pesto samples

Pesto taste-off: And the winner is...

Here is part 1 of Celinabean's first pesto taste-off.

So the results, eh? Soon. First, here's how we did it.

The taste-off was restricted to off-the-shelf pesto that was readily available in the Albany area. The Wine Bar and Bistro's chef/owner Kevin Everleth agreed to host our party even though he swears he's never bought off-the-shelf pesto.
The Wine Bar and Bistro's Kevin Everleth

The tasting was blind. The judges didn't know which brands they were tasting, nor did they know what brands had been entered in the contest.

Everyone tasted each pesto at least twice.
We tasted samples on little pieces of ciabatta. There was some discussion of how a pesto's flavor changes when you put it on hot pasta. Truth be told, I couldn't figure out the logistics of serving the samples on pasta, and some of the judges felt that it was better to sample it pure anyway.

Each judge ranked the samples from first to last. Then we added up the scores. The lowest score was the winner.

And the drumroll please.....

The clear winner was Buddhapesto.



Price: $7 - $8

Where you can buy it: Troy Framers Market (ironically this is the most expensive spot.) Honest Weight Coop, EATS, and other locations

What the judges said: Most of the judges loved this one…

My taste buds did a dance…it tastes like spring … bright and sparkly… nice texture …this one popped… great blend of flavors, especially the parsley-basil blend

But not everyone, in fact, one judge had it close to the bottom. Meh .. just average … not enough salt… it just kind of sat there.

Second place was a tie in points, but the comments favored Via Fresca.

Via Fresca's pesto

Via Fresca's pesto

Price: About $4.20 for an 8-oz package, $8.59/lb

Where you can buy it: Via Fresca, 1166 Western Avenue (just after Crossgates on the left if you are heading out of Albany, look for the blue sign.)

What the judges said: This was also very popular and some of the judges had it ranked number one. The texture, which is very smooth, brought it down for some who like a chunkier pesto.

Great, deep full flavors that play nicely off each other …very tasty … a perfect combination of flavors, but a little too green…too thin and smooth.

Sharing the #2 spot was ...

 Whole In The Wall garlic-spike pesto

Whole in the Wall garlic-spike pesto

Price: $4.50 - $5.50 for a 5.5 oz container
Where you can buy it: Honest Weight Coop, EATS, Indian Ladder Farms, other locations
What the judges said:

Note: We didn't know whether to include this one because it is not their basic pesto, but after visiting three different stores we couldn't find any of the basic variety. The garlic is very intense compared to the others, but that is a given in this case. Some of the other comments included:

Middle of the pack … nice but nothing special … texture is a little mushy.

Third place went to Cardona's.

Cardona's pesto

Cardona's pesto

Price: $6.99 for 16-oz jar. This is a much larger jar than the other brands. You get twice as much (or more) than the other packages.
Where you can buy it: Cardona's, 340 Delaware Ave., Albany
What the judges said:
Middle of the pack…very tasty…yummy basic pesto… very thin.

Classico took fourth place.

Classico pesto

Classico traditional pesto
Price: $2.99 - $4.99
Where you can buy it: Major supermarkets like Price Chopper and Hannaford
What the judges said: Most of the judges ranked it close to the bottom, but one judge loved it and put it as the standout at the top. It has a tang to it, which was a love-hate thing for the judges.

It tasted old…blah…don't like the tang…it is sour… this one made me gag …loved it …this was my favorite by far…nice texture … the flavors come alive.

And at the bottom ...
Cibo pesto

Ciro Naturals classic basil pesto

Price: $5.49 for a 6-oz container
Where you can buy it: Honest Weight Coop, 484 Central Ave, Albany
What the judges said: This was the only pesto that drew a complete consensus: Yuck!

It's pasty…terrible texture…looks like old pesto and tastes even worse…horrible flavors


Yay for Buddhapesto! I discovered this little jem last year at the farmer's market and could probably eat the whole container in one sitting. It's pricey, but well worth it.

Celina, thank you again for putting this all together! It was insanely fun and obviously tasty (except for the Classico).

I've never done a blind taste testing - I think it really helped judge which one you liked the best!

Celina Bean,
I love that you did a pesto taste test! It's amazing how much variation there is in quality with pesto. I think it really depends on the quality of the basil leaves used. It's good to know Buddhapesto rocks out.

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