This lemon balm pesto is fresh and bright, with a delightful citrus aroma and flavour. Made with minimal ingredients, it comes together in just ten minutes and is perfect for pesto pasta!
Pesto is such an easy way to add pops of flavour to your pasta, sandwiches and salads. Quick and easy, you may also like to see my Thai basil pesto and macadamia nut pesto for more twists on the traditional recipe!
This lemon balm pesto recipe makes the most of fresh lemon balm leaves, with their deliciously distinctive citrus aroma and hint of lemony flavour. It's fresh and fragrant, and very quick to make.
Why this recipe is so good
Full of flavour. As a twist to more traditional pesto using basil, this version packs in the flavour with a minty, citrus flavour.
Quick and easy. It takes ten minutes (perhaps less!) for this pesto to come together.
Versatile. Use for pasta, as a spread on sandwiches, or as a dip with crackers and crudites!
All the ingredients and their quantities are set out in the recipe card below.
A few notes on some of them:
- Lemon balm - you want to use fresh lemon leaves in this recipe, rather than dried.
- Olive oil - I suggest using extra virgin olive oil for a better depth of flavour.
- Pine nuts - you can either use as they are, or lightly toast to bring out their flavour.
Swaps and variations
Swap pine nuts for pumpkin seeds. If you need to be nut free, then pumpkin seeds can be used instead of pine nuts. Pumpkin seeds also score as lower histamine than pine nuts for my readers with that dietary requirement.
Swap apple cider vinegar for lemon juice. If it is suitable for you, then lemon juice can be used in this pesto.
Step by step instructions
A very simple recipe, this pesto comes together in no time!
Remove the stems from the lemon balm leaves, and then roughly dice with a sharp knife (image 1).
Tip the pine nuts into a skillet and lightly toast on a low heat without any oil, moving them around occasionally to prevent any burning (image 2).
Add all your ingredients to a blender (image 3).
Blend the pesto to your preference. Some like it chunky, others more smooth so blend to get the consistency you like (image 4).
Recipe tips and notes
- Toasting the pine nuts is optional, but does give a richer flavour.
- If toasting the pine nuts, do so in a dry skillet without any oil.
- Adjust the amount of garlic to preference.
- The consistency of pesto is quite individual, so do a taste test and adjust with more lemon balm or pine nuts to preference.
Frequently asked questions
This recipe is vegan as we don't use any Parmesan cheese as is traditional in pesto.
You can skip this step, but I think they have a better flavour if you lightly toast them for a few minutes.
Lemon balm leaves have a fresh taste, with hints of mint and citrus. It's quite delicious!
How to serve pesto
It's also tasty as a spread in sandwiches or on rice cakes, or I like to include little spoonfuls in salads for summer.
More tasty pesto recipes
I'm quite the fan of pesto, so if you are too then you will find lots of tasty recipes here on the site including my ricotta pesto pasta and my broccoli pesto pasta. Some reader favourites ideas to enjoy:
Lemon Balm Pesto
- 1.5 cups fresh lemon balm leaves diced
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove more to preference
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- pinch salt
- Remove the lemon balm leaves from the stem and roughly dice.
- Tip the pine nuts into your skillet and lightly toast for 4-5 minutes on a low heat (without oil). Move around to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.
- Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend to make your pesto. Taste test and adjust with more pine nuts or lemon balm to preference.
- It isn't absolutely necessary to toast the pine nuts, but it does bring out their flavour. If you choose to do so, dry toast them, so without any oil in the skillet.
- I suggest using extra virgin olive oil for a better flavour.
- Adjust the amount of garlic to preference. Add another clove or two for more heat!
- Pesto is quite individual in terms of preference of taste and texture. Have a taste test and adjust with more pine nuts to thicken, or more lemon balm for a more fragrant flavour.
- For a nut free version, you can swap pine nuts for pumpkin seeds.
- Please note that nutritional information is offered as a courtesy. It is auto-generated and should be understood to be an estimate.
- lemon balm isn't rated, but is rated as low histamine on other lists.
- pine nuts score 1, with a ? as a liberator.
- garlic, which scores 1.
- apple cider vinegar, which scores 1.