Thai Basil Pepita Pesto

thai basil plantWhile planting my tomatoes, I notice a tiny pair of leaves poking out of the soil. I hadn’t planted them there, so I had to wait until the little sprout grew a little bigger before I could identify what it was…. a Thai Basil plant! I was really excited to have this surprise addition to my herbs because I absolutely love Thai cuisine, and I’ve practiced making several standard dishes at home, all of which call for this slightly spicier brand of basil.

My favorite way to reserve sweet basil is by making pesto, so I decided to see what its asian cousin would taste like, ground up with some garlic and oil. I cut a healthy bunch of tops from the plant and headed back to the kitchen to prepare my first batch of Thai basil pesto.

As I gathered my ingredients, I realized that I didn’t have any pine nuts. There’s no surprise there– have you seen the price of pine nuts lately??? I searched the cupboards, and what I found were pepitas, which I think is Spanish for ‘cute lil’ punkin’ seeds’. I love discovering healthy (and cheaper!) substitutes for certain ingredients, and the pepitas did the trick. My asian pesto had just become latin-infused!

They added a sweet crunch to the pesto that really worked well with the other flavors–namely the garlic, sesame oil, and basil itself. I used my Magic Bullet to grind everything up in two batches. All together, it yielded enough to fill six or seven ice cube squares, which is how I chose to freeze the pesto for future Thai dishes. 

The Recipe

thai basil pesto recipe


thai basil pesto in blender

Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 cup of pesto

  • 2 cups fresh Thai Basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup hulled pepitas/pumpkin seeds
  • 3 or 4 chunks of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tsp. fish sauce
  • a pinch of salt
  • freshly chopped radish (optional)



Mix everything together in a blender or Magic Bullet until it looks like pesto. Taste it. If it is too chunky for your liking, mix it again until it tastes like pesto.
Since this was my first attempt at Thai pesto, I started by blending only half of the amounts listed above, and then adjusting the amounts to taste for the second batch, which I added directly to the first mix. My first batch was a little too salty, so I doubled everything else and left the salt out on the second round.
As I was finishing up and licking my fingers, it dawned on me that anything called Thai should have a little kick to it. Again, I rummaged around the kitchen, and came up with some radishes we had just harvested. So I grated one up and sprinkled some on top, as shown below.
I scooped the pesto into an empty ice cube tray and placed it in the freezer. I’ll use these pesto cubes the next time I get a craving for Thai curry, rice, soup, or noodles… which I’m sure won’t be long from now!


thai basil pesto recipe


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