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Making and Freezing Pesto Sauce in Canning Jars

Every spring one of the first herb seeds I sow are basil seeds. I liberally scatter them in several places in the garden. I do this for one reason…pesto! We love pesto so very much and I refuse to pay $5 for a small jar of basil pesto. So each summer you’ll find me making and freezing pesto for the year.

image of basil pesto sauce in canning jar for freezing

When I first started making pesto I followed the “rules” and made it in a blender (and even used pine nuts) and then transferred it to ice cube trays for freezing. When they were frozen I’d pop them out and put them in a ziplock bag. When we wanted pesto, we’d put a few cubes in a mason jar and let them thaw out. It’s a fine system.

But I’ve come up with something better – something that will help me more accurately predict how much pesto we need each year. By the way, I use these worksheets to plan and keep track of what we’ve preserved. You can get a copy emailed to you by filling out the form below.

I not only freeze pesto in canning jars but I make it right in the jar. Here’s how…

  1. Fill the 4 oz canning jar about half way with basil
  2. Add some oil oil about 1/2 way over the basil
  3. Put in about 6 pecans (we grow these so I use them instead of pine nuts)
  4. And about 4 garlic cloves.
  5. 1/4 tsp lemon juice

In the photo I already have Parmesan in the jar but I’ve found it’s better if I stir it in after I’ve blended the other ingredients together.

image of pesto ingredients in jar for blending and freezing

Here’s the genius part that I learned from a friend, the bottom of an Oster blender will fit a regular mouth mason jar. So, just put the bottom assembly of the blender on the jar –  the blades, the gasket, and the band.

We even make a quick little video for you. My son shot the video for me with instructions to hide the background mess. Since this was an impromptu video session and I knew if I took the time to style the background the video wouldn’t get done. All that to say…welcome to my home.

image of basil pesto sauce in jar on blender for freezing

…and put the jar on the blender. Grind it and pulse it until it looks right. Take the jar off the blender, flip it right side up and take the blender part of. Scrape the basil pesto off the blades  and put it back into the jar. Then stir in the Parmesan.

image of basil pesto in jars for freezing

Put lids on the jars – I like to either old lids or my reuseable lids – and put in the freezer. Yes, i’ts perfectly fine to freeze in glass jars. We need about 45 jars to make it through the year.

If you need a more exact basil pesto sauce recipe I have you covered.

We use almost a jar a week. We have homemade pizza night once a week and that uses about half of our jars. The other half  is used on sandwiches, pizza wraps, summer pesto pasta, mixed with home canned tomatoes for spaghetti sauce, and on crackers or straight out of the jar.

Tips for Freezing Pesto

  1. Keep the pesto covered. Basil oxidizes pretty easily – just like apples and bananas – so limiting exposure to air is necessary if you don’t want brown pesto. The best way to ensure air stays away from the basil is to put a thin layer of oil over the top. Once the pesto is frozen it will be fine, but when it’s thawed you’ll want to make sure to keep a layer of oil on it.
  2. Freeze pesto in portions you will use. I’ve found that the 8 oz canning jar is the perfect size for our family. We use about half a jar on our pizza each week and put whatever is left in the refrigerator to use throughout the week or the next week for pizza night. But that may not be a good size for you. Maybe you need to use the 4 oz mini canning jars or ice cube trays.
  3. Don’t be afraid to freeze pesto in jars. Be sure to leave bit of head space and the jar won’t break. There isn’t much water content in pesto and so it won’t expand much.
  4. Pesto thaws pretty fast. The best way to thaw pesto is to put the jar in the refrigerator and let it thaw slowly. However, I have been known to put a jar of frozen pesto in the microwave on the defrost setting for about 30 seconds. You just have to be really careful not to melt the cheese, so check it every 10 seconds.
  5. When stored properly, frozen basil can be stores for up to a year. We’ve never had a problem with freezer burn in our jars of frozen pesto. Just make sure the lids are on tight and it will be fine.
image of basil pesto ingredient in canning jar

Canning Pesto

I love canning and love having shelf stable foods in my pantry. But canning pesto is not recommended. The garlic, oil, and Parmesan in the recipe can create an environment for botulism to thrive in, even when pressure canned. I’m sure people do it, but it’s not worth the risk for me.

The National Center for Home Food Preservationsays,“Pesto is an uncooked seasoning mixture of herbs, usually including fresh basil, and some oil. It may be frozen for long-term storage; there are no home canning recommendations.”

What is Pesto?

Traditionally pesto is a basil herb paste with garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmesan. But recently pesto has come to mean any herb paste and, goodness, are there some great combinations. I’ve included a list below of other pesto combinations that sound super wonderful and can be made and frozen right in the jar.

Dandelion Pesto

Wild Weeds Pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto

Spring Pesto with Chickweed and Gren Garlic

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Radish Leaf Pesto

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

What are your favorite pesto recipe to freeze?

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Casieopea

Sunday 26th of September 2021

A couple years ago we had a HUGE overabundance of parsley - so I thought why not PARSLEY PESTO? it was amazing!! clean and fresh tasting. it wasnt basil pesto but it was very tasty!

Angi Schneider

Monday 27th of September 2021

oh, I bet that was tasty!!! I think parsley is truly one of the most underused herbs in the sense that people mainly just use it as a garnish. Good job thinking outside the box!

sheri

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

how much parm?

Angi Schneider

Saturday 21st of August 2021

A couple of tablespoons is good.

Carrie

Saturday 3rd of July 2021

So I'm confused.. do you put all ingredients in the jar whole and freeze, or do you blend them first? I can't tell for sure in your description.

Angi Schneider

Wednesday 7th of July 2021

You can do it either way, but I prefer to blend them first. I blend them right in the jar with an old Oster blender so I put the ingredients in the jar, blend, put the lid on, and then freeze.

Adina

Tuesday 8th of September 2020

So helpful and inspiring! Thank you 👍🏼

Angi Schneider

Thursday 10th of September 2020

You're welcome!

Beth

Saturday 8th of August 2020

I so appreciate your helpful tips on freezing pesto in jars, and especially on how to avoid breakage This has been my challenge. . In ice cube trays they say it’s good only 3 months, and that’s not long enough! I have a bumper crop this year so inspired by this post , I will be putting as much as I can. Into freezer to enjoy all winter! Thanks Angi!

Angi Schneider

Sunday 9th of August 2020

Hi Beth, I'm so glad you're inspired by the suggestions. I agree, 3 months is not long enough! We use pesto in some way most days and not having it would really put a kink in our meals.