Simplicity and genius of Italian cuisine in one easy pesto, that adds so much flavor to other dishes. Dairy Free Pesto is quick to prepare, super fragrant and utterly delicious.
This Vegan Pesto is lovely with a fresh ciabatta, or in a simple pasta dish. You can put it on pizza or baked potatoes.
Learn how to easily prepare this classic pesto Genovese in a dairy free version.
Why do we love Dairy Free Pesto Genovese?
- fragrant, homemade and fresh
- healthy ingredients: basil, garlic, lemon, EVOO
- super easy
- 100% plant based
- perfect bread spread
- improves taste of many dishes
- so much better than the store bought pesto
Why should I make pesto myself?
Best pesto is freshly made using good quality fresh ingredients. That’s why it tastes the best and has most nutrients when you grind it yourself and serve ASAP. I’ve seen store bought pesto with canola oil instead of EVOO, or with unnecessary ingredients like acidity regulator. Not to mention animal rennet (yikes!), that’s very often included in parmesan cheese.
Having control over ingredients being used, is an important reason, why I choose to make condiments like pesto or hummus myself.
Key ingredients in Dairy Free Pesto?
Few ingredients are important basis of pesto recipe, while others can be swapped to some extend. What’s so genius about pesto? Short list of simple, but very fragrant ingredients.
Fresh Basil leaves are basis of this vegan pesto recipe. They are so fragrant and delicious! Did you know you can also make pesto out of spinach, carrot leaves, arugula or even young beetroot leaves? But, today let’s concentrate on classic.
If you have basil in your garden – that’s fantastic. I always find is rather difficult to grow though. Fortunately, it’s easy to find tiny basil bushes in many supermarkets.
Basil is one of the most fragrant herbs and it is also super healthy. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties are great addition to its amazing taste.
Garlic is important ingredient in pesto. It is responsible for the spiciness and earthy flavor. Not to mention all the health benefits of eating garlic.
It is difficult to say exactly how much garlic you should use in pesto recipe. There are different garlics (size and pungency), and everyone has different preference. I suggest starting with 1 clove. If you decide it is not enough in your ready pesto you can always mince it and add more.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
EVOO is one of the basic ingredients that cannot be swapped in pesto recipe. Extra virgin olive oil is not only very healthy, but specific, a little bitter taste is impossible to replace.
Original Pesto Genovese recipe calls for pine nuts. But… they are not easily available everywhere, and in most places they are quite expensive.
What other choice do we have? Fortunately, plenty.
My preference is toasted cashew nuts or pumpkin seeds; or combination of both. You can also use toasted walnuts or almonds.
Will it change taste of pesto? Yes, slightly. But the main flavor is basil and olive oil, so change of nuts shouldn’t be that noticeable.
Small addition of fresh lemon juice adds freshness and acidity.
This is optional ingredient, but I recommend it, as it adds cheesy flavor to our dairy free pesto. We use it instead of parmesan cheese. Moreover nutritional yeast is good source of B12 vitamin.
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How To Make Vegan Pesto?
PREPARE ALL INGREDIENTS
Peel garlic, cut it into 4-6 pieces. Wash and dry gently basil leaves.
Toast nuts or seeds on a pan on medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool down.
Start by grinding garlic with pinch of salt. We don’t want any noticeable pieces of garlic in our pesto, just the taste, so it has to be smooth.
ADD FIRST PART OF NUTS
We want our vegan pesto to be smooth with some texture from small pieces of nuts. That’s why we add the nuts in 3 stages. Grind one third of toasted nuts until they are very fine.
MORE NUTS AND BASIL
Add more nuts and first part of basil leaves.
Grind using round motions, but also scraping with pestle from top to bottom of the mortar.
When first part of basil leaves is ground add some more and keep grinding.
LAST PART OF INGREDIENTS
Now it’s time to add the rest of ingredients – nuts and basil leaves, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice and olive oil; and finish our perfect vegan pesto. Make sure to grind only until ingredients come nicely together, so that there’s still some texture.
Try your pesto to decide if you need to add more garlic or salt.
Can I make this Vegan Pesto NUT FREE?
Nuts are important ingredient not only for the taste, but also for the structure of pesto. They give us crunchy bits in otherwise smooth texture. Fortunately, we can easily substitute them with seeds. Preferably toasted. Here’s the list of what I would choose:
- toasted pumpkin seeds
- toasted sunflower seeds
- sesame seeds
How to store Dairy Free Pesto?
You can store your vegan pesto refrigerated in a mason jar for a week. Please remember the flavor and taste is best when pesto is fresh. If you want to store pesto more that 3 days make sure there is a thin layer of olive oil on top.
You can also put pesto in ice cube trays and freeze it. You will have nice small portions of pesto when you want to add it to various dishes.