easy Spinach Pesto recipe -- great for pasta or meats!

A great way to keep a batch of fresh spinach from going bad? With a homemade spinach pesto recipe. A delicious, easy, and fast recipe for pesto that the whole family will love! Perfect on pizza, pasta, or chips!

spinach pesto in a bwol with nuts and olive oil.

This homemade spinach pesto recipe is easy to make without basil, packed full of healthiness, and looks oh so pretty! One recipe lasts for a while (depending on what you use it for) and is a great way to use spinach that is on its way past prime. Or fresh herbs? It is an absolutely fantastic way to use herbs. Yum! Nothing better! You can replace the spinach with basil or other herbs and use it for months. Try my collard greens and olive pesto recipe for a fun twist or the traditional and always loved Basil Pesto.

  • Pine nuts are often less expensive and gentler in flavor than other nuts making them fantastic for pesto recipes. But cashews are another favorite of mine. Heck try using anything you have and see how you like it.
  • Toasting nuts brings out their nutty and warm flavor but isn't necessary for pesto. Try making spinach pesto with and without toasting the nuts to see if you notice and appreciate the difference. If not, why bother?
  • If you don't have a food processor you can old-school it like Italian grandmother's did back in the day...chopping. Sure, it takes longer. Sure, it's tedious. BUT it also makes for EVEN. BETTER. PESTO. I dare anyone to say it doesn't. Set to work finely chopping the spinach and you'll have a delicious batch of pesto in a short time.

Key ingredients:

  • fresh spinach. I prefer to use baby spinach when making this pesto but have used spinach from my garden when I have an overabundance of it. I wouldn't recommend using frozen spinach, however. I found that this pesto recipe was a great way to use the spinach and herbs especially if they weren't the freshest, that would keep longer and give us a bit of variety from salads.
  • olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil should be used in pesto because it has a more mild flavor. If we were using olive oil to cook with most olive oil would be fine. For pesto, because it's eaten fresh, extra virgin should be used.
  • lemon juice. Olive oil needs a bit of acid mixed with it to help counteract the natural bitterness of olive oil. Don't skip the lemon juice in this recipe. If you prefer, you could try using red wine or balsamic vinegar.pine nuts
  • salt & pepper. A good amount of salt and pepper makes the delicious flavors pop!
  • garlic. Fresh garlic cloves, jarred minced garlic, and even garlic powder all work fine and I have used all of them. My preference is jarred garlic because of its ease of use.
  • Parmesan cheese. A hard, salty, aged cheese is needed for pestos. You could sub out another for the Parm, if you like. To make this dairy-free simply omit the cheese and add additional nuts.
  • nuts. I often use the traditional pine nuts in most of my pestos but try walnuts, pecans, and even almonds. Many times I don't have pine nuts on hand and reach for cashews, what is most often in the cupboard.

How to Make Spinach Pesto:

  • Put spinach, garlic, basil, and a bit of the oil into a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  • Add remaining ingredients and process until again your desired consistency.
  • I like to add a bit of Parmesan to the finished pesto and stir it in.
  • Add a bit of olive oil to the top of the jar to keep it fresh while storing.
  • Store finished pesto in the fridge for about 5 days. Spinach pesto can be frozen for several months, as well.

I began making this spinach pesto recipe when my kids were a bit younger and selling me produce from their garden. I had made the mistake of telling them that if they grew veggies and herbs that I would buy them from them instead of my usual vendors at the Farmer's Market. Oh did they run with that!

I loved that their little garden encouraged them to be outside as often as possible. They were learning how to garden, economics, and getting all kinds of sunshine and vitamins at the same time.

They learned early on that lettuces and herbs were amongst the easiest to grow and weed. And, of course, that they matured the fastest. Fast harvests meant money came to them faster. At 5 and 10, they were all about the quick wins.

How do you make pesto less bitter?

This is a common complaint from people that don't like pesto. They find it far too bitter. Using spinach is a great way to help with that problem! You'll find that I add a bit of sugar in this recipe for precisely the reason of counteracting any bitterness.

This pesto tastes delicious on homemade pasta and homemade bread -- delicious-o!

For kids:
--Ask them to find the veggies in the produce department. Ask them the difference between the basil and the cilantro. Can they smell it?
--Kids love pouring oil into the food processor. Measure it out and let them pour it down the chute.
--Buttons...if you have kids you should never be pushing the buttons on the processor or blender yourself. Always. Let. Kids. Push. Buttons.
--Pesto can be adapted so easily to what you have on hand or your family prefers. Ask for kids help deciding between pine nuts or walnuts. Or parmesan or asiago cheeses.

This pesto is fantastic for winter months when fresh spinach is easily found in the produce department. In spring, your farmer's market most likely has an abundance of fresh spinach that will be absolutely beautiful!

You can substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic, if needed. Fresh garlic is always best in pesto but feel free to swap in powder, in a pinch.

homemade spinach pesto recipe

Do you just add spinach pesto to pasta?

Transfer the pasta to a bowl, add the pesto, gently stir the pasta and pesto together, serve with fresh grated cheese.

How do you make pesto less bitter?

This is a common complaint from people that don't like pesto. They find it far too bitter. Using spinach is a great way to help with that problem! You'll find that I add a bit of sugar in this recipe for precisely the reason of counteracting any bitterness.

Do you add pesto to hot or cold pasta?

Warm. Too hot or cold will change the texture of the pesto. Warm is perfect.

