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Homemade Dairy-Free Basil Pesto


Homemade paleo basil pesto (dairy-free)

This homemade, paleo friendly pesto is super versatile in the kitchen. I often make a batch of this dairy-free recipe and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks to use up in many different recipes.

My favourite ways to us pesto include adding it to scrambled eggs, drizzling over roasted or steamed vegetables (especially pumpkin and carrots), using with grilled chicken or fish, mixing in with meatballs or using as a condiment with burgers, adding to salad dressings and aioli.

The nice thing about making your own pesto is that you can mix in any other herbs as well as rocket/arugula or baby spinach. Pesto is great for using up things like the green tops of young carrots, or the stalks of rainbow chard or other greens.

Homemade dairy-free pesto recipe

Cook’s notes

If you can’t find pine nuts or they’re out of your budget, try adding some cashew nuts, hazelnuts, or almonds instead. The nuts add a little creaminess as well as that warm, earthy flavour to the pesto.

Regular pesto is made with Parmesan cheese, or other similar aged cheeses, but for a dairy-free version you can simply go without or add nutritional yeast flakes, which is what I do in this recipe. Nutritional yeast flakes are little yellow flakes of deactivated yeast and they have a lovely savoury, cheesy, umami flavour. They’re also a great source of B-vitamins. You can find nutritional yeast flakes in most health food stores and online.

Store the pesto in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. The top layer of the pesto will change colour as it gets exposed to oxygen, so simply stir the pesto before using or scoop the top layer off, if you want the fresher, greener sauce. If you don’t plan to use the pesto for a few days, you can add a tablespoon of olive oil over the top to seal the top layer from any air.

5.0 from 7 reviews
Homemade Dairy-Free Basil Pesto
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Condiment
Serves: 2 cups
  • 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only (about 2-3 cups)
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (toasted)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
  1. Preheat a frying pan until hot and cook the pine nuts for 1-2 minutes until browned slightly, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Place all ingredients in a blender or a food processor and puree until smooth and well combined.

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Homemade Dairy-Free Basil Pesto (Paleo, Whole30, Gluten-free)


  1. I LOVE homemade pesto! There’s just nothing like it during the summer when basil is in season. I love that your version has all of that lemon goodness plus the nutritional yeast, I bet that really helps add that “parmesan” flavor, a nice alternative for those of us who can’t have dairy.

  2. LOVE love love love this Basil Pesto Sauce ! I can use it literally for anything from salad, dipping sauce, to grilled meat. Perfect everyday sauce !

  3. Yum, I can practically smell that bunch of basil. I love pesto so much! I haven’t tried adding nutritional yeast to mine but will have to try that the next time I make a batch.

  4. Pesto is my favorite thing to make in the summer when my garden is overflowing with basil, and I often use cashews in place of pine nuts too whenever I run out of them. They’re super expensive here so I always buy them in bulk to help reduce the cost!

  5. That looks delicious Irena! I shall certainly be trying this (converting my existing recipe) and I love your suggestions for use over chicken and veggies ….thanks very much for the recipe.

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