Is Amazon's Basil Pesto Any Good?

A jar of Amazon's basil pesto sauce.

What exactly is "by Amazon" pesto?

Described as "green pesto made with basil, Italian hard cheeses, cashew nuts, and pine nuts," Amazon's pesto is marketed under their "by Amazon" brand and forms part of its pantry staple line-up. Other items in the range include pasta, olive oil, milk, and coffee.

The pesto comes in a 190g jar and retails for anything between 80p and £1.58, depending on the company's complex pricing algorithms. Jars come with an ambient shelf life of at least 18 months and should be refrigerated after opening and eaten within 2 weeks.

How can Amazon sell their pesto so cheaply?

We can't be totally sure how many jars of Amazon's own-brand basil pesto they sell, but looking at their pasta sales, it's safe to say it's likely to be in the thousands per month. Amazon's enviable buying power and ability to buy ingredients and glass jars in vast quantities help explain how they can produce a jar of pesto so cheaply while still turning a profit.

Buying power is only one part of the equation, though. The list of ingredients also goes a long way towards explaining the incredibly low price point. Although one of Amazon's key selling points is that their pesto contains super-expensive pine nuts, you might be disappointed to learn that the sauce contains just 1% pine nuts, with the bulk of the sauce's nuttiness coming from cashew nuts, which are at least four times cheaper.

In a similar vein, while the pesto contains a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, that doesn't change the fact that the sauce is padded out with a far higher amount of vegetable oil. To put it into perspective, the Pesto Genovese Consortium dictates that true pesto must be made using Riviera Ligure DOP extra virgin olive oil. You can find that for sale on Amazon for £4.60 per 100ml, while Amazon's own vegetable oil clocks in at 20p per 100ml, a whopping 23 times cheaper.

It's a similar story with the pesto's cheese content. Authentic pesto Genovese is made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, but Amazon's sauce switches that for Grana Padano, which is not aged for as long, has less expensive production methods, and has less stringent regulations.

As for why the sauce is bulked out with yogurt, bamboo fibre, and sugar, we'll probably never know.

Ingredients in Amazon's pesto

Vegetable oil
Grana Padano
Cashew nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino Romano
Bamboo fibre
Pine nuts
Lactic acid
Dried garlic

What customers say about Amazon pesto

Amazon's pesto gets mixed reviews from customers, with some saying it is "far better and more affordable" than other pestos on the market, while others say it "tastes weird." The majority of reviews, however, are positive, with 63% of reviewers (at the time of writing) giving it the full 5-star rating. Here's a snapshot of comments from some happy customers:

"Really nice pesto and a great price."
Joanne K

"Really excellent basil pesto, which is good enough to be served with pasta cooked in just salted water!"

"Great value for money, as we loved the taste."
Phillip Eva

We tried Amazon's basil pesto (so you don't have to)

Packaging (4/5)
While Amazon's label designers are unlikely to win awards for their efforts on this particular product, the label is clear, concise, and totally appropriate for the entry-level price point. We do, however, take issue with the label's use of bright green, as we explain below.

The label on a jar of Amazon basil pesto.

Colour (2/5)
For what should be an appetising, emerald green sauce, this pesto just looks a bit sad and miserable. The colours are dull and sludgy, and there are unappealing hints of brown and grey too. What compounds the problem is that the label features a photo of bright, vibrantly green basil leaves. This makes for an uncomfortable juxtaposition when seen next to the drab colour of the sauce itself. It doesn't entice us to jump straight in, but we have seen worse.

Texture (3/5)
We like our pestos to have an interesting mouthfeel, so we like the fact that the sauce isn't completely homogenised into a silky, smooth paste.

Taste (1/5)
We went into the taste testing with realistic expectations. Amazon's budget pesto was never going to be able to compete with other brands that sell their sauces for two or three times the price. Even with that in mind, though, this sauce was worse than we could ever have expected. Our testers recoiled with a scrunched face on taking their first mouthful, and a few of them refused to give it a second chance. We all found the flavour muddy, slightly bitter, and with an overarching taste of past-its-best, low-quality basil. In fact, the aftertaste was so unpleasant that we needed to have a mint imperial just to get rid of the taste. Suffice it to say, this is not a pesto we'll be buying again.

How to serve Amazon's pesto

Pesto can be served with any pasta shape, but for our taste testing, we chose a shape called trofie, which is what the inhabitants of Genoa have been enjoying basil pesto with for centuries.

A bowl of pesto-pasta.