Looking for the Best Store-Bought Pesto? Our Test Kitchen Found Its Favorites.

Need a ready-made pesto sauce for your favorite dishes? Our Test Kitchen put 10 brands to the test and found the very best.

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In the height of summer when your herb garden is blossoming, you might want to make your own homemade pesto with fresh basil. But in the offseason (or on a busy night), you might find yourself reaching for a jar of pesto sauce at the grocery store. But before you grab that jar, our Test Kitchen wanted to sample as many brands as possible to find the right addition to your next pasta night. Find out what brands our Test Kitchen pros prefer.

What Our Test Kitchen Looked for in Jarred Pesto

While nothing can ever replace homemade, so we wanted to find a pesto that tasted fresh and well balanced. Our team grabbed ten popular brands and tested them with these criteria in mind.

  • Flavor: Pesto sauce is made up of a few key ingredients: basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil. Were all these flavors balanced? Was one stronger than the rest?
  • Texture: What was the texture like? Was it finely blended? More rustic? Would it spread well over a crostini or coat a pasta?
  • Appearance: How did the sauce look? Was it a vibrant green? Did it look appetizing?

Want to learn more about how our Test Kitchen chooses their favorite products? Check out our testing methods.

Our Test Kitchen-Preferred Store-Bought Pesto Brands

After much deliberation (and our fair share of pasta), our Test Kitchen found a few pesto sauces suitable for all tastes. Check them out:

Most Homemade Feeling: Prego Basil Pesto

Prego Basil Pesto Sauce - 8 ozVia target.com

If you’re looking for a good dupe for homemade pesto, grab a jar of Prego Basil Pesto. Our Test Kitchen thought that this premade pesto brand had great basil flavor and a rustic appearance. Large chunks of garlic were visible alongside bits of pine nut.

Overall, though the texture was smooth and satisfying with a great balance of flavors. The four key ingredients in this sauce really blended together nicely—none outshone the others. Use it on this grilled zucchini-pesto pizza and all your other pesto-based favorites.

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Best for Garlic Lovers: Barilla Rustic Basil Pesto

Barilla Rustic Basil Pesto Sauce 6.3 ozVia target.com

If you like your pesto sauce with a slightly heavier dose of garlic (we see you, garlic fans), you’ll want to grab Barilla Rustic Basil Pesto. This jarred pesto had an extra hit of garlic—perfect for those of us that see a recipe that calls for two cloves or garlic and then you add four (or more).

Barilla’s garlic-forward pesto had great texture as well. Our Test Kitchen pros could see nice bits of pine nuts and basil leaves, so it felt like the real deal. A pesto sauce with strong flavor and texture like this one would be just right for recipes like these party pesto pinwheels.

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Best for Parmesan Fanatics: Sam’s Choice Italia Basil Pesto

Sam's Choice Italia Basil Pesto, 190gVia walmart.com

Just like there are folks that prefer a slightly more garlic-packed pesto, there are some that enjoy their sauce with more parmesan flavor. If you’re a cheese lover, you’ll want to opt for Sam’s Choice Italia Basil Pesto, a Walmart exclusive.

This pesto sauce had all the flavors we wanted (basil, pine nuts, olive oil) but had an extra dose of parmesan, which was just right for folks that love an extra sprinkle of cheese on top of their pasta. Beyond this parmesan goodness, Sam’s Choice pesto had a nice, smooth consistency that worked well for spreading and coating pasta. We think it’d be great with this one-pan chicken pesto pasta dinner.

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Smoothest Pesto: Alessi Pesto

Alessi Pesto 3.5 Oz (Pack of 4)Via amazon.com

Looking for a smooth pesto to coat your gnocchi? Try Alessi Pesto. Our Test Kitchen found that this sauce was blended more than most which works well when you want a sauce to stir into a recipe (like this slow cooker bread) or evenly coat pasta. This sauce was also well balanced. The herbs, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil were all in harmony here.

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What to Make with Pesto

We know the go-to dish with pesto is to make an easy weeknight pasta. That’s the perfect way to use this sauce. Whip up a shrimp linguine, veggie-packed gnocchi dish or sweet pepper pesto bowties. But you can just as use pesto as a spread on a sandwich, sauce on your favorite pizza (how good does this chicken artichoke pizza look?) or even stir it into your favorite meatball recipe for more flavor. There are lots of options!

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.