Dairy Free Pesto

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This dairy free pesto is so rich and full of flavour no-one will even realise the cheese is missing. Truly! Your cheese loving friends will be none the wiser because this pesto still has that lovely cheesy taste.

A small jar with a brown string bow around the rim is sitting on a white frilled coaster in the middle of a grey table. It contains bright green pesto. Above the jar and to the right on the table there are extra basil leaves. Below the jar and to the right on the table a small scoop contains pine nuts that are cascading onto the table.Pin

What does a basic pesto sauce contain?

Pesto has its roots in Liguria, Italy, originating in the capital city of Genoa. This is why it’s also known as Pesto Genovese or Pesto alla Genovese. But to call it the latter, the ingredients used must have European Union (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) DOP status.

Traditionally, people make this sauce with sweet Genovese basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and a combination of two hard cheeses – pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) and parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan). In my humble opinion, it’s the most delectable pasta sauce ever.

However, many people want to skip on the cheese for a variety of reasons. And that means a dairy free pesto. The traditional pesto tastes sweet, cheesy, and rich, with a hint of garlic. The cheese can’t simply be omitted without significantly changing the flavour profile.

Thankfully, there are two ingredients that address this – shiro/white miso and nutritional yeast.

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Ingredients For Dairy Free Pesto

Olive oil is one of the predominant flavours in this recipe and as such, it’s important to choose a good one. Any favoured brand will be fine but do always go for an extra virgin. This type of olive oil is not processed and is highest in antioxidant and vitamin plus mineral content. It’s also delicious!

No amount of garlic is going to hide a sub-standard olive oil in this sauce, so choose wisely.

The ingredients needed to make pesto are all shown in this image sitting on a grey table. Basil, garlic, shiro miso, extra virgin olive oil, nutritional yeast, pine nuts, and salt.Pin
  • Basil – The number one ingredient. Bright green, plump looking leaves with a strong aroma is perfect for this pesto.
  • Olive oil – As mentioned above, go for an extra virgin olive oil for the added health benefits and clean, crisp taste.
  • Pine nuts – These help to make this pesto luscious and creamy.
  • Nutritional Yeast – The secret ingredient that gives this dairy free pesto its cheesy flavour. Nutritional yeast is now widely available in most supermarkets and usually found in the health food aisle.
  • White / Shiro miso – This gives sweetness, which is usually provided by the cheeses in the traditional recipe.
  • Garlic – Adds sweetness and pungency to the sauce.
  • Salt – Helps to enhance the flavour of the other ingredients.

This simple sauce is rich in nutrients and will go with just about everything. It’s great mixed through pasta, dolloped onto eggs, it’s divine when spread on toast and is delicious straight out of the jar!

How To Make This Dairy Free Pesto

Not having cheese in this recipe does affect the texture slightly. It can result in a pesto that’s pasty smooth. To avoid this, blend until just combined.

  1. Remove the basil leaves from the stems then wash and pat dry.
  2. Add the garlic, miso, pine nuts and a handful of basil leaves to a food processor and blend on high for a few seconds.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the blender then add the nutritional yeast, another big handful of basil, half the olive oil, and the salt. Blend again to combine.
  4. Add the remaining basil and olive oil and blend a final time to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  5. Pour into a jar and keep in the fridge. Will keep for 7 – 10 days.
  6. Enjoy over pasta, use as a dip, dollop on roast vegetables or poached eggs.

This will keep in the fridge for 7 – 10 days or can also be frozen. Be sure to drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of the pesto each time you take some from the jar. This ensures it will stay fresh and a beautiful shade of bright green.

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What To Have With Pesto?

Pesto can be enjoyed with just about anything. You can use it as a pasta sauce as I’ve done here. Dip polenta chips in it, have it with some chickpea flatbread or spread it over this delicious pesto crusted salmon.

FAQ

Does all pesto contain dairy?

Most store-bought traditional-style pesto will contain dairy. Checking the label or buying a vegan pesto is the only way to ensure it doesn’t.

Why does my pesto taste bitter?

Bitterness can result from the olive oil chosen, which is why selecting an oil you know, and love is important. It can also occur from heating the pesto at high heat. Basil contains volatile oils that degrade when heated. This produces muted flavours and a sour, somewhat bitter taste. Pesto is best used raw and mixed through warm foods. This helps to retain both its nutrients and flavour.

Does pesto have to contain basil?

Historically, recipes for pesto or pesto-style sauces were made with a variety of ingredients, many even without basil. Some of the earliest found were in the late 19th Century. This changed in the post war period and the pesto we know today became the standard recipe. As outlined in the post above though, an actual Ligurian pesto must contain certain DOP ingredients to be called Pesto Genovese.

More Sauces, Dips And Spreads To Enjoy

A square image showing a small jar with a brown string bow around the rim, which is sitting on a white frilled coaster in the middle of a grey table. It contains bright green pesto. Above the jar and to the right on the table there are extra basil leaves that can just be seen. Below the jar and to the right on the table a small amount of pine nuts can also just be seen.Pin

Dairy Free Pesto

Indulge in the luscious flavors of this dairy-free pesto that delivers a deliciously rich dip, spread, or sauce without the need for dairy.
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Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Easy, Quick
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Calories: 1281kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Blender

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves only, roughly 2 cups
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 tsp shiro (white) miso
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions

  • Remove the basil leaves from the stems then wash and pat dry.
  • Add the garlic, miso, pine nuts and a handful of basil leaves to a food processor and blend on high for a few seconds.
  • Scrape down the sides of the blender then add the nutritional yeast, another big handful of basil, half the olive oil, and the salt. Blend again to combine.
  • Add the remaining basil and olive oil then blend one last time to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Pour into a jar and keep in the fridge. Will keep for 7 – 10 days. Also, ensure you drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of the pesto each time you take some from the jar. This helps it stay fresh and retain its beautiful shade of bright green.
  • Enjoy over pasta, use as a dip, dollop on roast vegetables or poached eggs.

Video

Notes

This pesto can also be frozen. To do this line a small container that has a lid with baking paper. Spread the pesto out into a thin layer (~ 1/2cm or 1/4 of an inch) over the paper, put the lid on the container and keep in the freezer. When you want to use some, just break off a piece and allow it to thaw to room temperature.
If you would prefer to toss all the ingredients in at once and blend to make it even easier you can absolutely do this. However, I think the texture is much nicer and far more even if the basil and oil are added in stages.

Nutrition

Serving: 20g | Calories: 1281kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 132g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 23g | Monounsaturated Fat: 85g | Cholesterol: -6mg | Sodium: 809mg | Potassium: 669mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 36IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 4mg

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    finally found a delicious Dairy Free Pesto that doesn’t break apart and is still creamy. We really enjoyed this with our pasta and shrimps.

  2. 5 stars
    Loved the additions of miso and yeast flakes. I have made a dairy-free pesto before but by simply omitting the cheese. Adding these two ingredients makes up for the lost cheesy, umami flavour you would get from the Parmesan. I would recommend everyone to absolutely try and use those. Luckily I had some in the kitchen already and with all the basil harvest I have right now, this was the perfect recipe to find!

5 from 5 votes

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