Monday, May 21, 2012

Thai Basil Pesto

Thai Basil Pesto

I'm stoked to report that The Gastronomer and I have added Thai basil to our potted herb garden this year, and the two small plants I purchased in March are thriving.  In fact, they've been growing so fast that even with a big pot of Ba Ngoai's pho in the house last week, our demand for the fragrant leaves hasn't been able to keep up.  I've grown tired of wasting perfectly good Thai basil when I trim off the parts that are flowering, so I decided it was time to make pesto.  This recipe is a delicious twist on a classic pesto, with fish sauce, sesame oil, peanuts, rice wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes giving it a distinctly Southeast Asian flavor profile.  It was surprisingly spicy for a Cooking Light recipe, I thought.  We enjoyed it with Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles (bun) and vegetables.

Recipe from Cooking Light via
  • 2 cups fresh Thai basil leaves
  • 3-4 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.  Toss with noodles and serve immediately, or transfer to a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the pesto, and store in the refrigerator up to one week.

Yield: 4-6 servings
Estimated Start-to-Finish Time:
Actual Start-to-Finish Time: 45 minutes (mostly trimming the basil, plucking the leaves from the stems, and washing them).
Substitutions: At the suggestion of a commenter on, I added extra peanuts (the original recipe only called for 2 tablespoons).  After making my way through half a bowl of noodles with the pesto, I decided that it was actually too spicy--I think I'll reduce the red pepper to 1/2-3/4 teaspoon next time.


  1. What would you think about 2 substitutions:

    Miso instead of fish sauce?

    Peanut butter instead of peanuts?

    I have lots of Thai basil growing, but no peanuts & no fish sauce (is fish sauce even vegan? I always thought it was made from fermenting fish...)

  2. Yes, fish sauce is made from fish, so it's not vegan. Miso might be good--I haven't really cooked with it much, so I'm not sure. You could just use soy sauce (maybe start with 1/2 tablespoon, and then add more if you want it saltier). I think peanut butter would be okay, but you'd probably want to use only 1-2 tablespoons.

  3. For a foodie like me this one looks delicious, I so want to try this out. Going to keep the recipe with me to have it soon. Thanks for sharing the recipe


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