Nut Free Basil Pesto

This creamy nut free basil pesto recipe is made without pine nuts for an easy, budget-friendly alternative that doesn’t sacrifice any flavor!

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There’s nothing better than biting into creamy, super fresh tasting pesto slathered on a sandwich or a slice of fresh Italian bread. Something about it just tastes like summer, which is a feeling we can all appreciate, even in the dead of winter. The only downside is that eating too much pesto is an expensive habit, whether you’re buying jars of it at the grocery store or making it yourself – until now! Say hello to the best nut free basil pesto you’ll ever try, perfect for indulging in creamy goodness on a budget.

This no nut basil pesto recipe has all the fresh flavor you know and love, only it’s made without pine nuts. How do you make basil pesto without pine nuts, you ask? The short answer: breadcrumbs. The long answer: fresh, high quality ingredients, a powerful food processor (or blender), and less than 10 minutes of your time.

So if you’re looking for an alternative to using nuts in pesto, and you want to make a delicious creamy pesto on a budget, you’re in for a treat!

A mason jar of nut-free basil pesto

Nut-Free Basil Pesto Recipe Ingredients

This creamy pesto recipe is made without pine nuts for an easy and cheaper alternative to store-bought pesto that even those with nut allergies can enjoy. So what can you use instead of pine nuts in pesto?

Breadcrumbs!

Breadcrumbs mimic the texture of pine nuts but add a unique flavor to pesto, while being a more easily accessible ingredient. They’re much cheaper than pine nuts, and you can even make them yourself. And they’re the best substitute for anyone in need of a nut free pesto recipe!

Here’s what you’ll need to make a creamy pesto sauce without pine nuts:

  • Fresh basil
  • Plain breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Ice water

While the ingredients for making your own nut free basil pesto are fairly straightforward, we can’t stress enough that the quality of your ingredients matters! The most basic recipes can benefit from fresh, high-quality ingredients the most because you taste every single ingredient. For this recipe, we recommend using only the freshest basil and springing for a higher end olive oil. You’ll taste the difference!

Note: The flavor of olive oil varies widely based on where it’s from and how it was processed, among other factors. Since olive oil is one of the most prominent ingredients in pesto, the flavor of the oil will largely influence the flavor of the pesto. We love how this California Olive Ranch global blend tastes in our basil pesto, but we suggest trying your favorite high quality olive oil and experimenting with different kinds to determine what you enjoy best!

How To Make No Nut Basil Pesto

Our homemade basil pesto recipe is very straightforward and easy to make – all you need is a food processor or blender. Here’s how to make the best nut free pesto at home:

  1. Add basil leaves, breadcrumbs, olive oil, grated parmesan, minced garlic, salt, and about 2 tablespoons of the ice water to the food processor. 
  2. Cover and pulse a few times to break up the basil, then add a little more of the ice water and process on low speed for a few seconds.
  3. Scrape the sides of the food processor, then add a little more ice water and process on medium speed for just a few more seconds. Continue this process of scraping, adding ice water a little at a time, and processing on medium speed until the pesto is smooth and creamy and you’ve used all the water.
  4. Enjoy immediately or store in a jar in the refrigerator or freezer.

Slowly adding ice cold water to the pesto as it processes will help preserve the bright green color of the basil. (We learned this trick from MasterClass after watching a course taught by renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura). While not totally necessary, we think the bright color makes this homemade pesto look super appetizing! 

Adding the water a little at a time will help you keep an eye on the texture of your pesto, so you can easily add more or less water depending on how creamy you want it to be. Just be sure not to over-process your pesto – as soon as it’s the texture you like, stop the food processor! This will ensure you don’t pulverize the basil too much, which can affect the flavor.

A top down view of creamy nut-free pesto in a mason jar

Storing Homemade Nut Free Pesto

In case you don’t eat all this delicious pesto right away, we recommend storing it in a glass jar with a screw-on lid. You’ll want to fill the jar almost to the top, so there isn’t much air inside which can oxidize the basil and make it turn brown. Store pesto in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost frozen pesto, simply put it in the fridge about 24 hours before you want to use it.

