The Best Dairy-Free Pesto

The Best Dairy-Free Pesto

My love for basil pesto is rooted in childhood memories of summer dinners made by my dad, an avid pesto fan. When I went completely dairy-free about 10 years ago, it was one of the hardest things to give up. I was determined to create the best dairy-free pesto so that I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

I’d call myself a pretty decent cook, but I’m usually not one to brag about my cooking. However, I will 100% brag about my dairy-free pesto because I’ve been perfecting it for over 10 years and my friends and family regularly ask me to make it in large batches for them, so I know it’s not just me that thinks it’s great. If I can make one thing really well in the kitchen, it’s this.

I shared the recipe years ago, but have tweaked it to perfection since then.

There is always a batch of this in my fridge during prime basil season (June-September). I usually whip it up on Sunday nights so we can use it all week over pasta, rice, fish, meats, eggs, and even in salad dressings. Basil is one of my all-time favorite herbs, and the smell alone makes me happy and nostalgic for summers at the beach every time.

This recipe is good for a lot of reasons but one of my favorite things about it is that you don’t need to use pine nuts, which are always pricey. The base that replaces cheese here is cashews. The key with the cashews is to make sure they’re roasted and salted, otherwise, it throws off the whole thing.

The other great thing about it is that it takes less than 5 minutes to make. There is no chopping or dicing or even cooking in any way. Throw a bunch of fresh ingredients into a food processor and you’re good to go.

A quick note on storage before we get into it: It can last in the fridge for up to 5 days but take it out 30 minutes before you want to use it or the oil is too hard. The other option is to mix it in with a little more olive oil if you forget to take it out early.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Is anyone else as big of a pesto fan as I am? What do you like to eat it with?

The Best Dairy-Free Pesto

–  3/4 cup, extra virgin olive oil (yes, it’s really that much!)
– 1 large handful of roasted, salted cashews (probably about 3/4 of a cup)
– 3 packed cups of fresh and washed basil leaves, removed from the stems
– Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
– 1 tsp, black pepper
– 2 cloves of garlic (I just cut them in half and throw them in)
– Optional: Small handful of Parmesan cheese (optional, obviously, as this is meant to be dairy-free but some people who have me make it for them like the sharp bite that comes with the cheese).

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender (food processor preferred for the best texture).
2. Blend well but the texture shouldn’t be smooth. You want to see tiny bits and pieces of the nuts and the basil.
3. Taste and add salt, pepper, oil, basil, cashews, or lemon as needed.
4. Pour over your favorite pasta, fish, meat or rice dish or enjoy as a dip with bread or crackers.
5. Enjoy!

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  1. Allegra said:


    Long-time reader and have never commented before, but I felt compelled to share…
    Real Parm-reggiano is actually lactose free! I’m not sure if that helps you since I guess it’s still technically dairy, but it shouldn’t cause any of the normal dairy issues. My husband is lactose-intolerant, and when I found this out, it was one of the happiest days of our lives haha. We use the real stuff all the time, and it never impacts him. Surprisingly, it’s actually really good for you. Apparently some doctors prescribe it as medicine in Italy. Fairway in Stamford has great blocks of it at pretty decent prices. Check out the article for some more info.

    Check out the article!

    8.6.19 · Reply
    • Sammi said:

      Looking forward to making this soon but wish that you had mention the correct cup size for the cashews instead of saying a large handful, you listed the other ingredients by the cup size ( except the cheese).

      8.6.19 · Reply
  2. Annie said:

    I am definitely making this. I also read recently that slightly blanching the basil will keep your pesto bright green instead of darkening over time in the fridge!

    8.6.19 · Reply
    • Caroline said:

      Another tip that can help, press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pesto. The top layer turns dark from oxygen. Thanks for the recipe!

      8.6.19 · Reply
  3. Katie said:

    I’ve been on such a pesto kick since studying abroad in Italy- can’t wait to try this out!


    8.8.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Let me know how it goes! Where did you study abroad in Italy? I did a semester in Florence 🙂

      8.10.19 · Reply