If you like that squat jar in the first photo (I use those for everything!), you might like this one.  It's pretty similar, although you can also get similar jars at a big box store.

How long does homemade spinach pesto last?

I wouldn't try to keep it longer than about 5 days, in the fridge. But it freezes for several months! I make a batch and stash some in the freezer.

Can you make pesto with dried basil?

Surprisingly I get this question quite often. My answer is always...why would you want to? The answer is no, not really. Homemade pesto requires fresh ingredients as the main ingredient. Fresh basil is needed for good pesto. Or, in the case of this recipe, spinach.

Homemade Spinach Pesto

How to store homemade spinach pesto:

Store your spinach pesto in a tightly sealed container with a bit of olive oil on any pesto that might be exposed to air. The olive oil. helps the pesto stay fresh. You can store it in the fridge for about 5 days or in the freezer for several months.

homemade Spinach Pesto recipe

| 1 cup
Prep Time | 10 mins
Total Time | 10 mins
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
An easy and delicious homemade pesto featuring spinach instead of basil.


  • 2 ½ Tablespoons dried basil you can skip this, if you like!
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup pine nuts, toasted walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and even sunflower seeds, are all a perfect pine nut replacement
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


  • Put spinach, garlic, basil, and a bit of the oil into a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  • Add remaining ingredients and process again.
  • I like to add a bit of Parmesan to the finished pesto and stir it in.
  • Add a bit of oil to the top of the jar to keep it fresh while storing.
  • Store in fridge.



Calories: 1573kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 32gFat: 155gSaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 2785mgPotassium: 1451mgFiber: 10gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 5895IUVitamin C: 24.6mgCalcium: 623mgIron: 18.5mg

Recipe tester Melanie says...

Would not change a thing! I’m a pesto virgin and can’t believe what I’ve been missing! I make lasagnas each week for families in need and this is going to be a wonderful addition! We made it a pizza night and did “traditional” red sauce, white sauce, and pesto and both of the new additions were a hit!

23 thoughts on “easy Spinach Pesto recipe -- great for pasta or meats!”

  1. 5 stars
    I have been using the recipe, with minor alteration, for quite a while. Great on pizza, pasta, flatbread, etc. I’m not a fan of basil, this is an excellent alternative.

  2. From my understanding garlic in oil is a problem when it isn't refrigerated. This pesto should be stored in the fridge and therefore wouldn't have those same problems. Let me know if that is incorrect.

  3. 4 stars
    It seems like a good plan, so I wanted to try it. I'm sort of a newbie, but loving this whole food journey and actually cooking for myself rather than being on the road all the time (my job).

    My question: what about the whole "fresh garlic in olive oil" warning concerning botulism, etc. Does that apply here? I *love* the taste of raw garlic (I have no friends), so I was just wondering.

    Thanks in advance!

  4. This was the first time to make any kind of pesto, I must say this was delish. Good flavors, nice textures. I can't wait to tell you after I cook it with pasta 😋

  5. So happy to hear that! I love the idea of toasting walnuts...I'll have to give that a try, myself!

  6. 5 stars
    I substituted toasted walnuts for pine nuts. Flavor of this pesto is delicious. No more store bought pesto for me.

  7. Yes, roasting the garlic would be lovely and sweet however our recipes are designed for those that might not have the culinary skill (or desire) to roast off garlic. Sugar is a simple and easy way to get that sweetness. Love the addition of the white pepper!

  8. 4 stars
    Couldn’t understand why sugar was added. If you want sweetness roast off The garlic to caramelise it.

    I subbed in light sour cream for some of the oil and Parmesan to reduce calories. Added white pepper for more bite.

  9. That collard greens and olive is a strange combo, but surprisingly yummy! You are right---nothing beats that spinach pesto!

  10. Wait! I forgot to say, the collard greens and olive pesto was even better than the spinach pesto! But the bright green spinach pesto is prettiest!

  11. I think the water chestnuts is a fabulous idea!! Honestly, I don't quite know about preserving it. The way I make it, as is, will last for a few weeks in the fridge. Beyond that, I really don't know. But I'm going to do some research and if I find a good answer, I'll let you know!

  12. 5 stars
    Would fine chopped water chestnuts stirred in work in place of nuts,, like making a spinach dip,,, also if jarring, could you add sugar, perhaps apple cider vinegar to help preserve? Thank you and a great recipe idea!!!

  13. I know! I agree about the basil pesto thing, too. Love hearing how you adjusted it and I think I may have to try the sunflower seeds instead of the pine nuts. Those are sure easier to find! And, some people just don't care for the taste of pine seeds.

  14. This is fantastic! I did make a couple changes. 1st I doubled the recipe so plenty for freezer for future use. I used sunflower seeds that I toasted in a dry pan and cooled in place of the pine nuts. (Thought about using sunflower oil as well, but decided to try a smaller batch with that in case its yuk.) I didnt need but 1/4c. oil even with a double batch. I did add the lemon juice and sugar, but not quite as much as the recipe called for. Not sure I will ever go back to basil pesto again to be honest. I think toasted pumpkin seeds would work wonders in place of the pine nuts in this as well. Thank you for the recipe.

  15. Ramps are basically wild leeks. Janel and her husband's second business at Strand Nursery works with wildflowers, so that's what we call them.

  16. Glad you liked it! And it's good to know that you can make changes for allergies and it still turns out well.

  17. Just made this with a few adjustments: I used ramps instead of garlic and I skipped the pine nuts due to my son's nut allergies. It still turned out great, I'm excited for dinner tonight! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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