Add delicious flavor to your favorite Mediterranean dishes with our dairy free and nut free pesto! This traditional-style basil pesto is easy to make and tastes so good you won’t miss the dairy!
Hey friends, I’m pretty excited to share this nut free pesto recipe with you today! I love pesto, but unless I make it myself, I typically can’t have it since most store bought versions pretty much always have dairy in them.
My daughter has tree nut allergies, so I can’t buy pesto with pine nuts to add to our family recipes, so pesto is usually off the menu for us.
I decided to make some of our own pesto and spring for some dairy free parmesan cheese to make it, and it turned out pretty amazing. I usually don’t buy a lot of dairy free cheese because it’s expensive, but a little goes a long way with the parmesan so it lasts longer and can be used for quite a few recipes before it runs out.
Don’t let the idea of homemade pesto intimidate you! Pesto is pretty easy to make when you have all the ingredients prepared, and it adds so much flavor to your favorite recipes.
The biggest hurdle for us in making pesto is finding the basil we need. The tiny packets of fresh basil at the store can be hard to find, so we bought some fresh basil plants to keep on hand in our house, including some really pretty purple basil.
Our allergy friendly pesto is not only dairy free and nut free, it’s also top 8 free and vegan when you use the Violife parmesan style cheese!
Read on for tips on how to make this vegan pesto, variations, and how to store it (hint: freezing it makes it last longer!).
How to make dairy free and nut free pesto
We made our pesto without tree nuts (sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts) and dairy free using Violife parmesan style dairy free cheese.
Our nut free pesto is pretty easy and simple to make, you’ll just need a few minutes to prep everything (like wash and separate your basil, grate your dairy free cheese, etc.)
Here’s an overview of the steps for making our dairy free pesto.
Please note: this is just an overview of the steps, the recipe card with complete ingredients and instructions are at the end of the post!
- Add your sunflower seeds, grated dairy free parmesan, salt, and lemon zest to a food processor.
- Process until it looks like coarse crumbs.
- Add the fresh basil and garlic and process again until the basil is finely chopped.
- Turn on the processor again and while the processor is running, pour the oil into the processor.
- Turn off, scrape the sides, and process again till you’re happy with the texture of your pesto.
I decided to add some lemon zest to this recipe just because I thought it would taste great with the basil and garlic.
Normally pesto doesn’t call for lemon zest, but our pesto tastes great with it! It’s completely optional though, it still tastes amazing without it as well if citrus is not your thing or if you’re allergic to lemons.
Originally, I used 1 teaspoon of salt with this recipe, but with the lemon zest it actually makes it taste saltier (lemon zest is a good salt replacement if you’re trying to eat low sodium), so I was able to reduce the salt in this recipe when I added the lemon zest.
This recipe contains coconut if you use Violife parmesan, but coconut is not a tree nut so I didn’t include it as a nut. But check with your allergist about coconut products if you have a tree nut allergy.
Variations of our nut free pesto
You can try subbing the sunflower seeds with roasted pumpkin seeds if you like as well. I’m allergic to pumpkin seeds so I couldn’t try this variation, but if you do try that leave a comment letting us know!
Pumpkin seeds can be a bit more bitter tasting than sunflower seeds, so be prepared for the flavor of the pesto to be a bit more bitter if you use pumpkin seeds.
If you can’t find a suitable dairy free parmesan cheese that fits your allergies, you can make this without the dairy free parmesan. Just slightly reduce the oil by 1-2 Tablespoons.
If you skip the cheese, it won’t have as much umami to the pesto, but it will still be delicious! You can also try adding some nutritional yeast to the pesto if you skip the cheese.
How to store our dairy free pesto
If you plan on using this pesto soon, you can store this in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge.
I’ve found that the color of the pesto starts to get a little brown on top once it’s stored due to oxidation (similar to how an avocado gets a little brown), but just stir up the pesto and it tastes fine.
If you’re not going to use all of your pesto within 3 days, you can stir it up and then pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze for pesto cubes.
This helps your pesto last longer and makes it in small sizes for easily adding to your favorite recipes!
Pop the frozen pesto cubes out of the ice cube tray once they’re frozen and then store them in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag for a few months.
I found that the frozen pesto cubes thaw fairly quickly since they doesn’t have a lot of water in them. Just take them out and thaw in the fridge or add it directly to your hot recipe to thaw and add to your dish.
Dairy Free Basil Pesto (Nut Free)
- Add the sunflower seeds, grated dairy free parmesan, salt, and lemon zest (if using) to a small food processor.
- Process the seeds and cheese until it looks like coarse crumbs.
- Add the fresh basil and garlic to the food processor and process again until the basil is finely chopped.
- Turn on the processor and while the processor is running, pour the oil into the processor, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed so everything gets processed evenly.
- Process until you're happy with the texture of your pesto.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Or freeze in an ice tray to make pesto cubes you can thaw and add to your favorite dish.
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist