Homemade Shiso Pesto 大葉ジェノベーゼ • Just One Cookbook

Homemade Shiso Pesto takes just 10 minutes to make and is one of the best ways to enjoy a bounty of fresh green shiso (perilla) leaves. Just like traditional basil pesto, this vegetarian-friendly recipe uses pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil.

A mason jar containing Homemade Shiso Pesto.

This is my second year growing green shiso leaves in my backyard. A kind and generous JOC reader, Bobby, gifted us a few red and green shiso plants and I’ve been successfully growing them. Shiso is my absolute favorite Japanese herb so you can imagine how happy I am that I can now harvest them in my own yard.

When I get plenty of shiso leaves, I make Homemade Shiso Pesto (大葉ジェノベーゼ) and freeze it for later use. No access to shiso? You can use this pesto recipe with basil, arugula, baby spinach, kale, and parsley. They are equally delicious!

A mason jar containing Homemade Shiso Pesto.

What is Shiso?

Also known as perilla leaf or beefsteak leaf, shiso is an aromatic herb from the same botanical family as mint. Shiso leaves have a fresh, citrusy, minty, bitter flavor with a texture similar to mint leaves.

Shiso Plant

There are two types of shiso:

  • Green shiso – Aojiso (青紫蘇) or Ooba (大葉): Often used as an edible food separator or garnish as it helps prevent the spoilage of food. The whole leaves are used for sashimi and tempura, and the julienned shiso leaves are garnished on top of Cold Tofu (Hiyayakko), pasta, and salad. Chopped shiso leaves are included in meatballs and there are so many other possibilities!
  • Red shiso – Akajiso (赤紫蘇): More astringent and bitter flavor; therefore, red shiso leaves are mostly used for dyeing foods with their rich red color, such as in making Pickled Plum (Umeboshi) and Red Pickled Ginger (Beni Shoga). It’s also used for Shiso Rice Seasoning (Yukari) and Aka Shiso Juice.

Green shiso leaves are used in our cooking all year round, in a similar use as scallions or parsley. On the other hand, red shiso is used mostly during the summer months to make specific recipes.

Where to Get Shiso

You can always purchase green shiso at the produce section of Japanese grocery stores all year round. Red shiso leaves might be tricky to find, and only available during the umeboshi-making season around July.

Don’t get confused with Korean perilla leaves. They are rounder and larger, and taste differently from shiso leaves.

Fresh shiso leaves dry out easily, so wrap them in a damp paper towel before placing in a plastic bag, and store in the crisper/vegetable section of the refrigerator for a week.

Plant Your Own Shiso

Reese, one of JOC team members aka my sidekick who lives in Minnesota, has grown her own shiso in a raised planter box one year. She bought the seeds from Gaea’s Blessing on Amazon, planted them in early spring, and started harvesting in June. According to Reese, growing shiso from seeds requires extra steps, so it is important to follow the instructions in prepping the seeds, but once that’s taken care of, the rest is easy.

This year in May, I planted shiso seeds that were harvested from my friend’s shiso late last summer. Shiso plants sprouted 2 weeks after I planted and grew really well. I continue to harvest leaves as soon as they are a good size (3-4 inches in length) and they continue to produce more new leaves!

If you’re interested in growing your own shiso, you can also check seeds from Kitazawa Seed Co..

Tips: Perilla seeds are very hard, so they need to be softened by soaking them in water overnight. Covering the seeds with too much soil will delay germination, so plant the seeds 1/4 inch (6 mm) below the surface. Make sure to water every day until spouted. The ideal temperature for shiso to grow is above 68ºF (20ºC) so make find the right timing for your climate.

A mason jar containing Homemade Shiso Pesto.

Making Shiso Pesto

The Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Green shiso leaves (Substitute: basil, arugula, baby spinach, kale, parsley, etc)
  • Pine nuts (Substitute: walnut, cashews, almonds, etc) – They’re tender, buttery, and high in fat, so they yield smoother pesto. If time allows, I recommend toasting the nuts as they will yield an additional savory flavor and fragrance.
  • Garlic – Don’t skip, but you can add more.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – Go with the weight measurement. Remember that freshly grated cheese is aerated so you need more by volume for the same amount by weight.
  • Salt and pepper – Don’t be afraid to season it with salt, as it amplifies the flavor.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – Use good quality olive oil, please.

The Cooking Steps

It’s easy! Pulse all the ingredients (except for the oil) in a food processor or blender. I recommend adding in the oil last after the rest of the ingredients are blended well. However, I usually pour in the oil at once, instead of adding in a slow stream while processing, and it works fine.

A mason jar containing Homemade Shiso Pesto.

3 Important Tips to Remember

  1. Process in 3 steps (my method) – I usually process shiso leaves, nuts, and garlic first so there’s enough space in the food processor for the freshly grated cheese. Then run the food processor. Finally, add in the oil and run one last time to finish making the pesto.
  2. Cover the pesto with oil – Before storing, add a thin layer of olive oil to protect the pesto from turning brown due to contact with air.
  3. Keep refrigerated – Keep the pesto in a clean/sterilized airtight jar and store in the fridge (all times) for 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months (could be longer).

Delicious Ways to Use Homemade Shiso Pesto

A white bowl containing Shiso Pesto Pasta garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese and shiso leaves.

I’m sure you can come up with many ways to enjoy this delicious homemade shiso pesto. But if you’re in need of inspiration, here are a few ideas:

  • Use it as a pasta sauce (See my Shiso Pesto Pasta)
  • As a spread on sandwiches, flatbreads, or bruschetta
  • Make a salad dressing
  • Enjoy it with eggs
  • Use as a veggie dip
  • Stuff chicken and roast
  • Slather and cook the protein of your choice
  • Coat the veggies and roast
  • Garnish a soup
A mason jar containing Homemade Shiso Pesto.

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A mason jar containing Homemade Shiso Pesto.

Homemade Shiso Pesto

Homemade Shiso Pesto takes just 10 minutes to make and is one of the best ways to enjoy a bounty of fresh green shiso (perilla) leaves. Just like traditional basil pesto, this vegetarian-friendly recipe uses pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 1 jar (½ cup, 120 ml per batch)



Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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  • Gather all the ingredients. If time allows, toast the pine nuts first in a non-greased pan for a few minutes until light brown and let cool. 

  • Place 1 oz shiso leaves (perilla/ooba), 3 Tbsp pine nuts, and 2 cloves garlic into the bowl of a food processor.

  • Pulse several times until smooth.

  • Add 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper.

  • Pulse several times more until incorporated.

  • Add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Note: I never had any issue adding the olive oil all at once. However, if you‘re concerned about emulsification, slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor or blender still running.

  • Process until smooth. Add a touch of extra oil, if required, to help it blend.

  • Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula and run again until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed.

  • Pour the pesto into a clean, sterlized jar. Cover the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil on top. Close the lid.

To Serve

  • Use Homemade Shiso Pesto in any recipe that calls for traditional pesto. Try it in my Shiso Pesto Pasta recipe!


Nutrition Facts

Homemade Shiso Pesto

Amount per Serving

% Daily Value*

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Author: Nami

Course: Condiments

Cuisine: Japanese

Keyword: cheese, nuts, shiso

©JustOneCookbook.com Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any website or social media is strictly prohibited. Please view my photo use policy here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 6, 2021. It’s been republished with more information on August 8, 2023.

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