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Basil pesto is a great way to add a pop of freshness and a flavorful punch to any dish while keeping it light and bright. This recipe is dairy-free, vegan, and can easily be made nut-free.
Basil pesto is one of my favorite sauces that can transform many different foods. You can add it to pasta, pizza, salads, roasted vegetables, crusty bread, or slather it on salmon before baking it. It’s also great as a marinade for shrimp or chicken or again… slathered on either right before cooking.
What Makes This Basil Pesto Recipe Different?
This basil pesto recipe is so easy to make. Unlike traditional pesto, this is made without cheese making it completely dairy-free.
The nutritional yeast lends the cheesy flavor without the need for cheese, making this the perfect recipe for anyone who can’t have dairy.
Homemade vs Store-bought
Store-bought basil pesto works if you’re in a pinch, but it won’t bring nearly the amount of freshness and brightness to your meal.
Once you make homemade basil pesto it’s hard to go back to buying it because not only will you realize just how easy it is to make, but the flavor that comes from making your own can’t be replicated with store-bought.
Basil Pesto Ingredients
I’ve been making many varieties of pesto over the past several years. What I love so much about this sauce is that it’s highly customizable. As long as you use a few of the basic elements, you can use just about anything you have on hand to make it work for you.
If you’re unsure of how to balance different tastes, I’d highly recommend checking out the 5 basic tastes post.
This easy pesto recipe requires just a handful of simple, fresh ingredients
- Fresh basil – for that classic pesto flavor
- Lemon juice – adds brightness
- Garlic cloves – umami flavor
- Extra virgin olive oil – healthy fats and to bind it all together
- Nutritional yeast – a dairy-free cheesy flavor
- Walnuts – adds a nice nutty flavor
- Salt and pepper – to taste
Make it Your Way: Ingredient Substitutions
Please remember that recipes are meant to be used as guides. How can you make this walnut basil pesto using what you already have? Here are some ideas…
Want to add bulk it up? ➝ add fresh spinach or arugula (like in my nut-free arugula pesto) to sneak in more greens, without even knowing they’re in there
No basil? ➝ use flat-leaf parsley, carrot tops, or kale for an entirely different flavor
No walnuts? ➝ cashews, pine nuts, or pistachios also work
Nut allergy? ➝ replace the walnuts with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds
How to Freeze for Later Use
Basil pesto freezes very well, which is one of the reasons I love It.
Once the pesto cubes are frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to use them, just add one or two cubes straight into the pan for that extra boost of flavor. It’s perfect on those nights where you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry but without much effort.
More Healthy Dips & Dressings
If you like this walnut basil pesto recipe, be sure to try:
Basil Pesto Recipe
- 1 heaping cup loosely packed basil
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- juice from ½ lemon about 1 tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, to taste
- In a dry pan (no oil) over medium heat, toast the walnuts until slightly brown (this only takes a few minutes). Watch carefully so they don’t burn. This helps to bring out a richer flavor and remove some of their bitterness.
- Add all the ingredients to the bowl of your food processor and turn on, scraping down the sides as needed. (It will have some texture and won’t be completely smooth.)
- This basil pesto keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for a couple of months.
- This recipe makes ½ cup.
- To thin out the pesto, add more oil or water and adjust the seasoning as needed.