Every summer, I have a little love affair with my Thai basil plants. Gorgeous green leaves adorned with petite purple flowers, branch out from rich eggplant-hued stalks. Prolific as they are pretty, our Thai basil plants typically grow up to three feet tall, providing us with both unique ornamental plants in our garden and landscape, and a seemingly never-ending supply of tender leaves for a myriad of culinary uses.
Thai basil is a member of the mint family with an intense licorice-anise flavor. Like sweet Italian and Genovese basil, Thai basil is delicious chiffonaded fresh in salads and stir-frys. But if you really want to impress your friends, grind up all those beautiful basil leaves into a mean sauce.
Here I'm giving classic pesto an exotic kick. Salty peanuts replace pine nuts. A splash of dark, nutty sesame oil takes center stage over olive oil. And a dash of sugar and pinch of red pepper flakes add just amount of sweetness and spice to the basil's licoricey, anisey freshness.
Every recipe and kitchen needs just a little sweetness and spice...just ask my husband.
- 5-6 cups Thai Basil Leaves
- 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
- 2 gloves garlic
- 3 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. Sesame Oil (Sesame oil is richly intense. A little goes a long way!)
- 1 Tbsp Tahini Paste (Preferably more liquid from the top of the jar than the actual paste. Tahini paste is ground sesame seeds - a good complement to the sesame oil and gives the pesto a little "body.")
- Zest from 1/2 lemon (Gives just a little extra layer of freshness)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Crack of fresh black pepper and salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup- 1/3 cup. olive oil
- 1/4 cup ice water
- OPTIONAL: 1Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or fish sauce. Give this a try if you're looking for a little more depth of flavor. Personally, I leave it out to let the flavors from the basil and sesame shine.
- In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine all ingredients except olive oil and ice water.
- Begin pulsing ingredients. Slowly add olive and a little water. Mixture will begin to come together.
- Remove lid and scape ingredients from sides of the bowl. Our mini silicone spatula is the perfect tool for this! Take a taste test - feel free to add a splash of sesame oil, or another pinch of salt or red pepper to your desired taste.
- Secure lid and add the rest of the olive oil and water. Pulse until smooth.
Thai basil leaves oxidize (turn brown) faster than sweet basil. You may notice the top of your pesto browning soon after placing it in a bowl, if serving raw. It's fine to eat, just give it a stir!
Pesto will keep up to a week in the refrigerator in a sealed jar. This recipe makes 12oz - the perfect amount for our Kilner Clip Top Glass Jar.
Serve over poultry and seafood, toss with pasta or rice noodles, or enjoy this sauce raw as a dip.