We Tried 10: These Are the Best Store-Bought Pesto Options
Getting ready for a quick pasta dinner? Make sure you've got the best store-bought pesto on hand. Check out which brands get our Test Kitchen pros' stamp of approval.
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Looking for the Best Store-Bought Pesto?
When basil is in season and your herb garden is brimming with fresh, green stems, there’s nothing better than harvesting your crop and making homemade pesto. More often than not, though, we have to turn to store-bought pesto to top our appetizers and fill our pasta bowls.
There’s nothing wrong with that if you ask our Test Kitchen—so long as it’s the best store-bought pesto. So what options should you be reaching for on your next grocery run? Our culinary team found out in a blind taste test.
How Our Team Tested Store-Bought Pesto Sauces
For this taste test, our team sampled 10 different types of pesto including refrigerated and shelf-stable options. As always, each was sampled blindly so no one showed any partiality to the brands they typically buy.
Every pesto sauce was judged in each of these three categories:
- Appearance: Store-bought pestos can vary widely in appearance. Refrigerated options tend to be a brighter green than their jarred cousins. No matter the case, pesto should have a nice green color (vivid or rich) with notable flecks of garlic and pine nuts.
- Texture: Pesto sauces can also vary in texture depending on how finely they’re processed. Our Test Kitchen isn’t partial to smooth or coarse, but the effect should be pleasant and easy to spoon into recipes.
- Flavor: The main components of pesto—basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil—should all be present and in balance in a good pesto sauce whether store-bought or homemade.
Most Vibrant Store-Bought Pesto
Rana Basil Pesto
Next time you’re walking through the refrigerated section of the grocery store, pick up a jar of Rana Basil Pesto.
The second our team snagged their samples, they took note of the vivid green of this Rana pesto. “This has a vibrant green color that looks just like freshly made pesto,” says Catherine Ward in the Test Kitchen.
This store-bought pesto wowed our taste testers with its wonderful herbaceous aroma balanced with plenty of parmesan cheese and a hint of salt. Even the oil in this pesto tasted like a good quality product; just give it a stir into the sauce if it separates.
Besides using this pesto in pasta dishes like this one-pot chicken pesto pasta, Catherine recommends trying this basil-forward sauce spread across a pizza crust in lieu of a red sauce. This easy pesto pizza and artichoke-chicken pizza are great places to start. And if you need to use up a jar, “spoon it over grilled chicken,” suggests Catherine.
Best Smooth Pesto
Buitoni Pesto with Basil
The consistency of pesto, both store-bought and homemade, can vary depending on how finely it’s pulsed. If you prefer a smoother pesto, try Buitoni Pesto with Basil (it’s in the refrigerated section of the supermarket).
Our testers found that this jewel green pesto was well-balanced with no overwhelming garlic or cheese flavors. Instead, every ingredient was in harmony which makes it a joy to eat spread across a crostini or stirred into these recipes with pesto.
Inside the container, you’ll see a few flecks of garlic and pine nuts, but overall the mixture is homogenous. Give it a quick stir to incorporate any oil that’s settled on the top and enjoy. If you ask our pros, they say that Buitoni pesto is just the right consistency for spooning over a salmon filet or topping hors d’oeuvres like these pesto and goat cheese toasts or pesto pinwheels.
Best Shelf-Stable Pesto
Prego Basil Pesto
For a pesto that’ll keep for an extended period in your pantry, try shelf-stable Prego Basil Pesto.
This brand is available in the same aisle as jarred marinara sauce and can be stored in your cupboard for just as long. Don’t think for a second, though, that this shelf-stable sauce is lacking in any way.
In fact, Prego’s powerful flavor really captured our team’s attention. “Who doesn’t want big garlic taste in their pesto?” asks Sarah Farmer, the head of our Test Kitchen. “This brand delivers!”
Besides the powerful (but not overwhelming) garlic flavor, this brand offers a good texture thanks to the pine nuts and parmesan. Along with smooth bits of parmesan cheese, our Test Kitchen got a bit of a bite thanks to the ground pine nuts. This makes this jarred pesto an appealing option for when you want that rustic feel without having to make a batch of pesto from scratch.
When you crack open a jar of this pesto, give it a good stir. Like many brands, the oil does settle on the top; this is absolutely normal. After a quick mix, stir this pesto into your pasta recipe. Try Prego pesto with this reader-favorite pesto shrimp pasta.
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