Simple Dairy Free Pesto – You won’t be missing anything with this bright, beautiful dairy free pesto! Vegan & paleo with a nut free option!
Pesto is kind of like magic sauce.
You can toss it with pasta, you can use it as a spread, use it as a flavoring, a topping…you name it.
This was one of the first recipes that made me feel like I could get through being dairy free five years ago. Because even though Parmesan cheese is basically one of the best things in life, we’ve found some really delicious dairy free options for some of our old favorites. This dairy free pesto is one of the best.
It’s bright, it’s flavorful, and it makes just about anything taste better.
This bright, flavorful recipe is so simple but really packs a pesto punch. The combination of freshness from basil, brightness from lemon, creaminess from the nuts/seeds, richness from the olive oil…I just can’t get enough. It’s incredible in so many dishes, so we make it any time we find a great price on basil. Just look at that color!
I love that it’s both vegan and paleo approved, which also makes it very allergy friendly. It’s naturally gluten, dairy, soy, and egg free, and is very easily nut free. You can make it using pine nuts or cashews if you’re okay with nuts, but for a nut-free version, we love using pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Our favorite are the sprouted ones, but raw will do, too! As for how to use it…
What to do with this pesto:
- Use it as a shmear for avocado toast or a grilled sandwich
- Stir it into minestrone (seriously, Pesto Minestrone is one of the best things that’s happened in my kitchen)
- Mix a little bit into mayo for a sandwich spread or dip
- Mix a little into ranch dressing for Pesto Ranch (amazing!)
- Toss it with hot, cooked pasta or veggies
- Spoon it over grilled chicken or fish (Pesto Salmon & Veggies anyone?)
What’s YOUR favorite way to use pesto? Anything I should try?
A Few Notes on This Vegan Pesto:
Nuts vs Seeds & How to Make it Nut Free – I’ve made this recipe using all cashews, a mix of cashews and pumpkin seeds (pepitas), and all pumpkin seeds for a nut-free version. It’s good every single way. I love using the sprouted pumpkin seeds (I find them at Sprouts, Thrive, or Costco), but have also used the regular ones with great results.
Change it Up – You can easily play with the flavors here. Sometimes, I add a little lemon zest to make lemon pesto (amazing). Or, I’ll switch around my olive oil. I like using this Meyer lemon olive oil, or this fresh crush basil oil for an even more rich flavor. If you like a little kick, you can also add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the mix for a tiny bite.
Store it – If you’ve got leftover pesto, you can keep it in the fridge up to 1 week. I like to cover the surface with a super-thin layer of olive oil to keep it as green as possible. Or, you can freeze it! I like to put it in silicone ice cube trays (they make it easy to pop out frozen items) and transfer the frozen cubes to a zip-top bag. Add one to your next steaming pot of pasta, or stir one into soup or pasta sauce. Works like a charm!
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My favorite homemade basil pesto! You won’t be missing anything with this fresh, flavorful vegan pesto. It’s gluten and dairy free, and it’s easily nut free!
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (or, additional pumpkin seeds)
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon (add zest, too, for more lemon flavor)
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor (I prefer blender) and puree until very smooth and well mixed. Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt, or pepper, to taste.
- Pesto will keep in the refrigerator about 1 week.
Keywords: pesto, vegan pesto, dairy free pesto, pumpkin seeds, cashews, basil, nut free pesto, homemade pesto
Originally posted August 2016. Re-tested and republished July 2018.