Can I Use Spinach Instead of Basil in Pesto? (ANSWERED)

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Can I use spinach instead of basil in pesto?

Basil is a savory culinary herb used in various cooking styles but most associated with Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. With over 150 types of basil being grown, it offers a wide range of flavor profiles. Most varieties open with a peppery bite that fades into a minty sweetness.

Basil is also the basis of traditional pesto, but its flavor can be a bit strong for some people, especially kids. If you fall into this category, you may have asked, can I use spinach instead of basil in pesto?

In this article, we will answer that question and look at:

  • Why your spinach pesto may be bitter.
  • Is pesto made from spinach really pesto?

 Let’s get started.

So, Can I Use Spinach Instead of Basil in Pesto?

spinach taste

The short answer to whether you can substitute spinach for basil in pesto is yes. Even in the loftiest culinary circles, it is perfectly acceptable to replace basil with spinach when making pesto. 

Spinach maintains the fresh leafy flavor that you get with basil but in a mellower form. Spinach lacks the peppery bite basil often exhibits and replaces it with a subtle sweetness. Spinach leaves also mimic the bright green color that people expect pesto to have.

Why is My Spinach Pesto Bitter?

baby spinach

Spinach contains oxalic acid, which can cause a lingering bitter taste, especially if it has time to oxidize. In most cases, if spinach pesto turns bitter, it is from being exposed to air in a warm environment for too long a period of time. 

The bitterness in spinach can be corrected by adding a spritz of citrus to the pesto, but the easiest solution is to avoid the problem. Use baby spinach if possible in making your pesto. Baby spinach leaves are lower in oxalic acid.

No matter the age of your spinach, remove the stems before processing. The majority of the oxalic acid is in the fibrous stalk. 

Is Pesto Made from Spinach?

spinach pesto

Yes, pesto is made from spinach. Pesto is more of a method of making a sauce than a steadfast recipe. The name itself roughly translates to crush. It can be created using a range of greens, including spinach. 

A variety of nuts can also be used. For something new try a spinach black walnut pesto.

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