If butter is life, then this hazelnut basil pesto butter is a life filled with rich, bold experiences. The sweetness of the fresh basil & the lightly toasted hazelnuts, combined with cold salted butter is so scrumptious, you'll want to spread on everything!
This recipe is the perfect way to end summer--it gives you the opportunity to put all the basil in your garden to good use, while also creating a delicious spread for all the autumn bread baking you'll be doing.
Flavored butter, or compound butter, as the fancy folks like to call it, adds flavor & interest to any dish. The possibilities for this hazelnut basil pesto butter are literally endless:
- Use as a compound butter for a hot, juicy steak
- Dolloped onto mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Melt into hot pasta & top with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella
- Toss with hot, roasted vegetables for added flavor
- Melt & mix into hot popcorn
- Spread onto your favorite, crusty bread whilte it's still warm
- Mix into shrimp scampi sauce
- Spread onto piping hot cornbread
Hazelnut Pesto Butter FAQs
Why use hazelnuts instead of pine nuts?
For this particular recipe, I set out to create a pesto recipe without pine nuts. I wanted to use a nut with a nuttier, toasted flavor, mirroring the toasted bread that I couldn't wait to spread this butter on! Feel free to experiment with other nuts, but I recommend toasting any nut before adding it to the pesto--it adds more depth to the flavor of the butter.
Should I toast the hazelnuts in the oven or on the stove?
I recommend toasting the hazelnuts in a pan on the stovetop. This way, you have more control over the toasting process, and you can remove them from the heat right away. The first time I tried this recipe, I toasted the hazelnuts in the oven & burnt them immediately. They're too expensive to waste, so I'm sticking to the stove! If you're looking for a little extra guidance as you toast your hazelnuts, check out this detailed how-to.
Do I need to completely remove all the skins from the hazelnuts?
Definitely not, it's so tedious! Do your best to remove all the loose skins and don't worry about the rest. You're just adding a little extra fiber to the butter, and there's nothing wrong with that!
What kind of basil should I use?
I've used both Sweet Basil and Genovese varieties (sometimes they're even combined and called "Sweet Genovese"); these are the varieties that are traditionally used to make pesto. However, if you're feeling bold and want to experiment a bit, I'm curious how using purple basil would turn out. Test it out & leave a comment to let me know how it goes!
Why did you use so much garlic?
To put it frankly--it's because I have a love affair with garlic. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much garlic. Also, because we are using a half-pound of butter in this recipe, as well as hazelnuts, which have a robust flavor, this amount of garlic is not overpowering. However, because garlic cloves can vary greatly in size, feel free to put in less initially and add to taste.
How long will the butter stay fresh in the refrigerator?
Because we're using salted butter and salt acts as a preservative, the butter should be eaten within 2-3 weeks. That should give you enough time to enjoy the butter mindfully, while still within the timeframe for optimum freshness. Just don't forget to keep it in an airtight container!
Can I freeze my hazelnut basil pesto butter?
Yes, you can! You can keep it in the freezer for up to about 6 months. Just be sure to put it in a sealed, air-tight container to prevent freezer burn. (Pro-tip: If you want to bring it on an airplane, stick it in the freezer the night before your flight. Because it's a solid, you should have no issues bringing it in your carry-on bag. Yes, I actually brought butter on an airplane in my carry-on bag.)
Pesto Butter Nutrient Notes
Fat & Calories
I think it's safe to say that the most significant nutrition concern here is the saturated fat in the butter. It is what it is--if you're a butter lover, you've likely come to terms with this. The good news is, because we've added the basil, nuts, and olive oil, it reduced the number of calories per tablespoon by 30% & added some heart-healthy monounsaturated fats with the addition of the olive oil.
If you're watching your salt intake due to high blood pressure or other health concerns, you're more than welcome to either swap in unsalted butter or use a salt substitute. Here's how the sodium will change, depending on how you alter the recipe:
Original recipe: 117 mg sodium per serving
No salt, but use salted butter: 90 mg sodium per serving
Keep the salt, but use unsalted butter: 57 mg sodium per serving
Fresh Basil vs. Dried Basil: Please, please, do not use dried basil in this recipe. In this case, using dried basil would compromise the flavor, texture, and color of the butter. If you don't have any fresh basil at home, it's typically easy to find a 6-8oz container of fresh basil at your local grocery store, especially in the summer months.
