How to Keep Pesto Green!

bright green pesto in a food processor

Everybody loves pesto, but nobody loves brown pesto! I’ll show you how to keep your pesto vibrant green, with one simple ingredient (no fussy blanching needed!)

a jar of bright green basil pesto with fresh basil

how to keep pesto green? one simple ingredient solves the problem

Pesto is a gloriously vibrant basil sauce that has the unfortunate tendency to turn brown shortly after making. I’ll show you how to keep it gloriously green with one extra ingredient the solves the problem for good!

why does pesto turn brown?

The basil in pesto can turn brown when exposed to air through the chemical process of oxidation, or enzymatic browning. (Polyphenol Oxidase + O2 ? Melanin (Brown Color)

ingredients for basil pesto in a food processor

add lemon juice to your pesto to keep it from browning

For a full batch of basil pesto made in my Cuisinart food processor I add the juice of 1 lemon. That’s about 2 tablespoons. Not only does it keep the pesto fresh and green, it gives it a nice boost of flavor.

fresh lemons

how does lemon juice prevent browning in pesto?

The pH of lemon juice is between 2.0-2.5. A lower pH means the substance is more acidic. The acid in lemon juice inactivates polyphenol oxidase( the enzyme responsible for browning) to keep your pesto vivid green. Source:

bright green pesto made in a food processor

other methods to prevent pesto from turning brown

  • Some swear by blanching the basil before using. This involves plunging it into boiling water, then immediately putting it into ice water to stop the cooking process. How does it work? The heat from blanching de-activates the enzyme responsible for browning. I don’t recommend this method because I think it dulls the famously fresh flavor of the basil.
  • Others add a layer of olive oil over the top of freshly made pesto. The idea here is that the oil forms a barrier so that oxygen cannot get to the pesto.

bright green basil pesto in a jar

the best pesto recipe

My recipe for basil pesto is fast, easy, and foolproof. Memorize the proportions and make it all the time! See it here.

how to use your bright green pesto!

PASTA: toss freshly cooked pasta with pesto for a quick meal. this pesto recipe makes a great dressing for pasta salad, too.

SALAD DRESSING: use as is or thin it down with more oil, pesto works for bean salads and tomato salads as well as regular green salads. It works especially well with caprese salad.

DIPPING SAUCE: pesto makes the world’s easiest appetizer, just pair with fresh crusty bread for dipping. I like to thin it down with more olive oil for a thinner consistency.

SOUP: do as the Italians do and add a dollop of fresh pesto to your next chicken soup or minestrone.

MARINADE: I use it to marinate mozzarella for salads.

MIX IT INTO HUMMUS: for a nice vibrant change I make basil hummus.

SANDWICH SPREAD: I love to mix pesto with mayonnaise for the best tomato sandwiches!

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