Swap or skip the nuts (like in my nut-free pesto).
- Add other flavorings, like lemon juice or crushed red chili pepper flakes.
How Long Does Homemade Pesto Last
That said, as a dietitian I still recommend taking caution. Homemade sauces like pesto can generally be kept up to 5-7 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Making Pesto to Freeze
Do you need a specific pesto recipe to freeze? No. Freezing is a preservation method that doesn't require a specific pH or something, like canning. When freezing pesto, you can use whatever pesto recipe you love (this is my go-to easy pesto recipe!)
How to Freeze Pesto
The best way to freeze pesto depends on how much pesto you usually at need at one time. Feeding a family or making a recipe like pasta al pesto that requires a full batch of pesto? Try the instructions for freezing a large batch of pesto. Find yourself often only need a couple tablespoons at a time for recipes like Chicken Pesto Wraps or Pesto Crusted Salmon? Try freezing pesto in ice cube trays for convenient, portioned amounts.
Freezing a Large Batch of Pesto
- Fill a small jar or bag with pesto.
- If using a jar: The pesto will expand as it freezes, so leave an inch of air space at the top of the jar to allow room for it.
- If using a bag: Pour the pesto in the bag, then squeeze out any trapped air, and seal. Then lay the bag flat to freeze. This makes it easier to store in the freezer and easier to thaw later.
Freezing Pesto in Ice Cube Trays
- Take an ice cube tray and fill each ice cube portion with pesto. (I like to measure two tablespoons into each portion, as that's a fairly general pesto serving size.)
- Place the tray in the freezer.
- Once the pesto cubes are frozen (at least 2-3 hours), remove frozen pesto cubes from the tray and place them in a freezer-safe bag or container.
- Label with contents and the date, and return to freezer.
How Long Can You Freeze Pesto?
How long does frozen pesto last? Frozen pesto lasts up to six months, or up to nine to twelve months in a deep freezer.
Keeping Pesto Green
Have issues keeping your pesto green? Try these three things:
- Add lemon juice to your pesto. Now I do this anyway in my go-to pesto recipe because I love how lemon brightens the flavor in pesto. But the vitamin C helps slow browning. (You can see in the frozen pesto cube images that they're still brightly green!)
- Drizzle olive oil on top. If your frozen pesto cubes are browning on top, try drizzling a small amount of olive oil to cover the cube's surface. The olive oil will prevent the exposed surface from oxidizing and browning.
- Blanche the basil. To blanche basil, drop basil in boiling water for a few seconds, then remove and immediately place in an ice bath. Blanched basil will retain its color and will also blend incredibly smooth, if you like a smoother pesto.
How to Defrost Pesto
To defrost pesto, you can let it thaw in the refrigerator, defrost in the microwave, or on the stove.
To Thaw in the Fridge: Place a jar or bag of pesto in the fridge overnight. Less time if you only need to thaw a frozen pesto cube or two!
Defrosting Pesto in the Microwave: Place frozen pesto cubes in a microwave-safe container. Defrost on high for 10-15 seconds, then stir. Repeat as necessary until pesto is fully thawed.
Defrosting Pesto on the Stove: Place pesto in a small pot or sauce pan on the stove over low heat. Thaw for 3-5 minutes for frozen pesto cubes, or 5-8 for a larger portion frozen together.
How to Use Frozen Pesto
Once thawed, you can use frozen pesto in any way you'd use fresh pesto!
- Pasta: Toss pesto over freshly drained al dente pasta. Try my Pasta al Pesto with Blistered Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes.
- Pizza: Either use pesto as your sauce, or drizzle pesto over your finished pesto. Try it on Air Fryer Tortilla Pizzas!
- Sauce: Use pesto as a sauce over veggies and proteins, like Pesto Crusted Salmon.
- Dip: Dip vegetables, crackers, crostini, air fryer tortilla chips, and pita chips into pesto as-is, or blended with plain Greek yogurt or ricotta for a creamy pesto dip.
- Salads: Toss a salad with pesto as-is, or create a pesto vinaigrette by whisking pesto with more olive oil.
- Sandwiches & Wraps: Pesto is delicious as a sandwich spread, or mixed into chicken or tuna salad. Try it on grilled Chicken Pesto Wraps.
So, Can You Freeze Pesto?
So, can you freeze pesto? Yes. Freezing pesto is a simple way to prolong the shelf-life of pesto. Frozen pesto can easily be defrosted and used just like any fresh pesto. And if you're a gardener and grow a lot of basil, learning how to freeze pesto is an excellent way to use all of your basil, all year long.