This pesto salad dressing recipe is a versatile and flavorful salad dressing that's perfect for summer picnics and barbecues! You can either make a pesto vinaigrette, or you can make it a creamier version with mayonnaise and mustard. Either way, it's light, flavorful, and sure to be a hit with your guests! Best of all, it's easy to make at home with just a few simple ingredients. What are you waiting for?
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💭 Why you'll love this recipe
- Super flavorful, easy to make: This pesto salad dressing uses a few simple ingredients, is ready in under 15 minutes and packs a punch!
- Highly versatile: Not only can this be used on a variety of salads (like this summer tortellini salad, or this delicious spinach and avocado salad) but you can actually use this as a marinade too.
- Customizable: Whether you want a light, refreshing pesto vinaigrette, or a more indulgent creamy pesto dressing, you can easily customize this recipe to meet your needs!
📋 Ingredients and notes
To make this recipe, you'll need: pesto (storebought or homemade), lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper. If you want a creamy pesto dressing, you'll also need mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.
Notes and Variations
- Different types of pesto: You can make this dressing with different types of pesto, such as a traditional basil pesto, kale pesto, or even a sun-dried tomato pesto. You can use grab pesto from the grocery store or make pesto from scratch (either from basil or other fresh herbs!).
- Substitute for the "vinegar" portion: This recipe uses fresh lemon juice, so technically it's a "citronette" - the acid from the lemon cuts really well with the basil! If you'd prefer, you can substitute with balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar for a more tangy version of this dressing.
- Adding sweeteners: I am not a sweet salad dressing person (except if it's a pomegranate dressing, then I'm all for it). However, if you like sweeter salad dressings, you can add honey, maple syrup or sugar.
- Other additions: You can add some lemon zest for a more tangy dressing, red pepper flakes if you want something with a bit of a kick. The options are truly endless!
📖 Make pesto salad dressing
This salad dressing is no rocket science, honestly!
- Grab your pesto or make it (have your pick: traditional basil pesto, kale pesto, broccoli pesto, or pea shoot pesto!) Traditional basil pesto, used in this recipe, is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil, so it's really simple to make!
- For a simple pesto vinaigrette, add lemon juice and olive oil to the pesto in a jar along with some freshly ground black pepper to a small bowl. Mix well to combine. If you're making fresh pesto, you can add these ingredients directly to the food processor container, and pulse it together a couple of times, to allow it to emulsify further.
- Want a creamier version? No worries, just add mayonnaise along with Dijon mustard and combine well (usually by shaking the heck out of the mason jar!) Plain yogurt or Greek yogurt also work really well for a healthier, tangier version of this recipe.
🍴 Serving and storage suggestions
You can store the dressing in an airtight container, refrigerated for 1-2 days. The vinaigrette might separate because of the oil solidifying in the fridge). But this is not an issue: allow it to come to room temperature, shake well to recombine and use as usual!
I don't recommend freezing the dressing. Instead, freeze the homemade pesto and then use it to make the dressing fresh as needed. To freeze leftover pesto, portion into a silicone ice cube tray. Flash freeze until it solidifies, then transfer to freezer bags or a freezer-safe container.
How can you use this pesto salad dressing?
This recipe is honestly so versatile. Of course, you can put it on any type of salad, but here are few places where I've loved using this:
- Simple "house" green salad - mix of lettuces and kale or other leafy greens, fresh summer cherry tomatoes, red onions, and this dressing? Chef's kiss! You'll love it!
- My favorite salad (summer tortellini salad) which tastes great with both the vinaigrette version and the creamy version
- Upscale this keto Greek salad, which is great for those that are watching their carb-intake (use the vinaigrette version!)
- Add this as a topping to any pizza of your choice - when I make a sundried tomato margarita pizza, I always drizzle a bit of this on top just before eating, along with red pepper flakes
- Add some to your lasagna or pasta - because, why not? I love adding the creamy pesto salad dressing to my spring pasta to give it a nice finish.
If you like this recipe, check out my other salad dressing recipes:
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Pesto Salad Dressing (Vinaigrette, Creamy Versions!)
- 1.5 cups basil, packed
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- ⅓ cup Parmesan, vegetarian, grated
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup olive oil, extra virgin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup lemon juice, see notes for substitutions
- ¼ cup olive oil, extra virgin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing
- 1.5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- If you're using storebought or pre-made basil pesto, skip this step! If you're making pesto from scratch, add 1.5 cups of tightly packed basil leaves, 3 tablespoons of pine nuts (preferably toasted), 2 cloves of garlic, ⅓ cup of vegetarian Parmesan or Grana Padano and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Then, add ½ cup of olive oil slowly through the chute of the food processor until the pesto emulsifies.
- To make the simple, healthy pesto vinaigrette, simply add ¼ cup of lemon juice, another ¼ cup of olive oil either to a mason jar along with the pesto (~1 cup), or directly to the food processor container that you made fresh pesto in. Add some freshly ground black pepper and combine well.
Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing
- If you want to make a creamier version of the dressing, in addition to above step, add 1.5 tablespoons of mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt for a healthier, tangier finish) along with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and combine well.
- Choice of pesto - I use traditional basil pesto here, but you can use pesto made with other herbs or greens, sundried tomato pesto or even a broccoli pesto!
- Pesto is traditionally made with parmesan cheese, so if you want a vegan version, make sure to pick up vegan pesto!
- Choice of "vinegar" - I use lemon juice since it's the simplest vinegar, but you can also use apple cider vinegar in this recipe.
- For more tips on how to make fresh basil pesto, check out Pesto alla Genovese
- You can also use other herbs (like parsley or mint) to make this vinaigrette, and swap the pine nuts with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds too.