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Made with a handful of easy-to-find ingredients and ready in just 10 minutes, Spinach Pesto is a fresh take on the beloved Italian sauce. Perfect for tossing with pasta, stirring into soups, spreading on sandwiches, or using as a dip, it’s an excellent choice for boosting your favorite dishes with a burst of flavor.

Spinach Pesto served in a black bowl and photographed at an angle.

The combination of baby spinach and traditional fresh basil in this pesto recipe adds a nutritional boost and delivers a slightly milder taste than the classic version. Choosing walnuts as a cost-effective and flavorful alternative to pine nuts, paired with the essential trio of Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic, and high-quality olive oil, ties everything together with a rich, earthy flavor.

Ingredients You Need to Make Spinach Pesto

Spinach Pesto Ingredients on a black granite surface.
  • Garlic: Look for plump, firm bulbs with dry, papery skins. Avoid bulbs that are soft, shriveled, or starting to sprout, since this could mean they’re old or not stored correctly.
  • Baby Spinach: Choose bright green leaves of fresh spinach without any signs of wilting or yellowing. 
  • Fresh Basil: Look for leaves that are deep green, without dark spots or signs of wilting. They should smell strong and fresh, a good sign of their flavor intensity.
  • Walnuts: Choose shelled walnuts that are uniform in color and size and avoid any pieces that look shriveled or discolored, as this can affect their taste.
  • Parmesan Cheese: For the best flavor, buy a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself right before using. Pre-grated cheese often contains anti-caking agents and doesn’t offer the same fresh, bold flavor.
  • Olive Oil: Choose extra virgin olive oil for its superior taste and aroma. Look for oils in dark bottles, which help protect the oil from light damage, and check for a recent harvest date to ensure freshness.
  • Salt: Fine sea salt works well for its clean taste and fine texture blends well into the pesto. 

4 Recipe Tips

  1. Pre-Washed Baby Spinach: For a quicker preparation, choose pre-washed and dried baby spinach.
  2. Adjust Olive Oil: Begin with the suggested amount of olive oil in the recipe, and if the pesto seems too thick, add a bit more until you reach a smooth and spreadable consistency.
  3. Taste as You Go: After blending, taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ideal pesto balances the freshness of basil and spinach, the earthiness of walnuts, the richness of Parmesan, and the distinct taste of garlic.
  4. Preserve Green Color: To keep your pesto bright green, you can blanch the basil and spinach leaves for a few seconds in boiling water and then quickly cool them in ice water before drying and blending. This step is optional but can enhance the visual appeal of your pesto. (More on this below.)

Option for Brighter Pesto: Blanching Greens

Blanching basil and spinach leaves before blending into pesto can enhance the sauce’s green color, making it more visually appealing for serving. This means quickly blanching the leaves (just until bright green, 5 to 10 seconds), then immediately cooling them off in an ice bath. After blanching, it’s crucial to thoroughly dry the leaves to prevent a watery pesto. While it adds a vibrant green color to the pesto, it adds a preparation step and slightly mutes the fresh flavors. This technique is worth considering if presentation is a priority, but for simplicity and the fullest flavor, skip this step.

Spinach Pesto served in a black bowl and photographed from the top.

Recipe Options

  • Pine Nuts Instead of Walnuts: Opt for traditional pine nuts if you’re after the classic pesto flavor or prefer a smoother texture.
  • Lemon Juice for Freshness and Color: Add a squeeze of lemon juice not only to brighten the flavors but also to help preserve the color of the pesto.
  • Kale or Arugula for Variation: Instead of spinach, use kale for a heartier texture or arugula for a peppery kick.
  • Roasted Garlic for Mildness: Substitute roasted garlic for raw for a gentler, sweeter flavor profile without the sharp bite.
  • Alternative Oils for Different Flavors: Experiment with walnut oil for added nuttiness or avocado oil for a more neutral flavor, though extra virgin olive oil is the go-to for its classic flavor.

How to Store

Store pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To prevent oxidation and maintain color, drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top before covering. For longer storage, freeze it in small portions (an ice cube tray works well), then transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag to have on hand for up to 6 months. 

More Homemade Pesto Recipes

Ways to Enjoy Pesto

How to Make Spinach Pesto

Begin by adding a garlic clove through the shoot of a running food processor. Then, add spinach, basil, walnuts, cheese, and salt, pulsing until everything is finely chopped.

While the processor is still running, slowly incorporate the olive oil until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning with additional salt if necessary.

Recipe Video

Spinach Pesto

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 73
Servings: 20 tablespoons
A lively, herbaceous sauce with a creamy texture and a hint of nuttiness, perfect for enhancing pasta, sandwiches, soups and more.

Ingredients  

  • 1 clove garlic peeled (see recipe note #2)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach leaves ~4 cups
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh basil leaves ~2 cups, packed
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts toasted if desired
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese ~1 1/2 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more to taste (
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions 

  • With a food processor running, add garlic clove through the chute to mince. Scrape down sides of bowl and add spinach, basil, walnuts, cheese and salt; pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  • Turn food processor on and add oil through chute in a steady stream; process to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months. (See recipe notes for detailed storage instructions.)

Notes

  1. Store spinach pesto in the refrigerator by transferring to an airtight container and smoothing the top to an even layer. Then slowly add enough olive oil to cover the surface completely in a thin layer (this will prevent the pesto from turning brown).  Cover and refrigerate for up to a week. Or freeze pesto for up to 6 months. For convenience, freeze in an ice cube tray then transfer frozen pesto cubes to a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag to use as desired.
  2. If you like a garlicky pesto, add 2 or even 3 cloves of garlic.
  3. This recipe makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Nutrition

Calories: 73kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 107mg | Potassium: 52mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 666IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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9 Comments

  1. Valentina says:

    We went out last night and my son had Gnocchi with Spinach Pesto! It was delicious, though I’m sure yours will spin cartwheels over it. I love how vibrant the green is with the spinach, and it looks so rich and creamy. 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. Valentina says:

      And I meant to add that I love your new site design. 🙂

      1. Marissa Stevens says:

        So sweet of you to notice, Valentina. Thank you!

    2. Marissa Stevens says:

      Such timing! I love it. Thanks so much, Valentina!

  2. David @ Spiced says:

    5 stars
    We often end up with lots of basil at the end of the summer growing season, but pesto takes a LOT of basil. I love this idea of bulking it up with spinach. I’ll have to try this out as we always keep pesto in the freezer for easy meals!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      That’s fantastic, David! I think you’ll love this.

  3. Mimi Rippee says:

    Beautiful pesto.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thanks, Mimi!

  4. Ben | Havocinthekitchen says:

    5 stars
    I love pesto and all possible variations of it. This one with spinach and walnuts sounds lovely. And what a beautiful vibrant colour!