The 8 Best Substitutes For Basil Pesto

What can I use instead of basil pesto? We found some of the best replacements for basil pesto are fresh oregano, marjoram, parsley, broccoli, cilantro, avocado, red pepper, spinach, and chive pestos.

Basil pesto is such a popular dipping sauce or accompaniment dressing for salads and even as a base for homemade pizza.

But what do you do when basil season is out and you have a craving for a good old-fashioned homemade pesto? Substitute, of course.

The Best Basil Pesto Substitutes

Fresh Oregano

The closest substitute for basil pesto is fresh oregano pesto.

Oregano is a flowering herb that is part of the mint family. Another name for it is wild marjoram, which is native to Mediterranean countries and Western Asia.

Fresh oregano has a very intense flavor with bitter notes and peppery nuances. In addition, it has a strong herbaceous and earthy taste with a unique savory profile.

Along with high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, it is also high in dietary fibers. In addition, fresh oregano has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Oregano can replace basil in pesto or infuse olive oil for herb oil to use on pasta or fish.

Fresh oregano can be potent in its flavors. However, it should be used conservatively and as you need, as the bitter and peppery flavors can overpower a dish.

Marjoram And Parsley

The combination of sweet marjoram and parsley is another great alternative to basil pesto.

Marjoram is an aromatic herb from the mint family with fuzzy green oval leaves. In contrast, parsley, a green leafy herb, forms rosette leaves and comes in four sorts, each with a slight variation in taste.

These herbs originate from the Mediterranean region, with marjoram also native to North Africa and Western Asia.

The combination of these two herbs offers sweet, mild vegetal flavors with hints of citrus and slight bitterness with tangs of pepper.

Combining the two offers health benefits that aid digestion with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and a high dose of vitamins C, A, and K.

This combination goes well with delicate vegetables, tomato-based sauces, poultry, or meaty stews.

The flavors can differ slightly from basil, so start with half the quantity and add as needed.


Try broccoli pesto as a delicious substitute for basil pesto.

Broccoli is a dark green plant from the cabbage family with a tree-like structure of edible flowering heads that originates in the Mediterranean regions.

Raw broccoli has a bitter-sweet flavor with green earthy vegetal notes. However, when cooked, the sweetness of this vegetable is enhanced.

Broccoli is a rich source of vitamins B, C, and K, packed with dietary minerals and fiber, and contains more protein than other veggies.

Creating a broccoli pesto with added lemon for that citrusy tang adds excellent flavors to pasta or as a replacement for tomato paste on pizzas. It is also delicious as a dipping condiment or used in veggie wraps.

Broccoli has a mild taste, so use it as you would basil pesto.


Cilantro is another alternative to basil pesto.

Cilantro is the Spanish name for coriander. It is a bright green flat leave that resembles flat parsley, but has smaller shaped leaves on long thin stems, thought to have originated between Western Asia and Southern Europe.

The taste is bright and citrusy with tart notes and hints of peppery spice. To some, it tastes like dish soap.

The benefits of cilantro are that it is made up of 92.2% water, so it’s low in fat with high levels of vitamins and packed with antioxidants.

Heat significantly reduces the herb’s flavor, so it’s best suited as a flavor enhancer or garnish for soups or used in chutneys and sauces to bring out the flavors of cilantro.

If you don’t know cilantro, taste the herb before using it in your favorite dish as you would basil pesto.


As an alternative, avocado is a good substitute for basil pesto.

Avocados are bright green fleshy fruits with a leathery outer skin that has a pear-like shape. These fruits were native to The Americas and were first cultivated by the Mesoamerican tribes.

The flavors are butter and creamy with a natural saltiness and a hint of nutty nuances. They are rich and earthy with a slightly sweet vegetal profile.

Avocados are considered a superfood and provide good fats in the form of monosaturated fat. In addition, they are rich in vitamins and high in fiber.

They can be used in various ways but add great flavor and texture to salads. Avocados are also extensively used in dips or as a spread on bread.

You can use it as much as you want.

Roasted Red Pepper

Red peppers add a whole different dimension as a replacement for basil pesto.

Red peppers are also known as bell peppers. Once bell peppers reach maturity, they turn red. They have glossy smooth skin and are classified as a fruit.

Native to central and Southern America, they were domesticated in central Mexico millennia ago.

Red peppers are the sweetest peppers, with an earthy note to them.

Red peppers are the most mature, are rich in vitamins A and C, are high in potassium and fiber, and contain lycopene, which helps lower the risk of cancer.

Slowly roasted or chargrilled red peppers add depth to the sweetness and make a great base sauce to add to your favorite pasta. Use it with garlic and pine nuts for a delicious dipping pesto sauce.

With the nutritional values these peppers pack, you can use as much as you like.


Leafy greens such as spinach make an ideal substitute for basil pesto.

Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable that comes in different forms and can be eaten raw or cooked. It has edible oval leaves that can vary in size.

It originated in Persia about two millennia ago.

The taste of spinach is slightly sweet and vegetal when raw and can become more acidic and bitter when cooked.

It makes a healthy substitute as it’s the highest nutrient-dense food that is rich in iron and vitamins and low in calories.

Use fresh baby spinach as a substitute for basil to create a healthy pesto, or add steamed spinach to your pasta and pizza for that extra nutritional value.

Use at free will as the taste does not overpower other flavors.


Chives are a mild alternative to basil pesto.

Chives are deep green hollow stemmed herbs that grow in dense clusters from roots with purple edible flowers. They are related to onions and garlic but resemble grass-like shoots.

They originated in Europe and Asia, growing roots worldwide in the culinary market.

This mild, delicate herb offers a light oniony taste with hints of garlicky notes.

They are a rich source of vitamin K that helps strengthen bones. They are also packed full of other nutrients for a healthy diet.

Chives make a punchy pesto that adds savor to a gnocchi dish. It’s also great to add some flavor to seafood and poultry.

It’s a mild herb, so you can replace your basil with the same amount of chives.