Eat Well May. 6. 2013

Spinach Basil Pesto

May. 6. 2013
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

When the majority of us think of basil, we think of the most popular use of basil, pesto.

Pesto is a traditional sauce used in Italian cultures and cuisines. Traditionally made in a mortar and pestle (with a circular crushing motion) with heaps of fresh basil, crushed pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic, and salt and pepper, and used with pasta dishes. There are actually several varieties of basil that are used in other cuisines such as: lemon, sweet, Thai, and holy basil used in Indian, Asian, and Thai cuisines.

Basil is not only the main star in this pesto recipe, it’s flavors are highlighted with the combination of flavors from the other ingredients commonly (and uncommonly) used in pesto. The use of basil pesto doesn’t stop at covering pasta, it can be used in many creative and unique ways, below I share several ideas and my favorite ways to use this pesto.

How to Use Spinach Basil Pesto 

  • Spread on toasted gluten free bread with it with fresh avocado and sea salt
  • Spread on your favorite sandwich instead of mayonaise or other condiments
  • Dip//dollop for proteins (fish, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, eggs, fish, etc.)
  • Dip for your favorite vegetables | raw carrots, zucchini, red peppers, roasted brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc.
  • Combined with more olive oil and apple cider vinegar for a salad dressing
  • Combined with your favorite hummus for a basil kick
  • Dip for grapes, watermelon, melon fruits in general (I know this sounds odd, but trust me the flavors marry so well)

Those are just some of my personal favorites and now you see how basil pesto can be full of variety (maybe unexpected) but that’s the beauty of it, experiment away my friends! Now, onto the next reason I love basil, the health benefits. You may be thinking, “basil is just an herb, what health benefits?”

Nutrition Benefits of Basil

Au contraire, basil is a powerful little herb with DNA protection, anti-bacterial properties, antimicrobial properties, rich in antioxidants, anti inflammatory benefits, diabetes, and cardiovascular health. The volatile oils and flavonoids are of particular interest with basil, especially with the anti-bacterial properties. It’s been shown to help fight off bacterial infections caused from Escherichia coli O:157:H7, Yersinia enterocoliticaListeria monocytogenesStaphylococcus aureus, Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexneri, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The components found in basil help protect the structure of white blood cells and chromosomes from oxygen related damage and radiation.

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Tryptophan
  • Flavonoids | Orientin, vicenin
  • Volatile oils | a.k.a. that strong scent basil has also is a great indicator of their volatile oil content and biochemical activity

The Recipe




  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 2 cups organic spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 Tbs. hemp seeds (optional if you don’t have these)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • fresh ground pepper (to taste)


  1. Simply combine all ingredients into a blender until thick and creamy.
  2. You may add additional olive oil to “thin” the sauce out.
  3. Always add olive oil the the very top layer and refrigerate to keep the pesto moist and fresh.
  4. This recipe will create a thick pesto.

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