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Ice Cubes: The Secret to Achieving Vibrant Pesto

Ice cubes are the secret ingredient for vibrant pesto

When it comes to a fresh and savory burst of flavor, nothing beats a rich, herbaceous pesto. However, many home cooks are disappointed when their pesto turns out with a less vibrant, brownish hue instead of the vibrant green they were hoping for. But fear not! There’s a simple trick to preventing your pesto from browning, and it involves an unexpected ingredient: ice cubes. In this article, we’ll explore how ice cubes can help you achieve the vibrant green pesto you’ve been dreaming of.

The science behind browning

To understand why adding ice cubes to your pesto can prevent browning, we need to delve into the science of enzymes and oxidation. When basil is finely chopped, it activates a compound called polyphenol oxidase, which causes oxidation and turns the green substances in the leaves black and brown. Lowering the temperature of the pesto mixture with ice cubes slows down these reactions, but does not stop them altogether.

The ice cube trick

Now that we understand the science, let’s dive into how to use ice cubes to make your pesto come alive. The process is simple:

  1. Prepare your pesto ingredients as usual, including basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
  2. Add the ingredients to your food processor.
  3. Add an ice cube or two before blending.
  4. The intense cold of the ice cubes will shock the herbs, slowing the browning process.
  5. Blend the ingredients until smooth, and voila! You have a bright green pesto.

Alternatives for keeping pesto green

While the ice cube trick is effective, there are other methods you can try to keep your pesto green. Here are a few alternatives:

  1. Blanch the basil: One option is to briefly blanch the basil in boiling water. This process damages or destroys the enzymes responsible for browning. However, some argue that it can slightly dull the flavor of the basil.
  2. Add lemon juice: Another method is to add a dash of lemon juice to your pesto recipe. Lemon juice is acidic, and it lowers the pH of the mixture, which stops the chemical browning process. It also adds a tangy kick to your pesto.

The benefits of the ice cube hack

The ice cube hack for vibrant pesto has several advantages that make it a preferred choice for many home cooks:

  1. Ease and convenience: The ice cube trick requires no extra time, steps or ingredients that will alter the flavor of your pesto. It’s a simple and convenient way to achieve vibrant results.
  2. Preserve flavor and freshness: Adding ice cubes to your pesto won’t affect its flavor or how long it stays fresh. Your pesto will still be flavorful and delicious, with the added benefit of a vibrant green color.


If you’ve ever been disappointed by the lackluster color of your pesto, the ice cube trick is here to save the day. By incorporating ice cubes into your pesto making process, you can slow down the browning reactions and achieve a vibrant green spread that will impress your family and guests. Remember, while the ice cube hack is effective, you can also try blanching basil or adding lemon juice as alternatives. Whichever method you choose, enjoy the flavorful and visually appealing pesto you’ve always wanted. Happy cooking!


Why is my pesto turning brown instead of staying green?

The browning of pesto is caused by oxidation reactions that occur when basil is finely chopped. These reactions turn the green substances in the leaves black and brown.

How do ice cubes prevent pesto from browning?

Ice cubes lower the temperature of the pesto mixture, which slows down the oxidation reactions responsible for browning. This helps maintain the vibrant green color of the pesto.

How many ice cubes should I put in my pesto?

Adding one or two ice cubes to your pesto mixture is usually sufficient. The intense cold of the ice cubes will shock the herbs and help slow the browning process.

Can I use frozen basil instead of ice cubes to get the same result?

While frozen basil can help preserve the green color of pesto, using ice cubes provides a more intense and immediate cold shock that is more effective at slowing browning reactions.

Will adding ice cubes change the flavor or texture of my pesto?

No, adding ice cubes will not change the taste or texture of your pesto. The ice cubes simply lower the temperature of the mixture to prevent browning without changing the flavor or texture.

Are there other ways to keep pesto green?

Yes, there are alternative ways to keep pesto green. Blanching the basil in boiling water or adding a splash of lemon juice can also help prevent browning and maintain the vibrant green color of your pesto.

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