With an abundance of fragrant basil, there is nothing better than whipping up a quick batch of nut free pesto. My homemade pesto recipe freezes well and enhances the flavor of everything from sauces to dips, dressings, egg dishes, and more. This easy recipe is perfect for anyone with nut allergies.
Basil is my favorite thing to grow in my garden in the summer. It is fairly easy to grow and delicious in so many preparations. I love to nibble on a leaf while gardening, use it in salads, and even stick a sprig into my water bottle.
As the summer winds down I always take any basil that is still growing and make it into pesto to enjoy in the winter months. My nut free pesto recipe is perfect to use up your summer bounty.
If you don't garden simply buy a couple of bunches at the store and you can also have delicious homemade pesto! My basil pesto recipe without nuts is the best thing you can pull out of the freezer come February and March. It is also low carb, keto, gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and Trim Healthy Mama friendly.
Fresh Basil - My favorite ingredient. I try to grow a lot of basil in the summers to have enough to make a year's worth of pesto. If you are buying basil look for smooth, deep green leaves and a fragrant smell.
Roasted, Salted Sunflower Seeds - These work perfectly for recipes you would like to replace nuts.
Hard Cheese - Any type such as Romano or Parmesan will work. For a dairy-free version try adding nutritional yeast.
Oil - I prefer a mild flavored oil in my pesto.
Salt & Pepper - OPTIONAL. If you do use salted seeds you may not need any additional salt. You can add kosher salt or sea salt and black pepper to taste after the last step.
How to Make Nut Free Pesto
The easiest way to make pesto is definitely by using a food processor. Something I don't suggest is packing all the ingredients into the blending cup of a small rocket type blender (despite my photos). I had to stop it and mix it frequently. It didn't have enough liquid or enough room to really chop everything easily. Using a standard small food processor would've saved some time and aggravation.
Step One: Add the ingredients to a food processor and blend until combined. Add more oil if needed.
Expert Tip: If you don't have a blender or food processor you can use a mortar and pestle.
Spinach Pesto - Just sub in baby spinach in place of the basil.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto - Use sundried tomatoes (soak them first in hot water) in place of, or in addition to, the fresh basil leaves.
Kale Pesto - Swap out the basil for kale.
Fresh Herbs - Try another herb in place of the basil. I like oregano pesto with feta cheese in it.
Garlic - Add some fresh garlic cloves or roasted garlic to the food processor with the other ingredients.
Parsley Pesto - Again, just switch the basil for parsley.
Vegan Pesto - Swap in nutritional yeast for the cheese to make a vegan nut free pesto.
Red Pepper Flakes - Like a bit of heat? Add a tiny pinch or two.
Cilantro Lime Pesto - Switch out the basil for fresh cilantro and add lime juice or lime zest.
Lemon Pesto - Add in some lemon juice or lemon zest.
See a pattern here? You can keep the sunflower seeds and oil and change out the other ingredients and still get a delicious pesto recipe!
What is Nut Free Pesto?
Traditional basil pesto has basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. For anyone with a pine nut allergy or tree nut allergy that means they can't have pesto at all.
When I stumbled upon a huge bag of roasted, salted sunflower seeds on sale at Costco last month I immediately thought to use them in a pesto without nuts. They are much cheaper than pine nuts and with a nut allergy in my house, only a few types of nuts are allowed to enter.
I didn't miss the pignoli nuts in this pesto. The flavor of the basil and cheese shine through and I encourage you to use a good hard cheese in this and not the green shaker kind. I'm not opposed to those but in this nut free pesto sauce recipe, you can taste the difference. Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese both work well.
If you prefer another seed you can try pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds.
What type of oil should I use for pesto?
Traditionally, extra virgin olive oil is used for fresh basil pesto but any type of mild flavor oil may be used instead. Avocado oil works very well in this pine nut free pesto recipe. The oil provides healthy fats.
How do I store pesto?
You can keep this nut-free pesto recipe in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks. The oil in it helps to preserve it so it is possible it will last longer than that.
Can I freeze pesto?
Absolutely! Leftover pesto freezes very well. I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray. Once it is solid you can pop the cubes out of the ice cube trays and transfer them to a freezer bag. Make sure to squeeze as much air out of the freezer storage bag as possible to avoid freezer burn. Pesto can be frozen up to 6 months. Make sure to store a bit in the fridge as well for upcoming recipes.
How can I use pesto?
Pesto works great as a marinade for grilled meats and veggies, as a base for creamy dips and salad dressings, as a spread for pizza (one of my favorite ways to use this delicious sauce), as a condiment for burgers, and in recipes. Make a classic pesto pasta by tossing this with zucchini noodles, homemade keto pasta noodles, or hearts of palm noodles.
Nut Free Pesto
- 1 cup fresh basil , packed
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- ¼ cup roasted salted sunflower seeds
- Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for up to 6 months.
Originally Published September 26, 2017. Revised and Republished March 17, 2023.