If you’re looking for a flavorful pesto sauce that is vegan with no cheese, look no further than this easy Dairy-Free Pesto Recipe! Packed with the flavors of fresh basil and garlic, this sauce goes well on almost anything. Everyone loves this vegan pesto sauce.

Looking inside a flip-top glass jar filled with pesto made without cheese.

If you love the flavor of basil, then you are going to adore this Dairy-Free Pesto Sauce. While traditional pesto sauces include Parmesan cheese, this recipe excludes any cheese or dairy.

The garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and fresh basil give more than enough flavor to this fresh pesto. I promise this vegan pesto sauce has a delicious flavor and you won’t miss the cheesy flavor at all.

Why You Need This Recipe

  • In addition to being a vegan recipe, this sauce is also paleo, Whole30, and gluten-free.
  • This sauce comes together in minutes and doesen’t need to be heated.
  • Hot or cold, you will love this dairy free pesto. Enjoy it on hot pasta at dinner or stir into cooled pasta to make a quick summer side dish. See my recipe for Dairy-Free Pesto Pasta.
  • Pesto freezes well so you can make this when you have excess basil and enjoy all year.

Key Ingredients

Ingredients for dairy free pesto laid out on a white surface.

Basil is the classic green used for pesto and will give you the perfect, familiar taste even without added cheese.

Pine nuts are small and easy to blend into the pesto. They have a very woodsy smell and taste.

Fresh lemon juice brightens up what are sometimes heavy ingredients.

Olive oil helps the pesto come together in the food processor.

Recipe Steps

You can use a food processor or a blender to make your homemade pesto. You really just need to make sure that the ingredients get well blended into a creamy consistency.

Step One

You can find fresh basil leaves at most grocery stores, farmers’ markets, or you can grow your own basil plant!

To make this recipe, first wash your basil leaves and pat them dry. Then, roughly chop them off the stems.

Basil and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor to make pesto.

Step Two

Next, add the olive oil and garlic to the base of your blender or food processor. Add the pine nuts, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and basil on top.

Dairy free pesto combined in the bowl of a food procesor.

Step Three

Blend or process the ingredients until smooth.

Your easy vegan pesto recipe is now ready to use.

How to Use Dairy-Free Pesto Sauce

The most common way (and my favorite way!) to use pesto is tossed with cooked pasta such as Dairy-Free Pesto Pasta (see my favorite gluten-free pasta brands).

But, you can get creative with your pesto sauce, including using it for:

  • On top of roasted tofu (for a vegan option)
  • On top of roasted chicken or fish (for a paleo option); see my recipe for Instant Pot Pesto Chicken
  • As a salad dressing (use water to thin out the pesto to the desired consistency)
  • As a dip for carrots and celery sticks
  • On a gluten-free pizza or flatbread – even a small amount makes for a delicious sauce
Dairy free pesto mixed with rotini in a large white bowl.

Recipe Tips & Substitutions

  • Feel free to substitute any other nut or seeds for the pine nuts, including sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or cashew nuts. These will all provide a lovely nutty flavor to your pesto.
  • Now that we’re almost into summer, there is just so much fresh basil available. But, if you don’t have 3 full cups worth of fresh basil, you could always make this pesto recipe with baby spinach, baby kale, or any other tender green or herb.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 4 days. Or, freeze any leftover pesto in an ice cube tray for long-term storage. Then, pop out the pesto cubes and store them in a zip-top bag. The next time you need pesto, just defrost a few of your pesto cubes.
  • Are you looking for a cheesy flavor? Feel free to add 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes to the food processor before blending.

Recipe FAQs

What if I don’t have enough basil?

Easy! Grab whatever tender greens you have in the garden or fridge. Baby spinach, baby kale, and others all work here. You’ll change the flavor slightly but they will blend nicely.

Can I use other nuts?

Yes! The purpose of the nuts is to add that hint of nutty flavor, but any of your favorite seeds or nuts will work well here. Make sure they are unsalted.

Do I need to use a food processor?

If you have a high-powered blender that will work just as well. You do need to use some sort of machine to be able to get the basil chopped up and incorporated.

A spoon holding up a scoop of dairy free pesto from a glass jar.

Other Dairy-Free Sauces You Might Like

If you like this vegan pesto, you might also like:

I hope you make this recipe! If you do, please leave a comment and a starred review below.

And, consider following me on social media so we can stay connected. I’m on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube!

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Looking inside a flip-top glass jar filled with pesto.

Dairy-Free Pesto


Description

If you’re looking for a flavorful pesto sauce that is vegan with no cheese, look no further than this easy Dairy-Free Pesto Recipe! Packed with the flavors of fresh basil and garlic, this sauce goes well on almost anything. Everyone loves this vegan pesto sauce.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups loosely-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 12 tablespoons of water (optional, for thinning out the sauce to the desired texture)

Instructions

  1. In the base of a blender or food processor, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove, pine nuts, salt, and fresh basil leaves.
  2. Process on high for 30-45 seconds or until the ingredients have blended together. The pesto should have a smooth and creamy consistency. Feel free to add up to several tablespoons of water if you want the sauce to be thinner.
  3. Serve immediately, or store in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. You can use the pesto on cooked pasta, or on top of a pizza or flatbread. You can also thin it out a bit with olive oil and use it as a salad dressing. 
  2. Feel free to substitute any other nut or seeds for the pine nuts, including sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or cashew nuts. These will all provide a lovely nutty flavor to your pesto.
  3. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 4 days. Or, freeze any leftover pesto in an ice cube tray for long-term storage. Then, pop out the pesto cubes and store them in a zip-top bag. The next time you need pesto, just defrost a few of your pesto cubes.
  4. Now that we’re almost into summer, there is just so much fresh basil available. But, if you don’t have 3 full cups worth of fresh basil, you could always make this pesto recipe with baby spinach, baby kale, or any other tender green or herb.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 minute
  • Category: Sauces
  • Method: Food processor
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: pine nut pesto, vegan pesto sauce, pesto without cheese

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