Pinoy pesto pinoy pesto - basil leaves, olive oil, pepper, anchovies, pili nuts and kalamansi juice

I love pesto–with pasta, with bread and even with fish and chicken. I envy the Italians for inventing it. I wish I can come up with something similar using only indigenous Filipino produce and products. I tried and came up with this.

Instead of pine nuts, I used roasted (salted) pili nuts. Then I substituted freshly-squeezed kalamansi juice for the lemon juice. The result rocked my world. :razz:

Of course I retained the other traditional ingredients–anchovies, basil leaves, freshly cracked black pepper, garlic… Next time, I’ll buy a jar of tuyo (dried salted fish) soaked in oil and we’ll see if it can be a good substitute for anchovies. I did try experimenting with extra virgin coconut oil but it was much too sweet and the aroma was too strong. pinoy pesto - basil leaves, olive oil, pepper, anchovies, pili nuts and kalamansi juice

In making this Filipinized pesto, a food processor or a blender will be most useful. Of course, you can do everything by hand, if you wish.

The ingredients… I can’t give you exact proportions because this was an experiment. I was feeling my way through the entire process. So, you’ll have to do your own experiment insofar as the proportion of the ingredients go.

You’ll need lots of fresh basil leaves, garlic, freshly-cracked black pepper, kalamansi juice, anchovies (including the oil), roasted pili nuts (I used salted), some salt and a lot of extra virgin olive oil. Just put everything in the food processor or a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a jar with a lid that fits snugly and keep in the fridge until you need it.

So what did I use the pesto with? That will be the next three blog entries. Stay tuned. :)


  1. says

    :wink: great! Very very good idea… patronized our own. Pinoy pesto sounds so exotique.
    The pasta will taste lovely even without the salmon. Bravo sassy!

  2. says

    Thanks, relly. :smile: I really want to do more experiments like this. I bet if we just stopped insisting that Filipino cuisine equals palayok and other old-fashioned ways, we’d go far in promoting Pinoy cooking globally.

  3. Shirley says

    Yum! Sassy, next time you make your ‘Pinoy Pesto’ sauce would you mind measuring the ingredients? I’d love to try it. Maybe you can bottle and sell this as yours…I’ll help market it here in San Diego. :smile:

  4. says

    again this evokes memories of my youth

    a young lady who had swept me of my feet had a mom who said pesto sauce is one which anyone can learn

    taking up the challenge i surprised said young lady and mom by making it right in front of their eyes after pouring to all the books i could find or bugging org mates enrolled at H.E. (it tasted great btw)

    mom was impressed but young lady was not preferring the clean cut kid from the school beside flyover in front of all those u turns :cry:

  5. Jo says

    Hi Ms. Sassy,

    You’ve mentioned that you used fresh basil leaves, would it be different if dried herbs will be used.

  6. says

    Jo, reduce the amount by half if using dried herbs.

    No, not yet, Mil. I’ll try to find some. That was what I was thinking of, actually, when the virgin coco oil didn’t work. :)

  7. Bingle says

    Hello Sassy,
    I guess tuyo in olive oil could also work for your pesto recipe. I tried using the tuyo for my pasta puttanesca and the end result was the same as when I use the expensive anchovies. :smile:

  8. Gilbert says

    I wish more pinoy recipes will be invented because our local produce are not being exalted to another level. There’s nothing wrong with traditional methods let’s keep in mind that other famous cuisine in the world are insisted to be cooked in a traditional manner like paella which has it’s own distinct pan to cook into or even the pizza which tastes better in a brick oven. Let’s not think lowly of the palayok what is important is how we can present it in a pleasing manner.

  9. says

    Who thinks lowly of the palayok? It’s getting stuck with the idea that anything not cooked using old ways cannot be authentic pinoy that’s really regressive.

  10. says

    I know you just said you can’t give the proportions, but.. could you?(pretty please?)

    I’m planning to use tuyo too. I hope it works ;)

  11. Beng says

    Hello Ms. Connie,
    Have you tried making the pesto without the anchovies? I don’t eat anchovies kasi eh. Should I add more salt (or cheddar cheese) if I don’t use the anchovies?


  12. says

    Beng, yes, I have made pesto without the anchovies. As to adding more salt or cheese, it depends on how you intend to use the pesto. If you’re going to use it with pasta or fish, you can always add the salt to the noodles or fish rather than the pesto.

  13. Jerson says

    Hi all! I would like to ask if basil is available in any supermarkets here in the Philippines. I went to SM a while ago and am not able to find basil from the supermarket area. :(

    Im just a guy trying to learn how to cook and I really wanna try pesto on my pasta. By the way, I tried the traditional carbonara and my sister liked it! :D


  14. says

    I also checked the salad/veggies area. Maybe I just missed ’em. I should have asked someone there… tsk tsk… I rarely buy things from that area of the supermarket heheh! Anyways, Im gonna look again this weekend so I can make my pesto. :)

    Thanks mam!

  15. jd says

    does it matter what variety of basil is used? and also, does the pesto stay fresh and vibrant even after several weeks in the ref?

  16. says

    jd, re “does it matter what variety of basil is used?”

    Only to purists. AND I’m no purist. :) You can even use flat leaf parsley if it suits your taste better.

    JD, my pesto stays great in the fridge after two weeks or so.

  17. janet says

    hi ms. connie!

    if your recipe calls for a bunch of fresh basil leaves like for this homemade pesto, what is the equivalent for dried basil leaves?


  18. nigella says

    hi ms connie,

    never thought of pili nuts for pesto pero parang ok nga. i normally substitute cashew nuts from antipolo for my pesto recipe, ang hirap kasi hanapin ng pine nuts and very expensive din. i got the idea of using cashew nuts from dads (triple v). i’m excited to try using pili this weekend! :-)

  19. Mimi says

    Hi Connie,

    Do you think there can be any other substitute for pine/pili nuts to make pesto? I love pesto but my son is allergic to all kinds of nuts so I have not been able to make my own pesto in a while. I can’t think of any substitute for the nuts. Thanks!

  20. rossel says

    hi! can i anyone send me an exact recipe for this pesto sauce?it doesn’t matter if it’s the original recipe or not, as long as it taste the same or even better! thanks.

  21. Mae Balmes says

    Hi Ms. Connie,

    Oh how I love your website! I’ve tried several of your recipes and loved the taste of each one. :) I will definitely try your Pinoy Pesto to make Seafood pesto for my husband’s birthday celebration this saturday. :) Thank you for sharing this! God bless! :)


  22. Angel says

    Hello Ma’am :) I just want to ask where you buy your basil? The ones you have in the photo look fresh unlike what I usually see in the groceries. Thank you so much!

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