Nut-free pesto is here to put a twinkle in your eye and a zip of flavor on your plate! This pesto is a great nut-free alternative to traditional pesto and you can use it the exact same way you would use any other pesto.
Ready to join the nut-free pesto club?
How To Make Nut-Free Pesto
Time to whip up this homemade nut-free pesto sauce! At home, you can use a blender, food processor, or a bullet blender to make pesto very quickly. Of all the kitchen appliances we have tried, we favor our food processor to make nut-free pesto.
Here’s the thing, many high powered blenders have a minimum capacity in order to reach a smooth, blending consistency. In our Vitamix, we need to make about 2 cups of pesto (double this recipe) for the blender to work well– and if we don’t have that much basil lying around…. it doesn’t work and we end up switching to the food processor…. and washing more dishes.
You can make this recipe without a food processor– simply use a bullet blender or double the recipe for a full-size blender.
The ingredients you need to make vegan nut-free pesto are usual suspects in most kitchens:
- Fresh basil
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- A couple cloves of garlic
- Nutritional yeast
- Hemp seeds!
- Salt & pepper
This recipe is both a nut-free and dairy-free pesto sauce!
On Cooking & Eating
How to use nut-free pesto? We use this sauce in a lot of different ways around our kitchen… some traditional and some full-on, out there unconventional. Fresh nut-free pesto has huge flavor so we usually use this for run-of-the-mill meals that need a little pizzaz!
Here are some ideas on how to use nut-free pesto:
- Pizza sauce
- Pasta sauce–vegan nut-free pesto pasta, or even in a lasagna
- As a dressing for a grain bowl– rice & veggies topped with pesto
- On toast. Yes, we do this.
- Use it to flavor hummus or other dips
- Add it to a tofu or chickpea scramble in the morning
- As a spread in quesadillas or sandwiches
- Use as a dressing for cold pasta salads- vegan nut-free pesto pasta salads are delicious in the summertime
We’re using hemp seeds in this recipe but you can substitute sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as well! We favor hemp seeds as they have a neutral flavor, with pumpkin seeds coming in 2nd and sunflower seeds in 3rd place!
Sunflower seeds have a bitter aftertaste that changes the end result of the pesto- hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds are the winners here!
Also, it’s really up to you on whether on not to toast the seeds you use. The pesto will definitely have a more pronounced, nutty flavor if you toast them.
If you want to take a swing at toasted hemp seed pesto, toast in a skillet over medium-low heat for 7-9 minutes stirring frequently until seeds are golden and fragrant. Alternatively, place on a cookie sheet in a 350* oven for 5-7 minutes, removing every 3 minutes to stir.
Be careful! It’s incredibly easy to burn the hemp seeds when you intended to toast them!
Is Pesto Vegan?
Pesto is a fresh basil and olive oil sauce, right? What makes pesto not vegan? Parmesan cheese is traditionally and commonly used in pesto today, which is why most pesto recipes are not vegan.
In this vegan nut-free pesto recipe, we will substitute nutritional yeast in place of parmesan cheese that is typically used. Nutritional yeast will help to achieve the same cheesy, nutty, acidic quality that parmesan cheese lends to traditional pesto.
Troubleshooting Vegan Nut-Free Pesto
This sauce seems easy enough- what could possibly go wrong? Most sauces made in a blender or food processor are forgiving as you can blend the ingredients, taste test, and adjust as needed. This recipe allows you to do exactly that! I’ll often taste and add a pinch of salt and another dash of lemon juice.
Why is my nut-free pesto bitter? This can happen for several reasons, the culprit is usually basil! (Surprise!) Some varieties of basil leaves are more bitter than others and off-season basil can taste more bitter than summer basil. If your pesto has a very bitter taste try adding more lemon juice (acid), nutritional yeast (flavor), or hemp seeds (fat + flavor). If this doesn’t curb the bitterness, try adding a few springs of another herb like parsley or cilantro to help counteract the bitterness.
Why is my pesto turning brown? Pesto will oxidize and turn from a bright, cheery green color to dark, muddy green- just like guacamole does. This is completely normal and the pesto is still ok to eat and will taste delicious! If you are making the pesto in advance of using it- you can pour a thin layer of oil on top of the pesto when you store it, this prevents air from reaching the pesto and turning it brown.
Is there a substitute for nutritional yeast? Use miso instead- soy miso or chickpea miso! Miso gives a satisfying, umami flavor but it doesn’t provide the same level of ‘cheesiness’ that nutritional yeast does.
NUT-FREE, DAIRY-FREE PESTO FAQS
- How to make nut-free pesto without oil? You can use 1/2 an avocado and 2-6 tablespoons of water in place of oil.
- Can I make this pesto without nutritional yeast? Yes, you may need to add more salt if you omit the nutritional yeast.
- How long does nut-free pesto last? This keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Pesto freezes well- up to 3 months!
- Do you eat pesto cold? Yes! One of the best qualities of pesto is aroma! If you heat the pesto, the basil flavor will remain but the aroma will fade.
- I don’t have olive oil- Can I use a different oil? Avocado oil would work.
- Is pesto vegetarian? Yes, most pesto recipes are vegetarian.
- Can you freeze nut-free pesto? Pesto freezes well for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
- Can you make pesto without a food processor? You can use a mortar and pestle or make this in a blender. To properly blend all ingredients you may need to double the recipe.
- Can you make nut-free pesto without garlic? Yes, you can omit the garlic. You can also substitute garlic powder if you are out of fresh garlic.
- Can you make pesto with dried basil? No, we do not recommend this. The texture, flavor, aroma, and consistency of pesto are all based on using fresh, leafy basil.
- What makes pesto not vegan? Parmesan cheese is commonly added to pesto sauces.
We return to our pesto series with this recipe for nut-free and dairy free pesto! We’ll use hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds to make this nut free pesto shine. Bonus: this pesto freezes well- so go ahead & make a double batch in your blender to save some for a rainy day.
- 2 cups basil, tightly packed
- 1/3 cup hemp seeds (sub pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1.5 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper (or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup – 1/3 cup olive oil, depending on preferred consistency. More oil = thinner pesto! If only using 1/4 cup oil, you may need to add 2-3 tablespoons water.
- Measure and add all ingredients to a food processor and puree until combined.
- You can toast the hemp seeds if you’d like to, this will increase the flavor of the hemp seeds!
- Before removing from the food processor, taste and adjust flavors as you see fit.
- Taste a little bland? Try adding more salt, pinch at a time.
- Taste okay, but a little dull? Try adding more lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Doesn’t taste cheesy enough? Add more nutritional yeast
4. Remove from food processor or blender and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
** This nut-free pesto freezes well! Freeze for up to 3 months, defrost in the fridge prior to using!
** Substitute any seeds you have if you don’t have hemp seeds on hand. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are our next favorite choices.
Keywords: Nut-Free Pesto, Dairy-Free Pesto