Pesto and basil are two Italian classics. One is an herb, and the other is a dish you can create using that herb. In this guide, we will answer the question, can I use pesto in place of basil when cooking and other Frequently Asked Questions about basil and basil pesto.
Let’s jump right in.
So, can I use pesto instead of basil?
The short answer to this question would probably be no, but things are rarely cut and dried when it comes to food.
Basil is an herb you can use to create dishes ranging from pesto to ice cream. Pesto is a sauce you can make by mixing a savory green with nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast for vegan dishes.
Basil is the most classic green used but far from the only one. You can use spinach, parsley, mint, and even turnip greens to create different types of pesto. So, again the simple answer is no, you can’t use pesto as a replacement for basil; most of the time.
If you are cooking pizza and out of fresh basil but have some BASIL pesto on hand. Yes, you could use it to add a little basil zest to your pie. These types of substitutions are entirely acceptable.
Frequently Asked Questions About Basil and Basil Pesto
Is pesto the same as basil?
Pesto is not the same thing as basil. Pesto is a sauce. Basil is a culinary herb. Basil can be used to make pesto and any number of other dishes, and you can make pesto from a variety of savory greens beyond basil.
What do you eat basil pesto with?
Basil pesto is such a wonderful sauce. There is no limit to its possible uses. A few favorites would be:
- As a sauce on pasta.
- As a sandwich spread
- Added to soups like tomato or minestrone.
- As a grilling sauce on vegetables or other light fares.
- As a pizza sauce.
- Mixed with mayo for potato salad.
- Used in place of butter for corn on the cob or cauliflower rice.
- Added to vegetable mashes like potatoes or hummus.
- As a dipping sauce for bread or vegetables.
Do I need to blanch basil for pesto?
Many food professionals would say that you have to blanch your basil leaves before using them in pesto. The truth is, it is a matter of taste. Blanching kills some of the enzymes that cause pesto to turn brown. It also mutes some of the fresh herbaceous flavors.
Pesto made with blanched basil will look fresher longer. Pesto made with unblanched leaves will be more flavorful even as it turns brown.
Can I substitute dried basil for fresh basil in pesto?
Surprisingly, you can substitute dried basil for fresh basil in pesto. The finished sauce lacks that beautiful emerald green color and does have a slightly bitter aftertaste. However, it is still quite enjoyable.
The secret is to add a touch of citrus juice (lemon or lime) to brighten the flavor and counter the bitter note.
Should you wash basil before making pesto?
From a food safety standpoint, you should wash any leafy greens before using them. According to CNN Health, unwashed greens account for 46% of all foodborne illnesses in the United States.
The risks include:
- Pesticide exposure
How long will basil pesto keep in the fridge?
Basil pesto recipes can vary significantly, as can how people maintain their refrigerators. In general terms, you can expect basil pesto to stay edible for 7 to 21days if stored in an airtight container and refrigerated.
Does blanching basil keep pesto green?
Blanching your basil leaves will help keep your pesto looking green and fresh longer. When you blanch your basil leaves, dunk them in boiling water for 10-15 seconds, you destroy many of the enzymes that cause pesto to oxidize and turn brown.
It is best to take your basil straight off the boil into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Otherwise, your pesto may turn out bland or bitter.
What do you eat basil pesto with?
There is no limit to what you can eat basil pesto with. It is equally at home in vegan dishes. It can be used alone as a simple dip with pieces of bread, added to soups for a bit of zing, or combined with hummus to create stunning party fare. In short, there is very little you can’t eat with basil pesto.
What is the difference between basil and basil pesto?
Basil is a member of the mint family that you can use as a culinary herb. Basil pesto is one of the most delicious dishes you can make using basil.
Why is my basil pesto bitter?
In most cases, if your basil pesto turns out bitter, it has nothing to do with how you prepared it. When basil plants flower, get too much or too little water or are raised in too hot an environment for the variety, it can turn bitter.
To lessen the chances of this happening, use the youngest basil leaves you can find and strip away any stem material from the leaves. The stems typically hold most of the bitterness.
Does Kirkland basil pesto have to be refrigerated?
Like any homemade or store-bought basil pesto, Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto needs to be refrigerated once opened. Pesto can spoil in a very short time when exposed to air and kept in warm conditions.
How do you keep basil pesto from turning black?
Most basil pesto recipes will turn brown instead of black, but the color change is due to oxidation in either case. Proper preparation and storage are the keys to preventing this from happening.
To prevent fresh basil pesto from changing colors, blanch the basil leaves before using them. Blanching breaks down the enzymes that cause oxidation and helps maintain that beautiful green color.
If you are trying to prevent store-bought basil pesto from going dark, keep it in airtight containers and refrigerate or freeze any unused portions.