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Walnut Basil Pesto (dairy-free)

Walnut 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 Ingredients

Walnut basil pesto is one of my favorite sauces that can transform many different foods. You can add it to pasta, pizza, salads, roasted vegetables, or bread, or slather it on salmon before baking it. It’s also great as a marinade for shrimp or chicken or again.

Toasted Walnuts

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This pesto is so easy to make. And 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.

Fresh Basil on Cutting Board

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.


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.

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
Basil Pesto Ingredients

Make it Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.

How can you make this walnut basil pesto using what you already have? Here are some ideas…

  • No basil? – use flat-leaf parsley, carrot tops, or kale for an entirely different flavor. Or try my cilantro pesto recipe!
  • No walnuts? – cashews, pine nuts, or pistachios also work.
  • Make it nut-free – replace the walnuts with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds.
  • Add-ins – add fresh spinach or arugula (like in my dairy-free arugula pesto) to sneak in more greens, without affecting the flavor.
Walnuts and Basil

How to Freeze for Later Use

Basil pesto freezes very well, which is one of the reasons I love It.

The best way to do this is to put it in a silicone ice cube tray. Once the pesto cubes are frozen, transfer them 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.

This is a great option on nights when you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry but without much effort.

More Dips & Sauces

Walnut Basil Pesto Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Basil Pesto
Walnut basil pesto is a diverse sauce to add to cooked foods or as a marinade for proteins. This customizable recipe is dairy-free and can also be made nut-free.
Author: Lindsey Jenkins
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 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 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.


  1. I am excited to try this!!

    1. You’ll have to let me know how it goes! xx

  2. This is an AMAZING blog and source. I can’t believe more people aren’t thronging to this. (Okay, this is her dad, but still…. the comment is valid). So proud of this young woman. A professional blog site that gives timely and FREE information to eat more healthy food. What could be better? Get with it, world!

    1. Haha, thanks dad! You’re so sweet.

  3. Rebecca Scott says:

    Hi Lindsey, I just made your Walnut Basil Pesto recipe. I am basically a gluten & sugar free Vegan, and have been for years. It’s easy to get in a rut with meal prep. Plus I’m a use what I have on hand type cook. Never perfectly follow a recipe. I’ve made pesto many times, but only with pine nuts. The roasted walnuts were delicious. I substituted lime for lemon. And I didn’t have garlic so I added a dab of Sambal Oelek Chili paste. I always have Nutritional Yeast in my pantry, but rarely use it. It’s in few recipes I use. That was a nice touch. Really appreciate how you have substitute suggestions for ingredients. Plus I’d forgotten that you could freeze pesto, so I made a double batch. Thanks for that reminder. Turned out great! Good recipe. Will definitely use again.

    1. What a sweet comment! Thanks, Rebecca! So glad to hear you enjoyed it and found the substitutions helpful.

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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