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Nut-Free Basil Pesto Recipe: Easy Homemade Sauce

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You don’t need nuts to make a delicious fresh basil pesto! Learn how to make this tasty sauce without any pine nuts and without sacrificing flavor.

a bowl of nut-free pesto with basil, cheese, and garlic around it

Fresh pesto is one of my favorite things to add to meals, especially in the summer. This simple sauce adds loads of flavor and a vibrant green color to a variety of dishes. 

While I love the traditional pesto recipe, sometimes I need a nut-free option. This easy recipe for nut-free pesto is my go-to for a delicious, flavorful sauce without the pine nuts.

How to Make Pesto without Pine Nuts

Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which are small, edible seeds of various pine tree varieties. If you are avoiding pine nuts for any reason, most store-bought pesto sauces may not be suitable for you to eat. The good news is you can make this delicious sauce at home without any pine nuts!

Making homemade nut-free pesto is incredibly easy by skipping the pine nuts or substituting a delicious seed. Whether you have an allergy or you’re avoiding pine nuts for another reason, you can enjoy fresh basil pesto made at home in just a few minutes.

a bowl of pesto with garlic, basil, and a mortar and pestle in the background

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Why Nut-Free?

There are a few reasons that you may need to make nut-free pesto. The most common reason, of course, is a tree nut allergy. Pine nuts are tolerated by those with nut allergies more than other nuts, but everyone is different. If you (or a loved one) can’t eat pine nuts, you can still enjoy the delight of freshly made pesto! 

You may also want to skip the pine nuts because they are expensive or hard to find in your area. Or perhaps you don’t have any in the pantry and don’t want to make a grocery store run. Regardless of the reason for avoiding pine nuts, nut-free pesto is easy and delicious!

Nut Alternatives for Pesto

There are several options to substitute for pine nuts in pesto that are tree nut allergy-friendly. Nut-free pesto can be made by simply omitting the pine nuts, but if you enjoy the nutty flavor that the pine nuts typically add, try one of these instead:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Sesame seeds
A variety of seeds laying on a counter

How to Freeze Nut-Free Pesto

If you have a surplus of basil and want a way to preserve it for the winter months, freezer basil pesto is the best way to do that! 

Once you make your pesto, spoon it into ice cube trays and freeze them for a few hours. Once the pesto is frozen solid, transfer the frozen cubes to an airtight container such as a freezer bag or a mason jar. The pesto will stay fresh in the freezer for about a year if the container is properly sealed.

When you’re ready to use some pesto, remove the amount you need and thaw it at room temperature for 4-6 hours, or until completely thawed. Alternatively, you can pop it in the microwave and thaw it on the defrost setting. Frozen pesto tastes nearly as good as fresh pesto once it has been thawed!

Uses for Nut-Free Pesto

Pesto is such a versatile sauce and it makes almost everything taste so much better! Here are just a few of my favorite ways to use fresh basil pesto:

  • Pasta dishes such as orzo pasta salad or one-pot sundried tomato pesto pasta
  • Paninis and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Flavorful homemade salad dressing
  • Drizzle onto avocado toast
  • On top of a baked potato
  • Tossed with roasted veggies such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts
A spoonful of basil pesto and a bowl or basil pesto

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this nut-free pesto dairy-free?

Yes! Hard cheese such as parmesan or pecorino romano is part of traditional basil pesto, but it still tastes good without it. I like to substitute the cheese with vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast or just omit the cheese altogether.

Why is my pesto browning in the fridge?

As pesto is exposed to air, the oxidation causes the basil to brown. If you aren’t going to eat your pesto right away or you have leftovers, drizzle a thin layer of water or olive oil on top of the pesto to block out the air and maintain that bright green color.

a bowl of nut-free pesto with basil, cheese, and garlic around it

Nut-Free Basil Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

You don’t need nuts to make a delicious fresh basil pesto! Learn how to make this tasty sauce without any pine nuts and without sacrificing flavor.


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup seeds of choice, toasted (optional)*
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • ⅓ cups extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed


  1. Wash your basil leaves and spin them in a salad spinner or pat them dry with a clean towel. Add the basil to a food processor or blender and pulse to chop the leaves roughly. 
  2. Add the cheese, seeds, lemon juice, garlic, and seasonings, and start the food processor or blender. As it runs, drizzle in the olive oil and continue blending until a smooth, creamy pesto sauce forms. 
  3. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 5 days or the freezer for a year.


* Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or hemp seeds are great nut alternatives for pesto. I recommend toasting them in a skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes to bring out a nuttier flavor. If you prefer to avoid seeds, you can omit them.

a spoon in a bowl of basil pesto

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