How to Make Your Own Pesto – With a Dairy-Free Option

I absolutely love the taste of traditional pesto. The creamy garlic and herb spread is super versatile for use in just about any dish.

However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I actually tasted pesto. In fact, as a child I was a very picky eater. I loved the taste of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and would eat them right out of the garden. However, I refused to eat anything that consisted of a green sauce or spread.

easy basil pesto
Homemade basil pesto ready to be served.

But when I finally got up the nerve to try my friend’s Guacamole Recipe, I was instantly hooked! Therefore, I expanded my horizon and began to try new foods.

And that is how I discovered Pesto! I was at an Italian restaurant and they served Pesto with breadsticks, I instantly fell in love.

Where had this been all my life? Okay, it was there and I refused to try it. But I definitely couldn’t get enough of it!

I ate it as a spread on bread. And then I used it in place of traditional pizza sauce and it was life-changing. So I decided to try it in other recipes as well.

pesto on bread
My family loves to spread pesto on lightly toasted baguettes with a slice of tomato and Mozzarella cheese on top!

From adding a tablespoon or two of it to white sauces to pouring it over chicken as it bakes, the opportunities are endless.

Dairy Free Option

However, fast forward 20 years and I have suddenly become intolerant to all dairy products.

I was so disappointed that I couldn’t have pesto anymore because one of the main ingredients is Parmesan cheese.

That was until I decided to make it myself and use nutritional yeast as a substitute for the cheese. BRILLIANT!!!

nutritional yeast
For a dairy-free option use Nutritional Yeast instead of the Parmesan Cheese.

Now when I pick my basil out of the garden, the first thing that I make is dairy-free Pesto! It still tastes wonderful and I can enjoy it just like I used to.

Easy to Make Basil Pesto

Traditional pesto starts off with basil. This herb is extremely aromatic and is easy to grow or find in most grocery stores.

Wash and cut the large stems off. This will leave you with primarily the basil leaves. However, some smaller stems are fine to use as well. Throw the leaves into a food processor or small blender.

basil leaves
Remove the basil leaves from the main stem and place in your food processor.

Next, add in the pine nuts. If you can’t find pine nuts, or don’t want to spend the money for them (they are rather expensive), then you can substitute walnuts in this pesto recipe.

I will typically buy a larger bag of pine nuts and then freeze them in 1/4 cup portions until I am ready to use them.

Now add the garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, and salt. Process on HIGH until the mixture begins to make small crumbles.

pesto small crumbles
The basil and pine nuts mixture have been processed until they form a nice crumble.

Then, in the top of the food processor, slowly add in the oil. Be sure to scrape down the sides as needed.

Finally, add the water until you get the desired consistency.

Now your Pesto is ready! Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

If you aren’t going to use it within 7 days, freeze it in ice cube trays. This will allow you to add a small portion to whatever recipe that you are making without having to make an entire batch!

freeze pesto
Pesto freezes very well. We place a tablespoon in each slot of an ice cube tray and freeze until needed.

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pesto featured

Easy Basil Pesto Recipe

Yield: 1 cup

A quick and easy recipe to make delicious homemade pesto to use on bread, pasta, pizza, chicken, pork and more!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water, more or less to taste

Instructions

  1. Add the basil, nuts, peeled garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, and sea salt into a food processor or small blender and mix on high until a loose paste forms and then scrape down the sides.
  2. While on low, slowly pour in the olive oil through the top of the food processor then scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Slowly add in the water until the desired consistency has been reached. Use less water for a thicker sauce and more water for a thinner sauce.
  4. Taste and add additional salt if desired.

Notes

Add pesto to pasta, bread, pizzas, poultry, sauces, dressings, etc..
Store in refrigerator for 1 week.
Pesto freezes well - it is best to pour into ice cube trays and freeze for individual use.

Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g
How to Make Your Own Pesto – With a Dairy-Free Option
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