Don’t know what to do with your harvest of Thai basil? This Thai Basil Pesto is full of great Asian flavors and is a unique and flavorful variation on a traditional pesto. It’s perfect on soba noodles or on top of fish or seafood.
When I worked in Boston, my coworkers and I frequented a super delicious Thai restaurant called Thai Basil. My favorite thing to get was the Thai Basil Salad, which was a huge fresh salad topped with tons of shrimp and chicken and these curious pointy-looking basil leaves that had a little more bite to them than your typical basil.
I still dream about that salad once in a while.
When I was planting my garden, of course basil was one thing that was definitely going in. But while shopping for regular, Italian sweet basil, I stumbled upon seeds for Thai basil!
Thai basil has that basil-y taste, but is a little more anise-y/licorice-y. It’s different and just… really good. It’s the unique flavor you find in my favorite Thai dish, Pad Kee Mao – Thai Drunken Noodles, on your plate of pho add-ins, and in lots of other Asian specialties.
Turns out it grows really well, too! While my regular basil was looking scraggly and yellowed from the heat, my Thai basil was OUT. OF. CONTROL.
So I had to make something with it! Too much basil = pesto, naturally. But Thai basil? I wasn’t really sure the licorice flavor with go with parmesan and pine nuts in a traditional pesto. But how about pesto with Thai flavors like peanuts and lime? Heck, yes!
So instead of pine nuts, we’ve got peanuts. Instead of lemon juice, we’ve got fresh lime juice. Instead of parmesan, we’ve got fish sauce to add that salty umami depth. Plus it’s kicked up with some fresh ginger and jalapeños.
I tossed some soba noodles, shrimp and red pepper strips with the pesto, then topped it all with crushed peanuts. It was super yummy. I’m thinking of using some of the leftover pesto in fresh spring rolls!
I love a good Italian pesto, but this one is unique and extra flavorful. It would be great with seafood and shrimp, or even as the base of a Thai chicken pizza. Any dish you’d use regular pesto in– think of it’s Asian counterpart, and this is your perfect condiment!
This is great for gifting to friends because no one expects it. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have never had or even heard of Thai basil, so this is a great way to get your friends to try something new. When the next garden planting season rolls around, you’re definitely going to want to keep an eye out for some Thai basil seeds!
- 2 cups packed Thai basil leaves
- ½ cup dry roasted peanuts
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1-2 jalapenos, halved
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Place basil, peanuts, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice and jalapenos in a food processor.
- Pulse a few times to roughly chop.
- Turn the food processor on and, while it's running, drizzle in olive oil. Process until smooth.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
That looks so good! I love Thai food but I’m not sure if I’ve had Thai basil before. Thanks for sharing your recipe!
This turned out amazing! I swapped out some roasted red chili paste for the jalapenos. I could not stop licking the spoon while putting it in the container. Thank you.
John fox says
I was skeptical but this is really good! Super flavorful. Didn’t need extra salt after the fish sauce and I swapped 2 Thai peppers for the 2 jalenpenos.
Would this work as a pesto substitute for a pizza?
Definitely!! It would be good on some kind of Thai chicken pizza!!
Thanks for the recipe it’s delish! I wasn’t sure what to do with all my Thai basil!
Tam Francis says
How about freezing it? Anyone try that? I make Italian basil pesto every fall to stock up the freezer and it freezer beautifully, but it only has olive oil, pine nuts, cheese, basil, and garlic. I’m wondering how these ingredients would freeze. I like the inclusion of ginger and jalapeno in your recipe. If I can freeze it, I’ll try it.
It’s funny b.c in my vintage fiction novel, my character eats Thai food for the first time and it’s Hot Thai Basil! hee hee hee!
Thanks for the recipe
It freezes like any other pesto! Just defrost it in the fridge over a day or two and it’s good to go!
Ira G says
I made this recipe last week as is and it was killer- except my grocery has thai spiced cashews which I subbed
I want to make more but low on thai basil- However, have purple basil, italian basil, mint and choc mint in our garden-any suggestions for a filler? (Iam thinking a little mint will not diminish the thai basil concentration too much)
Also, I am thinking possibly, a little black garlic for 1/2 the cloves to add flavor/sweetness? ..comment?
Thank you for this recipe! It turned out delicious!!!! I was so excited when I saw this as I had just bought a whole bunch of Thai basil from the Farmers Market, and didnt want to waste one single leave, as I absolutely love the Thai basil ❤. Thank you again!
This recipe is delicious!! I’ve made it 3x already 😋 thank you for sharing