Fresh zucchini pesto! It's a delicious way to make use of summer zucchini, and it's a lighter version of traditional pesto that boasts the same great flavor! With less pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil than regular pesto, this healthy version instead calls for fresh shreds of zucchini and offers a good dose of veggies in every serving.
The distinct, herb-y taste of basil in fresh pesto has all the springy, summery vibes going for it. Add zucchini into the mix and you have the perfect summertime pesto recipe.
It's light and fresh and a wonderful way to make use of an abundance of zucchini (you might also love my keto zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini muffins and these keto zucchini fritters!). Zucchini noodles in a salad is another good way to enjoy zucchini season. Toss it in this zucchini pesto for a double dose of zucch!
The thing I Iove about this zucchini pesto is that it's so incredibly versatile. Top your favorite grilled meats or use it as a dip or sandwich spread.
The fresh, zippy flavor of basil leaves and minced garlic paired with salty Parmesan cheese just works as a topping, sauce, dip, etc. for a variety of foods. And this zucchini basil pesto has all of the same things going for it plus some, because, well, fresh zucchini and nutrition. 😉
why this recipe works
If there's one new zucchini recipe to try this time of year, let it be this one. Homemade pesto is always better than the stuff you'll find bottled at grocery stores and thankfully, it's so surprisingly simple to prepare.
If you've ever made homemade pesto, you'll likely be familiar with the ingredient list. Zucchini pesto calls for many of the same items, just less of them.
It's the perfect way to cut down on some of the heaviness of traditional pesto, and lighten things up with fresh zucchini in the mix!
Zucchini pesto is:
- an easy recipe that calls for simple ingredients
- fresh and flavorful with a punch of pesto flavor
- low carb, gluten free and keto friendly.
ingredients for zucchini pesto
When it comes to the ingredients, the great thing about this recipe is you can go rogue (within reason, of course). Don't have pine nuts? Raw almonds, pistachios or walnuts will give it a nutty flavor and texture.
Need a punchier burst of basil flavor? Add it in to taste. Want a more vibrant shade of green? A handful of fresh spinach is a great way to deepen its green hue without affecting the overall flavor.
Bottom line: you can take this zucchini pesto recipe and run with it, modify to your taste buds' content, and truly make it your own.
Here's a look at the ingredients:
- Fresh zucchini. About one large zucchini is all you will need. You'll grate it and then salt it before squeezing out any excess water.
- Pine nuts. For body in the pesto and a subtle nuttiness. If you swap pine nuts for another nut, note that the overall flavor will change slightly.
- Fresh basil leaves. A staple ingredient for a classic pesto- this zucchini riff remains true to its flavor inspiration.
- Extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil gives pesto its rich, buttery-ness. A good swap here is avocado oil.
- Flavor add-ins. Freshly-minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper each add an element of flavor that play well together.
- Parmesan cheese. For that nutty savoriness. This recipe is best with it but if you're in search of dairy-free pesto you can certainly omit the cheese and instead, swap in 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
a fresh zucchini pesto recipe
Here's a quick look at this easy zucchini pesto recipe! For all of the details and ingredient amounts, scroll to the bottom of the page to view the printable recipe card.
Cut the ends of the zucchini and grate it. Spread it onto a large pan or plate. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. Transfer it to a clean cloth and squeeze out excess water.
Taste and adjust as needed, adding more salt or basil or garlic to your own taste preference. Transfer the zucchini pesto into a serving dish or storage dish.
If serving as a dip, you can drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top and garnish it with more pine nuts and fresh basil leaves.
tips for the best results
- Removing excess moisture: Letting the zucchini sit for at least 15 minutes (along with the sprinkle of salt) will help draw out excess water. Don't skip this step or your zucchini pesto will turn out to be more watery than it should. After the zucchini rests, transfer it to a clean dish cloth or paper towels to squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Ingredient substitutions and recipe modifications:
- For a dairy-free pesto: You can still enjoy a creamy vegan zucchini pesto without the Parmesan cheese! Increase the amount of pine nuts by 1-2 tablespoons and add 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (or add to taste).
- Use whatever kind of nut you prefer instead of pine nuts. My recommendations are raw almonds, pistachios, or walnuts. For an even deeper, nuttier flavor, you can first toast the nuts in a large skillet over medium heat. Watch them closely, they will toast in just a few minutes and they can burn easily (don't walk away!).
- For a dash of heat, add a few red pepper flakes or a sprinkle of ground cayenne.
- For a more vibrant green color, add a small handful of fresh spinach to the pesto.
frequently asked questions
Store leftover zucchini pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.
If you wish to freeze the pesto, you can fill an ice cube tray (or another type of freezer-safe storage container) with the pesto and freeze it for up to three months.
Freezing pesto in ice trays or small glass jars offers a convenient way to remove and defrost small amounts of pesto as you need it!
Fresh pesto will last up to 5-7 days if stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The herbs should still look fresh and bright green.
Zucchini pesto may have a little bit of water that releases along the edges- just spoon it out and mix the pesto before serving.
what to serve with zucchini pesto
There are so many different ways to enjoy this fresh zucchini pesto recipe!
Make a zucchini pesto pasta (these are my favorite low-carb noodles), pesto chicken, use it as a sandwich spread, etc.!
If you're looking for some inspiration, here are a few ideas:
- as a dip with fresh-cut cucumber, celery, carrots or cherry tomatoes
- alongside this Traeger tri-tip roast
- on top of baked salmon or pan-seared halibut
- drizzled over air fryer broccolini
- stirred into a salad dressing for a punch of pesto flavor!
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- 1 large zucchini, grated (about 1-½ cups loosely-packed)
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves (about one handful)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 small lemon, juiced (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Pinch of salt
- pinch of black pepper
- Trim the ends off the zucchini and grate it with the large side of a box grater.
- Spread the grated zucchini on a large plate or baking sheet. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and let the zucchini sit for 15-20 minutes. This step is important as it helps draw out water and will prevent the zucchini pesto from being watery.
- Transfer the zucchini to a clean dish cloth and squeeze out excess water.
- Place the shredded zucchini in a high-speed blender or food processor. Add the pine nuts, basil, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Pulse a few times to combine, then process until it's almost smooth (some chunkiness for texture is fine).
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more basil or garlic if needed.
- Transfer the zucchini pesto to a serving dish or storage container. If serving as a dip, you can drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top and garnish it with more pine nuts and fresh basil leaves.
Ingredient substitutions and recipe modifications:
- For a dairy-free pesto: Omit the Parmesan cheese. Increase the amount of pine nuts by 1-2 tablespoons and add 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (or add to taste).
- You can substitute the pine nuts for raw almonds, pistachios, or walnuts. For an even deeper, nuttier flavor, toast the nuts in a large skillet over medium heat before adding them to the pesto. Watch them closely, they will toast in just a few minutes and they can burn easily (don't walk away!).
- For a more vibrant green color, add a small handful of fresh spinach to the pesto.
Storing zucchini pesto:
- Store leftover zucchini pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. If you wish to freeze the pesto, fill an ice cube tray (or another type of freezer-safe storage container) with the pesto and freeze it for up to three months. Freezing pesto in cube trays or small glass jars offers a convenient way to remove and defrost small amounts of pesto as you need it!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 71Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 62mgCarbohydrates: 2gNet Carbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g
This nutritional information is approximate and is provided for convenience as a courtesy.