This fresh homemade dairy free Basil Pesto sauce uses cashews as a substitute for dairy cheese and is like a little taste of heaven. Whole30, Paleo, Keto, Vegan and Dairy free pesto is very simple to make and it tastes great too! Make this basil pesto sauce once and I'll guarantee that you will be making this over and over again to put over pasta or fresh vegetables.
Dairy free pesto can be made at any time of the year. You can use fresh basil, micro basil. Basil from the garden or basil from the store are both suitable to make delicious pesto sauce.
This recipe for dairy free pesto goes perfectly with this Gluten and Dairy Free Gnocchi. And if you are searching for other sauces to make, this Amazing Pasta Sauces Collection will inspire your next meal.
Ingredients Needed for an Absolutely Delicious Dairy Free Pesto Sauce
- Fresh Herbs - this is the main ingredient, for this recipe the herb we are going to use is basil. But you could use sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, parsley, cilantro or any leafy herb or vegetable.
- Nuts - Cashews are the best choice for as a non dairy substitute for cheese in this Paleo pesto sauce because cashews taste the closest to parmesan cheese. Of course you can use any nut you like.
- Oil - You always want to use the freshest and finest oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil works best if you are making a Basil Pesto. You want to match the oil with the type of pesto you are making. Other options are avocado oil, truffle oil, sesame seed oil, etc
- Garlic - garlic is the heart of any good pesto sauce. Always use freshly, crushed garlic. Crushing the garlic brings out the boldness of the garlic. Some even sauté the garlic, this isn't necessary but optional if you want to take this extra step
- Salt and Pepper
- Vinegar or lemon juice how about lime juice1(00% optional)
Note: While I don't personally add lemon juice or vinegar to my basil pesto sauce you may wish to include them. Aside from keeping the basil from discoloring, I don't feel that it adds flavor worth including it as an ingredient. But, that's just my opinion!
So, if you want, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to add lemon juice or not, this is totally optional.
Instructions on How to Make Dairy Free Pesto
The easiest way to make pesto is by using a food processor or mini-food processor. That's what I use. Depending on how much pesto you are going to make you can use a regular size food processor.
Saute some garlic in olive oil until lightly brown and set aside.
Place cashews or nuts into a food processor and chop until ground fine but coarsely.
If you don't have a food processor, don't worry. You can also use a hand mixer.
For those of you that don't have a food processor, you can finely chop up the basil with a knife or scissors.
Of course, if you have a mortar and pestle you can also use it to finely grind the basil and then take it from there. Add remaining ingredients and Bob's your uncle.
Add the basil to the food processor with the cashew and add the garlic. Chop until ingredients are ground finely. Remove ground ingredients and place into a bowl.
Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix gently.
Use immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Variations of Pesto Sauce
You would naturally think that Pesto Sauce is made only with Basil leaves. But, actually there are many different types of herbs or vegetables that you can use to make a delicious vegan pesto sauce.
Here are a few examples:
- Cilantro Pesto
- Pepper Pesto
- Other Nut Pesto (walnut, pine, pistachio, etc…)
- Arugula Pesto
- Spinach Pesto
- Sun Dried Tomatoes Pesto
In addition, you can substitute pine nuts with any of the following:
- Sunflower seeds
- nutritional yeast
- other nuts
- exclude nuts all together
These are just a few examples of the types of pesto that can be made. There are so many absolutely delicious combinations of pesto and with your imagination the possibilities are truly endless.
In this dairy free pesto recipe we substitute pine nuts with cashews as a substitute because cashews have a cheese taste. This basil pesto recipe is refined sugar free, soy free, gluten free, keto and dairy free and its an easy vegan pesto sauce recipe.
What is Pesto Sauce Used For?
Here are some ways to use pesto sauce:
- spaghetti squash (aka Whole30 spaghetti)
- pizza sauce
- grilled/baked salmon, seafood
Unlike other sauces, pesto sauce doesn't require any cooking. One thing you want to consider when you are using Basil to make a pesto is the final taste.
Fresh basil tastes much different than cooked pesto. And usually, the Basil Pesto sauce is added to spaghetti or vegetables just prior to it being served, but you don't actually cook with it.
The only exception might be if you are making a pizza and are using it as a pizza sauce. Then you would spread the pesto over the pizza dough and bake it.
Serving on Vegetables - Use this pesto over grilled vegetables. Once your vegetables are ready, you can pour the sauce over your vegetables and toss to combine.
You can also brush on the pesto if your vegetables are cut into large pieces.
Serving over Spaghetti Squash - Place your cooked spaghetti squash in a pan and heat to cook off the water. Turn heat off and pour pesto over squash and mix to combine.
Don't know how to cook spaghetti squash? Click here to go to my post for Whole30 Spaghetti and Meatballs, where I explain the best way to cook squash.
Serving over Pasta - When it comes to pasta, it's all about that wonderful starchy pasta water! Always reserve some of your past water when you drain your pasta. I recommend saving about 1 cup.
Do not rinse pasta! If you rinse the pasta you will wash away the starch that helps the sauce to stick to it. Once your pasta is drained, place it back in the pot and pour the pesto sauce over it. Mix the pasta to combine the sauce. Use the reserved pasta water if your pasta starts to stick together or clumps up!
Equipment Needed to Make Basil Pesto
Equipment plays a large role in ensuring that your recipe turns out well. This recipe doesn't call for a lot of ingredients. You can use a food processor, a mini food processor or a mortar and pestle.
If you plan on making a large portion of pesto sauce, you'll also need some miniature mason jars.
How Long will Fresh Homemade Pesto Sauce last?
Because homemade pesto sauce has no preservatives it will not have a long shelf life. You can store pesto refrigerated for 5 -7 days in the fridge. Always make sure that there is sufficient oil to submerge the herbs/ingredients.
You can also freeze it in a freezer safe container and thaw it out overnight in the freezer when you are ready to use it.
Note that the storage guidelines provided on this page and site are estimates from personal experiences. We are all adults and as an adult you are responsible to ensure that the food you eat is safe to eat. Since, I'm not a food safety expert, you are responsible to review your local guidelines on food storage prior to storing any food left-overs.
- Not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
For Canadian Guidelines check Government of Canada's Food and Safety Guidelines, see more guidelines at USDA.gov.
That's it. Did you make this? Leave a comment below and rate the recipe.
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Dairy Free Pesto Sauce
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves slightly packed
- 1 cloves garlic peeled
- ½ cup of cashews roasted (or nut of your choice)
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup olive oil or more, depending on your preference
- ½ teaspoon of lemon juice optional
- Roast cashews by placing them on a small baking sheet and roast at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes in a toaster oven or oven. Let cool. Skip this step if they are already roasted.
- Once the cashews are cool, place in a food processor and chop until ground finely but still course.
- Add the basil and garlic and chop until finely ground.
- Place the pesto into a small bowl and add seasoning and olive oil.
- Mix gently
- You may want to add more olive oil as per your preference.
- Add to pasta or vegetable dishes before serving. (do not cook the pesto sauce as this will change the flavor of the basil pesto sauce.)
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