Fresh Basil vs. Other Fresh Herbs: Feel free to experiment with any other herbs you have in your garden, especially the ones with bold, signature flavors like thyme and chives. The only request I have is that you don't use parsley. It's a poor, lackluster substitute for basil, both in this recipe and any other pesto recipe.
Salted Butter vs. Unsalted Butter: At this point, it should be pretty obvious which type of butter I love. If you prefer unsalted butter, or if you're trying to manage your sodium intake, feel free to use unsalted butter.
Table Salt vs. Salt Substitute: If you're watching your salt intake, a salt substitute can be a great swap for the table salt in this recipe without having to sacrifice flavor.
Pesto Butter Bonus Tips
#1) Always store butter in an airtight container. You may see other recipes for compound butters or flavored butters that are wrapped in wax paper, and while it's pretty, it doesn't protect the flavor. Butter acts almost like a sponge for any other odors lingering in your refrigerator, and it will absorb those odors if it's not sealed in an airtight container.
#2) Don't stress about getting the pesto fully blended like the pesto you'd buy at the store. Because we're using less olive oil (and swapping in butter), the pesto won't blend as smoothly. If it looks like this picture below, everything is going well!
#3) Any leftover hazelnuts, whether they're toasted or raw, should be stored in the refrigerator. If they are kept at room temperature, they will go rancid quickly.
#4)This hazelnut basil pesto butter is a beautiful gift for the holidays or as a housewarming gift and is a creative alternative to a bottle of wine. Put it in a beautiful glass jar with a bow on top, and you're good to go!
This rich, roasted hazelnut basil pesto butter is perfect to spread onto a warm, crusty baguette, piping-hot steak, or freshly roasted vegetables. Give it a try, I'm confident you'll love it--because if there's one thing I know best, it's butter.
All my love & a little butter,
Olivia Sokolowska, MBA, RD
This rich, creamy basil pesto butter is perfect to spread onto a warm, crusty baguette, piping-hot steak, or freshly roasted vegetables.
- ¼ cup raw hazelnuts
- 2 cups fresh basil, packed
- 6 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 sticks (½ pound) salted butter
1. Take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it sit out while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Getting it closer to room temperature will help it blend more smoothly.
Toasting the Hazelnuts
2. Add the raw hazelnuts to a small frying pan. Turn the stove on to medium heat, and every minute or so, shake the pan to move the hazelnuts around. Keep a close eye on the hazelnuts as they heat up. *This should take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on your stove. You'll know the hazelnuts are toasted when you start to smell their nutty flavor, similar to the smell of popcorn.
3. Remove the hazelnuts from the heat and immediately pour them onto a clean, dry dishtowel. Wrap them in up the dish towel for about 1 minute, allowing the steam to separate the nut from its skin.
4. Once the hazelnuts are mostly cool, roll the nuts back and forth on the towel, helping to loosen and remove the skins. Don't worry about getting all the skins perfectly removed.
Making the Pesto
5. Rinse all the fresh basil leaves, pat dry with a paper towel, and remove any large stems.
6. Peel the garlic cloves and cut off the root end.
7. In the bowl of the food processor, add the hazelnuts, basil, garlic, olive oil, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.
8. Blend in the food processor for 1-2 minutes, stopping periodically to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
9. Roughly cut both sticks of butter into tablespoon-sized chunks and add to the food processor. Blend for 1-2 minutes, or until all the pesto is evenly combined into the butter and the butter is smooth.
*Yields 2 cups (16 servings of 2 tablespoons)
*Don't stress if the pesto isn't processed as finely as you would see in the store. This recipe uses less olive oil (because we're adding butter instead) so it won't blend as smoothly.
Serving Size2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving Calories 140Total Fat 15.4gSaturated Fat 7.8gTrans Fat 0.5gCholesterol 31mgSodium 117mgCarbohydrates 1gSugar 0.4gProtein 0.5g
Please note that nutrition information is a computer-generated estimate and should not be interpreted as a registered dietitian's advice. Nutrition facts calculations vary based on brands, products, and serving sizes.