20 Not-so-average pesto recipes to upgrade family meals

Mar 23, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. ET

There's so much more to pesto than basil.

The classic is delicious, of course, but with so many options out there, why stick to just one recipe? From fuchsia beets to sweet carrots and feta, these pestos go above and beyond the call of duty.

1. Classic basil pesto recipe

classic basil pesto

Image: Cherished Bliss

You can't go wrong with the classic. Fragrant basil, creamy pine nuts and nutty Parmesan cheese combine to make the ultimate dip, pasta sauce, soup add-in — you name it.

2. Vegan arugula-walnut pesto recipe

vegan arugula pesto

Image: Shutterbean

There's no reason your vegan friends should have to miss out on delicious pesto. This recipe, made with peppery arugula, doesn't compromise on flavor, so everyone will be happy.

3. Creamy paleo avocado pesto recipe

creamy avocado paleo pesto

Image: Stupid Easy Paleo

This dairy-free pesto is loaded with healthy fats from avocado and extra-virgin olive oil, making it the perfect treat for your favorite paleo diners.

4. Kale, pepita and sunflower seed pesto recipe

kale, pepita and sunflower pesto

Image: Sweet Peas & Saffron

This earthy pesto, made with kale, toasted pepitas and sunflower seeds, is the perfect hearty sauce for a pasta like farfalle or even as a base for pizza.

5. Spinach and pistachio pesto recipe

spinach and pistachio pesto

Image: Bev Cooks

Pistachio nuts really make this pesto a standout. For the best flavor, try toasting them before you give 'em a whirl in the food processor with spinach and basil.

6. Grilled cauliflower steaks with allergy-friendly pesto recipe

cauliflower with nut free dairy free pesto

Image: Two Peas & Their Pod

This dairy-free, nut-free pesto still has the fresh flavor of the classic thanks to fresh basil, tangy lemon and extra-virgin olive oil.

7. Socca flatbread with minted-pea pesto recipe

socca with mint pea pesto

Image: Oh My Veggies

Sweet peas and mint come together in this recipe to make a pesto you might even be able to describe as refreshing — it's the perfect pesto for spring.

8. Artichoke lemon pesto recipe

artichoke and lemon pesto

Image: Red Shallot Kitchen

Bright and tangy, this artichoke pesto is loaded with lemon and parsley. Try it alongside grilled bread, shrimp and veggies for a healthy and flavorful meal.

9. Cilantro-jalapeño pesto recipe

cilantro and jalapeno pesto

Image: Bowl of Delicious

Who said pesto has to be Italian? This spicy, earthy and herbaceous cilantro-jalapeño pesto can be used in the same way you'd use traditional pesto, but you can try drizzling it on tacos or using as a marinade for grilled meats too.

10. Spicy Asian pesto recipe

spicy asian pesto

Image: Linda's Yummies

Basil is popular in Italian cuisine, sure, but Thai cooking utilizes its own fragrant basil too. Here, it's combined with peanuts, mint and lime for a truly unique spicy Asian pesto.

11. Beet pesto recipe

beet pesto

Image: Eat, Live, Run

This stunning beet pesto, made with pistachios and Parm, will add a vibrant "wow" factor to any meal.

12. Sun-dried tomato pesto recipe

sun dried tomato pesto

Image: One Sweet Appetite

If you have a hankering for pesto but want something a little brighter, this cheery sun-dried tomato pesto is for you.

13. Roasted eggplant pesto recipe

roasted eggplant pesto

Image: Fat Free Vegan

Roasted eggplant makes this a hearty, creamy pesto that's perfect with a hot bowl of pasta on a chilly evening.

14. Creamy whipped feta with carrot pesto recipe

whipped feta and carrot pesto

Image: Lady and Pups

The perfect combo of salty, tangy and sweet, this carrot pesto and feta dip is so good you'll want to eat it by the spoonful.

15. Cheesy pesto white bean mash recipe

cheesy pesto white bean mash

Image: Amuse Your Bouche

This protein-rich, vegetarian-friendly dish is incredibly versatile. Eat it as a side dish, or loosen it with some hot pasta water to create a decadent sauce. Either way, you and your dinner companions will leave the table satisfied.

16. Spicy lemon pesto recipe

spicy lemon pesto

Bright lemon and spicy red pepper flakes take this pesto beyond its traditional roots. Try it with pasta, chicken or fish for a zesty, tasty meal.

17. Broccoli and basil pesto recipe

broccoli and basil pesto

Give your pesto a healthy boost by adding broccoli along with the basil. Once it's blended, you won't even know you're getting an extra dose of veggies with your meal.

18. Chipotle pesto recipe


Smoky and robust, this pesto is the perfect accompaniment to a Southwestern pasta studded with black beans, corn and avocado.

19. Vegetarian meatballs with pesto cream sauce recipe

vegetarian meatballs with creamy pesto sauce

Cream sauce can sometimes feel heavy, but nothing brightens it up quite like pesto. Here, the creamy, fragrant sauce blankets savory vegetarian meatballs, making for an elegant and satisfying meat-free meal.

20. Pesto guacamole recipe

pesto guacamole

Combine your two favorite dips — guacamole and pesto — to create a super-appetizer unlike anything your taste buds have ever experienced.

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