Nut-Free Pesto

Need a nut-free pesto? Learn how to make pesto without pine nuts with this recipe. A lower calorie, lighter pesto, this pesto recipe without nuts is a delicious blend of fresh basil, parmesan, olive oil, garlic, and lemon.

A bowl of nut-free pesto

Why You’ll Love This Pesto Recipe Without Pine Nuts!

  • This simple pesto recipe is made with a few basic ingredients like basil, parmesan, olive oil, garlic, and lemon.
  • Whether you have nut allergies (like me!) or just don’t have any pine nuts on hand, this pesto recipe without pine nuts makes it the perfect nut-free pesto for all your pesto needs.
  • It’s beautifully, brightly flavored with fresh basil and lemon, but made a little lighter by substituting water for a small amount of the oil.
  • Pesto is quite versatile – you’ll enjoy many ways to use it!
  • If you don’t use it all, it’s also very easy to store in the fridge or in the freezer for later.

What is pesto?

Pesto is a basil-based sauce from Italy. Traditionally it’s made of basil, olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts, but this pesto recipe is nut-free. It’s a very fun sauce to make, because you can make countless variations using spinach, kale, different nuts and seeds, different oils, different herbs, vegan pesto, etc.

Featured Ingredients

  • Fresh Basil: the abundance of basil in my garden inspired this recipe (and all the pesto recipes I’m sharing this week), so it’s the star of the show. Be sure to use fresh basil leaves.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: taste-wise, extra virgin olive oil has lovely, almost fruity flavors that pair beautifully with basil. Nutritionally, it’s full of heart-healthy fats that also help your body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K).
  • Parmesan cheese: It adds a delicious salty, umami flavor to pesto. Especially because this is a pesto recipe without pine nuts, you definitely don’t want to skip it!
  • Lemon: lemon juice adds an an acidity and brightness that brings balance to the pesto.
  • Water: okay, I know water is not a traditional pesto ingredient. But this helps create the desired pesto consistency while also using less oil, make it a lighter, lower calorie pesto.
  • Salt & pepper: finish with just a pinch of salt and pepper. I find just a tiny pinch is needed, so start small, taste, and adjust accordingly.

Ingredient Swaps

  • Basil: try using spinach or baby spinach, or even kale. You can also try a different herb, like parsley or cilantro.
  • Olive oil: try avocado or vegetable oil instead.
  • Parmesan cheese: use fresh or pre-grated parmesan in the container, or any other hard cheese, like asiago. If you need a dairy-free or vegan option, try using nutritional yeast instead.
  • Garlic: if you don’t have fresh garlic, try using 1/2 tsp of dried garlic powder or 1 tsp of jarred minced garlic.
  • Lemon: the acidity of the lemon brightens the dish and brings out the flavors. I don’t recommend skipping entirely, but you can try substituting with white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar.
bright green pesto without pine nuts

How to Make Pesto Without Pine Nuts

All you need is a few fresh ingredients and five minutes to make this nut-free pesto!

  1. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender.
  2. Pulse on high for about 60 seconds, so that the basil gets pureed. If blending, start at a low speed and gradually increase the speed until basil is pureed.
  3. If needed, add more olive oil or water to achieve your desired consistency.
  4. Serve immediately, or immediately transfer to an airtight container for storing in the fridge or freezer.

Hot tip: don’t over-blend your pesto as it could get too liquified with an odd texture. A little texture is just what you want for pesto!

Pesto Q&A:

Can I use dried basil to make pesto? No, dried basil does not work well when making pesto. I’d recommend using a different fresh herb (like Italian parsley) if you don’t have fresh basil.

Do I have to use freshly grated parmesan cheese or can I use the grated parmesan in a jar? Use what you have access to (I make it both ways, for the record)! Pesto purists would likely turn their nose up to the grated parmesan in the canister, but that’s their problem, not yours. Use what you prefer, what’s in your kitchen, and what you can afford.

What if I don’t have a food processor? Try making this nut-free pesto in a blender – I’ve even made it with an immersion blender, before!

Is pesto healthy? The definition of healthy is very subjective, but pesto is made with simple, nutrient-dense ingredients that can absolutely make it a healthy option.

a spoonful of a pesto recipe without pine nuts

Ideas to Use Nut-Free Pesto

Pesto can be used in a myriad of ways (one reason I love it!). Here are some ideas for how to use it:

  • Pasta: a primary use of pesto, try tossing freshly drained al dente pasta or gnocchi with pesto. No need to heat the pesto – the warmth of the freshly cooked pasta will heat the pesto! You can use any type of pasta shape or type you prefer. I love my Pasta al Pesto with Blistered Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes with either whole wheat or chickpea-based pasta for a boost of fiber and protein.
  • Pizza: whether you’re not a fan of tomato-based sauce or just looking to switch things up, try spreading pesto as the sauce on your pizza. Alternatively, you can also drizzle pesto on top of your pizza when it’s finished. Try it on my Air Fryer Tortilla Pizzas!
  • Sauce: perfect for topping veggies and proteins, like this Pesto Crusted Salmon.
  • Dip: pesto makes a great dip as-is for things like vegetables, bread, crackers, air fryer tortilla chips, and pita chips. Want a creamier dip with a little protein boost? Try blending pesto with plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or ricotta for a creamy pesto dip.
  • Salads: use pesto as-is or mixed with more olive oil for a salad dressing. You can also use pesto to create delicious chilled pesto pasta salads and pesto chicken salad.
  • Sandwiches & Wraps: pesto makes an excellent spread on wraps. You can also use it in tuna or chicken salad, like with my grilled Chicken Pesto Wraps.


This nut-free pesto can be stored in an airtight container and kept refrigerated for 3-5 days.

Alternatively, you can also freeze pesto! I love harvesting pounds of basil from my garden at the end of the season and making freezer basil for months to come. Check out my full tutorial on freezing pesto.

More Basil Recipes

Like me and still blessed with an over-abundance of basil from your garden? Try these other basil recipes:

Did you make this recipe? Give it a 5★ rating below! For more balanced nutrition and no fuss, balanced recipes, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

A bowl of nut-free pesto

Nut-Free Pesto

All you need is a few fresh ingredients and five minutes to make this delicious nut-free pesto recipe without pine nuts!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauce, Spread
Cuisine: American, Italian
Diet: Gluten Free
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 61kcal
Author: Lindsey Janeiro, RDN


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • pinch salt & pepper


  • Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender.
  • Pulse on high for about 60 seconds, until the basil gets pureed. If blending, start at a low speed and gradually increase the speed until the basil is pureed.
  • If needed, add more olive oil or water to achieve your desired consistency.
  • Serve immediately, or immediately transfer to an airtight container for storing in the fridge or freezer.




Serving: 2tbsp | Calories: 61kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4.1g | Cholesterol: 2.1mg | Sodium: 46mg | Potassium: 24mg | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 2mg

Still here? Pin this nut-free pesto recipe on Pinterest to save it for later, and then come follow me on Instagram and tell me your favorite way to use it!

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