You only need a handful of simple ingredients to make this creamy pesto sauce. Mix it all in a blender and you have a delicious pesto ready in minutes. Use it on pasta, chicken, sandwiches, vegetables, and more!
Creamy pesto sauce is a delicious, fresh tasting sauce that requires no cooking. Just lots of fresh ingredients and a few others to add creaminess and bring it to the next level.
Avocado and heavy cream are mixed into this pesto, turning it into more of a whipped pesto rather than the minced pesto that you're used to.
The sauce comes together in barely 5 minutes, so it's quick and easy. Perfect for busy nights, lazy days, and hot summer nights. It's is a simple way to use up lots of fresh summer basil.
There are so many ways to use pesto sauce— and none that you'll be disappointed with!
One of the most popular ways is on pasta. It's a great sauce to mix with both long pastas like fettuccine or short pastas like rigatoni. Pesto is especially refreshing during the summer to use as a lighter sauce made with garden fresh basil.
How To Make Pesto Sauce Creamy
Basil, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic are the main ingredients necessary to make a classic pesto. Take these classics and mix them with thickening ingredients to create a creamy pesto.
My favorite way to do this is with a little heavy cream and a little avocado.
Both blend and whip up nicely to bring thickness to a traditional pesto recipe.
What does creamy pesto sauce taste like? Imagine a classic pesto made with basil, pine nuts and parmesan mixed with a creamy garlic fettuccine sauce.
Here you get the aromatic sweet and savory flavor of fresh basil combined with a slightly nutty, slightly buttery and cheesy garlic cream sauce. Need I say more?
And once you've tried this creamy pesto sauce, here are some more simple and delicious pasta sauce recipes.
There are many substitutions for these ingredients. So whether you're worried about not having something on hand, avoiding an allergen, or trying to make it a little healthier, you should be able to find a creamy pesto recipe that suits you with these suggestions:
What is a Good Substitute for Basil in Pesto?
Many other leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, watercress and arugula, make great substitutes for basil. Use one, a combination, or half basil and half of another.
Pesto does require a large amount of fresh basil. So if you find yourself having less than you need, mix another leafy green in with it.
Pine nuts: substitute with walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios, or sunflower seeds. If you need a nut-free pesto, sunflower seeds are a great option.
Avocado: a little bit of cream cheese, or leave it out entirely. Note that using cream cheese does alter the taste quite a bit.
Heavy cream: whole milk + extra avocado or half and half. Milk doesn't whip up or provide the same creamy thickness as heavy cream. You'll need to add an extra avocado if using milk.
How To Make It
This recipe is great to make in an Instant Pot Ace Cooking Blender.
Because the pine nuts are lightly toasted, you can do this right in your cooking blender rather than using a toaster.
If you don't have a cooking blender, that's no problem. Just toast the pine nuts for a couple minutes separately and you are good to go with a traditional blender.
- Toast pine nuts in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 2 minutes, until just beginning to brown. If using the Instant Ace cooking blender, set it to the chunky soup mode for 2 minutes. Put 1 tablespoon of oil into the blender and add pine nuts. Press start to have the blender lightly toast and chop the pine nuts.
- Add pine nuts, heavy cream, lemon juice, basil leaves, garlic, salt, and avocado to the blender. Pulse on high speed until mostly smooth, between 45 and 75 seconds depending on your blender. You can periodically push down the ingredients if they stick to the sides.
- Add the olive oil and parmesan cheese. Pulse until incorporated into the sauce, about 45-75 more seconds.
- For a thinner sauce, add more olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time. For a thicker sauce, add more avocado 2 tablespoons at a time until sauce is thickened to your liking.
Serve immediately on pasta, chicken, vegetables, or sandwiches. Or keep in the fridge until ready to use.
How do you make creamy pesto sauce thicker?
If you've made the recipe as written, you should not need to thicken it. But if you've made some substitutions and the end result isn't as creamy or as thick as you'd like, try:
- blending in more avocado
- adding more parmesan cheese
- setting in the fridge for an hour or 2
How do you make pesto cream sauce thinner?
- blending in additional olive oil
- adding more heavy cream or milk
How to Store
This pesto cream sauce will last for 10 days when kept in an airtight container, like a mason jar, in the fridge. The lemon juice prevents the sauce from turning brown on the top, as is common with avocados and basil. Any longer than 10 days, or if not stored properly, you'll notice it start to turn brown.
It does not freeze well, as the ingredients separate and the texture of the sauce changes.
Creamy Pesto Sauce
- ¼ cup pine nuts (plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil for toasting)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ avocado
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Toast pine nuts in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 2 minutes, until just beginning to brown. If using an Instant cooking blender, set it to the chunky soup mode for 2 minutes. Put 1 tablespoon of oil into the blender and add pine nuts. Press start to have the blender lightly toast and chop the pine nuts.
- Add pine nuts, heavy cream, lemon juice, basil leaves, garlic, salt, and avocado to the blender. Pulse on high speed until mostly smooth, between 45 and 75 seconds depending on your blender.
- Add the olive oil and parmesan cheese. Pulse until incorporated into the sauce, about 45-75 more seconds. For a thinner sauce, add more olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until it's the desired consistency. For a thicker sauce, add more avocado 2 tablespoons at a time until sauce is thickened to your liking.
- Use immediately on pasta, chicken, vegetables, or sandwiches. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and will let me know what you think in the comments below.