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I was making pesto one day and couldn't find the lid to my food processor. So first I tried mixing it all in a blender. Didn't work, the leaves wouldn't go down to meet the blade. I had this pastey pesto at the bottom and full leaves on top. Transferred it to the magic bullet thinking the blender (it's a really old blender) was just busted. Same thing.

This frustration prompted me to find the food processor lid once and for all. I did and put everything in processor and worked like a charm.

Why can't you make pesto in a blender? What's the difference in the design of a food processor and blender?

  • 1
    You shouldn't make pesto in a blender either. Blending olive oil (which is typically non-optional) tends to get surprising off flavors in due to oxidation. – rackandboneman Apr 19 '17 at 14:15
  • When I'm forced to make stuff like this in a blender, I will pick the blender up and physically shake the thing around to get the leaves down to the blades. -Probably against several OSHA rules, but this is at home. Once leaves get chopped down, i set the blender down and merely tilt to say 45° in different directions to make sure everything is getting chopped nicely. Food Proc is much easier. You can do that first bit with a Ninja/Magic bullet too. Those are safer than blenders, where the container has a cruddy lid, and the whole top is poorly attached to the base. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 8 '18 at 23:07
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You need enough liquid in the blender for it to work; if the leaves get stuck in blender canister, they won't reach the blades to get ground up. It's mostly an issue of width of the container relative to the size of the basil leaves.

I typically make my pesto in a blender rather than a food processor, but I do the following:

  1. Pack a few inches of basil (or other herb) down in the bottom of the blender
  2. Add some oil on top to 'wet' it.
  3. Blend for a second or two 'til it liquifies.
  4. Pack some more basil in there, shoving it down into the liquid, with a few pinches of salt.
  5. Blend again.
  6. Repeat 4&5 until you have all of the basil in there.
  7. Add the nuts & oil until you get the consistency you want.

I pull it at this point, as I get better results freezing it without cheese, and just stir in the grated cheese separately.

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I think it depends on the blender. I have a 10 speed blender from the late 60s/early 70s and it works like a charm. I have had great results making pesto in it. My process is similar to the other answer, however, I make several additions of basil leaves and olive oil, a little at a time, alternating with the pine nuts and minced garlic, and add the cheese last. It takes a while for the leaves to chop, so you have to be patient. I also use a spatula to push the leaves down each time I add more (with the blender off, of course!). I start with the blender on the chop setting until all the ingredients have been added, then I use the mix setting to stir it, and then finally the blend setting to finish it off and add extra smoothness. This was the first time I had ever made pesto (I have never used a food processor) and it turned out great. However, I don't know if my results can be replicated with other blenders.

  • Good point. Mine are likely of a similar vintage (the one I use for pesto is a hand-me-down Oster from my mom, with a plastic jar; I also have a hand-me-down from my grandmother that I need to repair (broke the plastic that covers the buttons)) – Joe Aug 8 '18 at 21:48

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