Lemon Pistachio Pesto

Lemon Pistachio Pesto ingredients on a board

Traditional pesto has been around for a long time. The first written recipe in modern times is attributed to Giovanni Battista Ratto back in 1863. But rumor has it that Italians were mashing herbs, garlic, cheese and nuts together since the time of the Roman Empire. This lemon pistachio pesto takes inspiration from those times.

The Romans included an acid in their versions that is not included in the traditional recipe. I’ve also subbed pistachios for traditional pine nuts for two reasons. The first being that the sauce is green and so are pistachios. The second being that pine nuts are much more expensive and not as versatile.

Pesto ingredients in a large mason jar.

Equipment Needed

It’s not authentic if you don’t use a mortar and pestle. Now that I’ve taken care of the gatekeepers here are some legitimate modern tools to use.

I personally recommend the stick/immersion blender. It’s so convenient and cleanup is way easier then a blender or food processor. It also takes up much less space.

Blended pesto in a mason jar.

Tips for getting the best lemon pistachio pesto

I’ve said it many times before but the “easier” the recipe the more the finer details matter. Here are some tips to get the best recipe you can get.

  • High quality ingredients – The smaller the number of ingredients the more those ingredients matter. If you don’t like the taste of something on it’s own it will come through in the final product.
  • Don’t overdo the garlic – I’m as guilty of this as the next person but the raw garlic can be very overpowering in pesto.
  • Slow on the olive oil – We are creating an emulsion and adding the oil too quickly can really mess that up. Your patience will be rewarded.

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Lemon Pistachio Pesto ingredients on a board
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Lemon Pistachio Pesto

A slight twist on the classic Italian sauce.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pesto
Servings: 4
Cost: $10


  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pistachios shelled and roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½-¾ cup olive oil


  • combine all the ingredients besides the olive oil in a blender/food processor and pulse to combine.
  • Then, leave the machine running and slowly stream in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Add oil until the desired consistency is achieved. The pesto is ready to be eaten.


Fresh pesto is much different from store bought.  It ideally should be used immediately as it does not store or freeze well.  You can make it the day before but considering it comes together in minutes I would recommend making it when using it.