Serving Suggestions

Basil pesto tastes so delicious as a spread or dip for fresh bread, crackers, crostini, and veggies! We also love incorporating pesto into charcuterie boards with fresh tomato and mozzarella. You can even use pesto as a sauce for pasta or pizza, a spread on sandwiches, or a stuffing for chicken. 

Unless you just want to gobble all this pesto up as a snack, here are a few recipes you can make with it:

FAQs

Is it cheaper to make your own pesto? Yes, if you make pesto without pine nuts! 

Pine nuts can be quite expensive, which is why our nut free pesto recipe is perfect for enjoying pesto on a budget! You can easily make it yourself for cheaper than most store-bought pesto.

Jarred pesto can range anywhere from $5 to $15, depending on the quality and size of the jar. To make our nut-free basil pesto recipe, you’ll use about $3 worth of fresh basil, $4 worth of extra virgin olive oil, and less than a dollar’s worth of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, and minced garlic (each). And you likely already have salt and cold water at home, so they’re basically free. 

Plus, one batch of our recipe makes almost 2 cups of pesto – way more than what you can buy in a standard jar! So for about $8 worth of ingredients, you can easily make your own creamy nut-free pesto at home.

Is it worth making your own pesto? Absolutely. Freshly made basil pesto tastes so much lighter, healthier, and more flavorful than store-bought jarred pesto. Since basil oxidizes (turns brown) quickly, jarred pesto typically has a lot of olive oil to keep the basil green. This makes it taste heavier, more greasy, and not quite as fresh.

A jar of homemade nut free pesto with some spread on a slice of Italian bread

Try our recipe for creamy nut-free basil pesto below and don’t forget to rate, comment, and share! We hope you love this recipe as much as we do.


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Nut Free Basil Pesto

This creamy nut free basil pesto recipe is made without pine nuts for an easy, budget-friendly alternative that doesn't sacrifice any flavor!
Servings 28 tablespoons
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2.4 oz fresh basil leaves about 1 cup tightly packed
  • ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup ice water

Instructions

  • Add basil leaves, breadcrumbs, olive oil, grated parmesan, minced garlic, salt, and about 2 tbsp of the ice water to the food processor. Cover and pulse a few times to break up the basil, then add about 2 tbsp more of the ice water and process on low speed for a few seconds.
  • Scrape the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula, then add a little more ice water and process on medium speed for just a few more seconds. Continue this process of scraping, adding ice water a little at a time and processing on medium speed until the pesto is smooth and creamy.
  • Enjoy immediately with fresh bread or crackers, use as a sauce or spread on pasta and sandwiches, or transfer to a glass jar for storing in the fridge or freezer.

Notes

Olive oil: There are many flavors and varieties of olive oil. As it’s one of the most prominent ingredients in pesto, the flavor of the oil you choose will largely influence the flavor of the pesto. We love how this California Olive Ranch global blend tastes in our basil pesto, but we suggest trying your favorite high quality olive oil and experimenting with different kinds to determine what you enjoy best!
Ice water: Fill a bowl with ice cubes and cold filtered water, then use a measuring cup or measuring spoon to measure and add ice water to the pesto. Adding the water a little at a time will help you keep an eye on the texture of your pesto, so you can easily add more or less water depending on how creamy you want it to be.
Storing nut free pesto: You can store homemade pesto in a glass jar with a screw-on lid. You’ll want to fill the jar almost to the top, so there isn’t much air inside which can oxidize the basil and make it turn brown. Store pesto in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost frozen pesto, simply put it in the fridge about 24 hours before you want to use it.
Serving suggestions: Basil pesto tastes so delicious as a spread or dip for fresh bread, crackers, crostini, and veggies! We also love incorporating pesto into charcuterie boards with fresh tomato and mozzarella. You can even use pesto as a sauce for pasta or pizza, a spread on sandwiches, or a stuffing for chicken.
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Author: Nicole
Calories: 46kcal
Course: Dip, Ingredients, Sauce, Snack, Snacks, Spread
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: blender, breadcrumbs, extra virgin olive oil, food processor, fresh basil, garlic, ice water, no nut, nut free, parmesan

Nutrition

Calories: 46kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 51mg | Potassium: 13mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 136IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 0.2mg

If you have any questions regarding the information presented in this post, please refer to our Nutrition Disclaimer here.

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