This Pesto Salad Dressing is the best way to step up your salad game. Easy to make with homemade or store-bought pesto, it’s a fragrant and vibrant dressing that elevates your salads (and more!) with tangy, fresh flavors.
I know it’s going to be a good day when I have fresh pesto on hand. It’s refreshing, herby, and the best addition to any of these 30+ Recipes That Use Pesto!
But did you know that pesto can also be repurposed for salad dressing? When I feel like my salad could use a little pizzazz, I dress it in this herbaceous and tangy Pesto Salad Dressing. It blends pesto with just 4 ingredients, instantly transforming a bowl of greens into a gourmet experience.
Why you’ll love it
This homemade salad dressing can be made with a base of homemade pesto or store-bought pesto. It’s up to you! Regardless, the flavors are always incredible.
What’s better is how easily it comes together. Simply blend all of the pesto vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor and you’re done!
Don’t feel like you’re limited to only using basil pesto dressing on leafy greens, either! Its herbaceous qualities and tangy flavors make it a champion condiment for countless dishes. From marinating meat to drizzling it over pizza to using it as a vegetable dip, the possibilities are endless!
This salad dressing recipe uses classic basil pesto as a base. You can either buy pesto from the grocery store or make it yourself with these fresh and flavorful ingredients:
- Basil leaves – Fresh basil leaves are a must in any pesto recipe! They give the Italian sauce its distinctively fresh, herby, and slightly peppery flavor.
- Pine nuts – These are the traditional nuts used in pesto recipes but budget-friendly substitutions work just as well, like walnuts.
- Garlic cloves
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese – I highly recommend grating the parmesan yourself! It tastes so much better than the pre-shredded stuff.
Next, you need these ingredients to elevate the pesto and transform it into a vibrant pesto vinaigrette:
- Lemon juice – The acidity helps balance the richness and gives the dressing zesty, citrusy notes.
- Red wine vinegar – It emulsifies with the oil, creating a well-rounded pesto vinaigrette with a tangy, slightly sweet flavor.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
How to make salad dressing with pesto
First, make the pesto (skip this step if you’re using store-bought) by blending the basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor until very finely minced.
With the blade running slowly, drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the cheese and pulse until just combined.
To turn the pesto into salad dressing, scoop some of the pesto into a mason jar. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then shake the jar vigorously until it’s emulsified. Enjoy!
Quick tip! If you make the pesto from scratch, you can blend the salad dressing ingredients directly in your food processor.
Tips and tricks
- I like smooth salad dressing but you can mix the ingredients by hand for a chunkier pesto vinaigrette.
- If you prefer a lighter consistency, dilute the dressing with more lemon juice, vinegar, or a splash of water.
- Taste as you go! A harmonious balance of pesto, EVOO, and acidity from lemon juice and vinegar is crucial, so add more lemon/herbs/oil/salt as needed.
You can make this salad dressing recipe your own with a few simple adjustments. Here are some ideas:
- Consider adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of a liquid sweetener, such as honey or simple syrup. The sweetness can help balance the tanginess of the dressing.
- Basil is the classic choice for homemade pesto but cilantro, parsley, arugula, and kale work well, too!
- Try incorporating roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, or balsamic vinegar into the dressing.
- To make creamy pesto salad dressing, stir in a spoonful of Greek yogurt, sour cream, mayo, or ripe avocado.
Ways to use pesto salad dressing
- Salad dressing – As the name suggests! It pairs well with simple green salads as well as more exciting salads, such as Jennifer Aniston quinoa salad, Italian radicchio salad, and Mediterranean chickpea salad. Or, use it as a unique dressing for pasta or potato salad.
- Pasta sauce – Toss some cooked pasta with the pesto salad dressing as well as cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.
- Meat marinade – It will infuse chicken, shrimp, salmon, and even steak with robust Mediterranean flavors.
- Dipping sauce – Serve it with your favorite crudites for dipping, like bell peppers, radishes, cucumber, and carrot sticks. It’s delicious with crusty bread and crostini, too.
- Sandwich spread – Spread some of the dressing on a grilled chicken, turkey, or classic cold-cut sandwich.
- Pizza topping – Drizzle it over pizza to create a gourmet homemade pizza experience.
Make ahead and storing
To make this salad dressing with pesto ahead of time, prepare it as instructed, then store it in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
It can also be frozen, but it won’t be quite as good as the freshly made version. After it thaws, try blending the dressing in a food processor to restore its original consistency.
More salad dressing recipes
- Zesty Italian Dressing
- Creamy Poppyseed Dressing
- Green Goddess Dressing
- Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
- Restaurant Style Ranch
- Steakhouse Blue Cheese
Did you make salad dressing with pesto?
If you loved this pesto vinaigrette recipe, I would appreciate it so much if you would leave a ⭐️star review⭐️! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
Pesto Salad Dressing
Pesto: Makes ⅔ cup (or Use 2/3 Cup Store-Bought Pesto)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil (extra virgin)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
Pesto (If you’re using store-bought pesto, skip this step):
- Combine basil leaves, pine nuts (or walnuts) and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely minced.
- With the machine running slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the cheese and pulse to just combine.
To Make the Pesto Dressing:
- Add 2/3 cup pesto to a mason jar and add the lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper. Shake to emulsify. ***