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(This article was originally published on July 29, 2022 and was last updated on August 19, 2022)
To me, nothing says summer like a huge batch of homemade pesto, made with fresh basil leaves harvested from the garden. I love pesto, and how darn easy it is to make and add a delicious burst of summer fresh flavor in so many dishes.
Unfortunately, many people can’t enjoy a traditional basil pesto, because….nuts.
Is Pesto Safe for People with Nut Allergies? Is Pesto Tree-Nut-Free?
Traditional Genovese pesto sauce contains pine nuts (pignolias) which means pesto may not be safe for people with nut allergies.
While there’s some controversy about whether pine nuts are tree nuts or seeds, many reputable government organizations consider pine nuts as priority allergens in the tree nut category.
And anyone with nut allergies knows…you can’t mess around with a nut allergy.
If you have a nut allergy yourself, are cooking for someone with a nut allergy, or want to avoid nuts for other reasons, you can still enjoy pesto pasta, pesto chicken, and other recipes calling for pesto, so long as you opt for nut free pesto.
What is Nut Free Pesto Made of?
Traditional Italian pesto contains fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano), garlic, salt, and pine nuts.
However, pesto can easily be made by substituting pine nuts for other nuts, or making a nut free basil pesto.
In the Provence region of France, pistou is a popular and nut free version of classic fresh basil pesto. Similar to Genovese pesto, it’s made with fresh basil, garlic, salt, and extra virgin olive oil, with the option of adding cheese (Mimolette instead of parmesan cheese and Pecorino Romano).
What Can you Use to Replace Nuts in Pesto?
One of the beautiful things about pesto is its such a simple recipe to make, there’s a ton of room for creativity.
If you want to go beyond a French Pistou (where you simply skip the pine nuts to make it nut free), you can add in seeds, swap ingredients, and get creative with just a few substitutions.
The nut free basil pesto recipes I’ve collected below use a variety of ingredients to replace nuts in pesto:
More greens (spinach, broccoli, leafy greens, arugula, kale)
11 Nut Free Pesto Recipes
Pesto is a firm favorite for so many of us, and with good reason. It has a wonderful depth of flavor and versatility, that works just as well as a pasta sauce and a sandwich, with fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables. Even though many people opt for storebought pesto, it's actually pretty easy to make using the basil from your garden, and is a wonderful summertime staple that freezes well for the winter months. However, there is one issue that some people have with pesto, and that is it usually contains nuts (classic basil contains pine nuts). If you'd prefer a nut free pesto recipe for whatever reason, I've gathered this collection of 11 nut free basil pesto recipes to help. Go ahead and find a favorite!
Classic pesto is packed with the herbaceous flavors of Genovese basil, and this is as close to a classic pesto as you'll get that is free from nuts. This nut free version of classic Pesto alla Genovese has the same texture as the original, substituting sunflower seeds for pine nuts, and you won’t notice much difference in the flavor at all.
Another version of a classic basil pesto, without the nuts and with the added zing of a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice, which pairs so well with basil! This version simply omits the nuts, which is a good option if you're not keep on adding in a substitute ingredient or don't miss the crunch of the pine nuts.
There's no denying classic pesto - made with Genovese basil - is delicious. But it's such a simple recipe, it's hard not to want to get creative and try to zhuzh it up a bit! This nut free pesto recipes uses the distinctive flavor of Thai basil instead of regular sweet basil. It adds an anise-like flavor to the traditional Italian sauce, making it great for Asian-inspired dishes or fusion cooking. Simple ingredients that work well together is never a bad thing, right?
Classic pesto has cheese, which gives it a delicious creaminess and saltiness, and an overall depth of flavor. However, if you'd like a nut-free and dairy-free vegan pesto, this is a great option. This nut free pesto recipe uses blended-up pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts, which adds both texture and creaminess.
This nut free pesto skips the pine nuts and replaces them with extra greens...in this case, spinach. Hello, extra nutrients for your standard pesto! Spinach is such an easy addition to make, but adds texture and thickness to this nut free pesto.
Another nut free spinach and basil pesto, this version uses nutritional yeast instead of cheese to make it vegan. It combines simple ingredients but gives off great results in a speedy time. What’s not to like?
Pesto can be made in so many ways, but I think this recipe wins when it comes to uniqueness. Broccoli works really well when put into the food processor and gives off that earthy taste with the usual green color we expect (working together with basil, of course). The white beans give that creaminess and brings the whole thing together. One to try!
If you want to add a source of protein to your pesto then look no further than this chickpea basil pesto. This is a great option for anyone who wants that earthiness of the basil and creaminess that you get when combining all of the ingredients and flavors.