This Thai basil pesto recipe is my new favorite thing to make during the summer. This one-step, 5-minute recipe bursts with bold Thai flavors that turn every dish into a delight. Swirl it into a soup or curry, spoon it over pasta, or fill your wraps and sandwiches with it.

For other bright and summery sauces, try this roasted red pepper pasta sauce or my delicious garlic spinach pasta sauce. So delicious and brimming with bright, happy flavors and ingredients.

Why You’ll Love This Thai Basil Pesto Recipe 

  • Creamy and nutty texture: The tahini and hemp seeds give this pesto a creamy and nutty texture, making it a super indulgent sauce.
  • Versatile and adaptable: This Thai basil pesto recipe can be used in a bunch of different dishes. Beyond pasta,  it can be used as a spread, dip, or marinade. Layer it on sandwiches, wraps, or roasted vegetables, or serve it with grilled tofu.
  • Health benefits: Tahini and hemp seeds are nutritious ingredients packed with essential nutrients. Tahini is a good source of healthy fats, protein, and minerals like calcium and iron. Hemp seeds offer Omega-3 fatty acids and are rich in protein and fiber.
  • Quick and easy to make: This recipe comes together in minutes thanks to your food processor or blender.
  • Easy to change up: Adjust the amount of garlic, lemon juice, or olive oil according to suit you. Add a touch of spice with some red pepper flakes if you like – it’s a great base to play with.
  • Preserves the freshness of basil: Making pesto from fresh basil is a great way to use up an overrun of fresh basil from the garden. As basil pesto freezes well, this is a great way to preserve it.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Tahini: A paste made from ground sesame seeds. It adds a rich, creamy texture to the pesto. Look for high-quality tahini that is smooth and well-blended for the creamiest Thai basil pesto. Most grocery stores stock tahini nowadays.
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is typically used in pesto sauce recipes. However, you can go ahead and use any mild-flavored oil you have at home. Canola oil is a fine substitution.
  • Garlic cloves: Fresh is best. Dial the amount up or down as you like.
  • Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon uplifts this Thai pesto. It also helps to preserve the vibrant green color of the basil leaves, which is a bonus.
  • Hemp seeds: These are a nutritious addition to the pesto. They offer a nutty flavor and a boost of omega-3 fatty acids. Pinenuts or skinned almonds can be used in their place.
  • Basil leaves: The bold flavors of Thai basil leaves shine in this pesto. You can combine regular basil, like Italian basil, with Thai basil. Greek basil also works well in this recipe.
  • Ice water: Used to help achieve a smooth and creamy consistency in this Thai basil pesto recipe. They help to emulsify the ingredients and prevent the basil from turning brown.

Pro Tips and Tricks

  • Fresh, good, quality Thai basil: For the brightest Thai flavors, use fresh Thai basil with plump, bright green leaves. Avoid wilted basil leaves, as the flavor will diminish. Make sure you wash the leaves well. Any sand left on the leaves will turn the pesto gritty.
  • Toast the hemp seeds: Toast them before adding them to the pesto to bring out their nutty flavor.
  • Balance the tahini: Tahini can vary in flavor and consistency. If your tahini is very thick, you can thin it out with a little water or additional olive oil.
  • Seasoning: Taste the pesto before adding any salt, as the tahini may already provide enough saltiness. If needed, add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavors. To take this taste deeper into Southeast Asia, use fish sauce instead of salt to season the recipe.

Variations and Add-Ins

  • Nuts: Add cashews, almonds, or peanuts. Toast the nuts before blending them with the other ingredients for added flavor.
  • Coconut milk: This will quickly turn the pesto into an element you can add to other Thai food recipes. It also makes the sauce extra creamy. Perfect for spooning over Thai noodles, like rice noodles. It makes a really flavorful sauce.
  • Chili peppers: If you enjoy some heat, add chopped chili peppers or a few red pepper flakes to the pesto.
  • Lime zest: Brighten up this Thai basil pesto recipe by adding freshly grated lime zest to the pesto.
  • Soy sauce or tamari: For an umami boost, add a splash of soy sauce or tamari. Start with a small amount and go slow. Add a little brown sugar if the balance of flavor tilts too salty.
  • Ginger or lemongrass: Introduce some zing by blending in some grated fresh ginger or finely chopped lemongrass. A little oyster sauce will go well with these additions, too.
  • Cilantro: If you love the bright, herbaceous taste of cilantro, blend it with Thai basil for a fusion pesto. Use equal amounts of Thai basil and cilantro to create a balanced flavor profile.
  • Avocado: For creamy pesto, blend in some ripe avocado. It adds a smooth and buttery texture while providing a dose of healthy fats. This is unlike a traditional pesto, but it’s a fun way to change up the base of this Thai basil pesto recipe.
  • Thai curry paste: Red or green curry paste can infuse the pesto with complex flavors and spices. Start with a small amount and adjust as you go.  This is delicious and served with a pasta dish. Also great over a chicken breast (for the meat eaters) with veggies.
  • Dark sesame oil: Use half dark sesame oil and half olive oil to make this Thai basil pesto recipe. The taste will be quite rich but really delicious.

Make Ahead Instructions and Storage

This Thai basil pesto recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Proper storage helps maintain its vibrant color and flavors. To preserve the bright green color of the Thai basil pesto, transfer it to a jar or airtight container and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. This creates a barrier that helps prevent oxidation.

If you have extra Thai Basil Pesto or want to make a larger batch for future use, you can freeze it. Follow these steps:

  1. First, spoon the pesto into an ice cube tray or small freezer-safe container.
  2. Secondly, leave a little space at the top of each compartment or container to account for expansion.
  3. Thirdly, place the trays or containers in the freezer until the pesto is frozen solid.
  4. Lastly, once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes or containers to a freezer bag and pop them back into the freezer.


Can I use regular basil instead of Thai basil for the pesto?

Yes. Thai basil is traditionally used in a Thai basil pesto recipe for its distinct flavor; substitute it with regular Italian sweet basil. The taste will be different, but it will still result in a delicious pesto.

Can I make Thai Basil Pesto without nuts or seeds?

Yes, you can leave out the hemp seeds or any other nuts/seeds if you have allergies or dietary restrictions.  Note that the texture may be slightly different without the added crunch and creaminess from the nuts or seeds.

How long can I keep Thai Basil Pesto in the refrigerator?

Thai Basil Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. To maximize its freshness, transfer the pesto to an airtight container and drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top to create a seal.


  • ½ cup tahini
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 1/2 cup basil leaves, packed (plus extra for garnish)
  • ½ cup ice water
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Add all ingredients into a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until the basil is finely chopped and the consistency is creamy.
  2. Add to cooked pasta of choice.

Basil Tahini Pesto

Course Main Course


  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1.5 cups basil leaves packed (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup iced water
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste


  • Add all ingredients into a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until the basil is finely chopped and the consitancy is creamy.
  • Add to cooked pasta of choice