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10-Minute Thai Basil Pesto Recipe

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Top-down view of Thai basil pesto in a glass cup on a wooden cutting board. Scattered around it are roasted cashews, a lime wedge, salt, Thai basil, and a small wooden mortar and pestle.

Thai basil pesto recipe is a delightful fusion of Asian and Italian cuisine, bringing together the best of both worlds in a single aromatic sauce. This recipe is easy-to-make at home with a blend of roasted peanuts, oyster sauce, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and more. Whip up a batch and enjoy the authentic flavors of Thailand in no time!

Green pesto sauce in a glass cup with a wooden spoon. Scattered around it are Thai basil leaves, peanuts, salt, and a lime wedge.

Thai basil pesto

I’m always in the mood for good fusion food, and this Asian twist on the traditional Italian pesto is as delicious as it is healthy.

This fragrant pesto sauce is made with peppery, anise-like fresh Thai basil leaves as the key ingredient. You might remember this herb from my green curry recipe. It’s a staple in Southeast Asian cooking, and Thai food wouldn’t be complete without it.

A wooden spoon with Thai basil pesto over a glass cup with more of the sauce. There's also basil leaves, cashews, salt, and a lime wedge on a wooden cutting board.

In Chinese and Thai cooking, oyster sauce is a staple for its umami flavor. In this recipe, it adds richness and umami that perfectly complements the delightful crunchy roasted peanuts.

Salt, garlic, and lime are added to the mix for extra flavor, while fresh green chili peppers can’t miss for a subtle hint of spice.

Asian basil pesto in a glass cup with basil leaves, cashews, salt, and a lime wedge.

A smooth blend of olive oil and sesame oil helps to bind the flavors together, and to top it off, we’ll add some delicious Italian Parmesan cheese.

Thai basil vs sweet basil

This Asian inspired pesto recipe is made with Thai basil, which has unique flavors and aromas.

Thai basil leaves are easy to recognize. They’re small and narrow, pointy, and have a rich green color.

Hand plucking Thai basil.

The stems are purple and when you walk by them, you’re treated with a pleasant, fresh smell. When you pluck the leaves, a fresh aroma with a subtle hint of anise fills the air.

Sweet basil or Italian basil is widely used in Italian cooking, especially in pasta sauces, Caprese salad, and Italian pesto. The leaves are larger and more rounded, with a bright green color. Their fresh, sweet, and slightly minty flavor makes them a beloved ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.

Using Thai basil in a pesto gives it a unique and delicious twist compared to the traditional versions.

Close-up of pesto with Thai basil in a glass cup, around it are cashews, basil, and salt.

Why try this recipe

  • This Thai basil pesto recipe is easy-to-make. You can whip it up in a matter of minutes if you use a food processor.
  • Or, you get to experience a taste of authentic Thai cuisine by grinding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. When you use a mortar and pestle, the natural flavors of the ingredients and their aromas are better released, and they blend together perfectly.
  • There are endless possibilities to use this fragrant sauce. Drizzle it over pasta, noodles, spread it out on toasted bread, use it as a marinade, or use as a dip for fresh vegetables.
  • This pesto is perfectly healthy, and it’s made with fresh ingredients.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for recipe presented on a banana leaf in clay and plastic cups: Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic, Thai basil, lime juice, sesame oil, oyster sauce, roasted cashews, and olive oil.
  • Thai basil – This fragrant herb with Thai taste is the key ingredient of this recipe.
  • Dry roasted peanuts or cashews – Adds a crunchy and nutty texture. Roasting the peanuts beforehand adds an extra BBQ taste. Feel free to experiment with different nuts, such as almonds or walnuts.
  • Oyster sauce – A traditional ingredient of Thai cuisine for adding a salty and umami flavor.
  • Salt – Enhances the overall taste. It also acts as a natural preservative, extending the shelf life.
  • Olive oil – Binds the ingredients together and provides a smooth base.
  • Sesame oil – Adds a nutty taste and aroma.
  • Parmesan cheese – Feel free to add more for an extra cheesy flavor.
  • Green chili peppers – Brings a subtle hint of spice, for more heat add more chilies.
  • Lime – Use fresh lime juice for the best tangy flavor.
  • Garlic – Adds aroma and a depth of flavor.

Step-by-step instructions

This pesto with Thai basil comes together quickly. Simply blend all ingredients in a food processor, or use a granite mortar and pestle. If you use a mortar and pestle, first pound the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients (oils and sauces).

  1. Top-down view of Ingredients in a blender and Thai basil pesto in a blender.

    Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend (pulse) until a smooth pesto consistency forms. If needed, add an extra splash of olive oil to make the blending go smoother near the end.

  2. Serve immediately as an accompaniment with your favorite food.

How to serve

Cook pasta, noodles, grilled chicken, shrimp, or any main dish you fancy and spoon a generous amount of the Thai basil pesto on top of it. If you like, garnish with more Thai basil / peanuts or cashews / cheese / lime juice.

How to store

Any pesto is best kept in an airtight container or mason jar. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed. Store it in your fridge for up to 7 days.

To freeze: You can make a large batch at once and store the rest for later. Transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 4 months.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

How do you preserve Thai basil pesto?

After preparing the pesto, transfer it to an airtight container such as a mason jar. Seal tightly and place the container in your fridge, where it will last up to 7 days. Additionally, you can freeze it for later use. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag, and it will remain fresh for up to 4 months.

How is Thai basil pesto different from Italian basil pesto?

Thai basil has a spicy, peppery taste with hints of licorice, and sweet basil has a milder and sweeter flavor. Additionally, the leaves of Thai basil are smaller and narrow, compared to the larger leaves of sweet basil.

Is this recipe vegan?

You can turn this into a vegan recipe by simply omitting the cheese. Alternatively, you can look for vegan substitutions.

Is Thai basil pesto spicy?

Thai basil pesto has green chili peppers to add a subtle hint of spice. This recipe is not spicy, but you can make it spicier by adding more chilies.

How do I store Thai basil?

To keep Thai basil fresh, you can store it at room temperature, away from sunlight, in a plastic bag. If possible, keep it in a cool area. Alternatively, you can keep the stems in a glass of water and cover the leaves with a plastic bag.

More fusion recipes you’ll love

If you love this Thai basil pesto recipe, please leave a star rating and/or a comment below!

10-Minute Thai Basil Pesto Recipe

Top-down view of Thai basil pesto in a glass cup on a wooden cutting board. Scattered around it are roasted cashews, a lime wedge, salt, Thai basil, and a small wooden mortar and pestle.
This recipe comes together quickly with a food processor, or you can use a mortar and pestle to experience a taste of traditional Thai cuisine.
Praew
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Ingredients
Serving Size 10

Ingredients

  • 3.5 ounces Thai basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 Parmesan cheese
  • 2 chilies green
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/3 cup peanuts roasted, or cashews

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend (pulse) until a smooth pesto consistency forms. If needed, add an extra splash of olive oil to make the blending go smoother near the end.
  • Serve immediately as an accompaniment with your favorite food.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Any pesto is best kept in an airtight container or mason jar. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed. Store it in your fridge for up to 7 days.

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