Versatile Dairy-Free and Vegan Pesto


Vegan pesto is a flavor gem for dairy-free diets, and can fit into almost any free-from dietary need, from gluten-free to Paleo. Though many varieties of pesto contain Parmesan, some store-bought brands are actually cheese-free, and you can easily make your own non-dairy vegan pesto at home.

Basic Dairy-Free and Vegan Pesto Recipe

It surprises many people to know that Parmesan isn’t actually a key ingredient in pesto. In reality, basil and good quality olive oil are the foundation of a top-notch pesto, the rest are simply flavor agents to customize the sauce to your personal tastes.

The recipe below is a wonderful, basic dairy-free and vegan pesto that you can customize to fit your mood and meal. Here are some ideas for variations on this simple recipe:

  • Different nuts offer different flavor profiles; walnuts are particularly nice in vegan pesto, but you can use any nut you like in place of the pine nuts to shake things up a little.
  • For nut-free, I adore sunflower seeds in vegan pesto. Simply replace the pine nuts with an equivalent amount of sunflower seeds.
  • Add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the mix, either before blending or stirred in after for a chunky-style sauce.
  • If you desire a bit of that Parmesan tang, add a twist of lemon to taste. You can also increase the salt for more intensity if desired.
  • For a deeper cheesy vibe, add some nutritional yeast before blending. Start with a small amount (nutritional yeast can easily overpower), like 1 teaspoon, and add more to taste for a more pungent flavor.
  • Swap half of the basil for another herb – mint leaves are actually an amazing flavor pairing with basil.

Special Diet Notes: Versatile Dairy-Free and Vegan Pesto

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.

Basic Dairy-Free and Vegan Pesto
Prep time
Total time
Thanks to Chef Jason, founder of Vegan Culinary Experience, for sharing this any day vegan pesto recipe. Use it on vegetables, pasta, and more!
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 cup basil
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  1. Place the pine nuts in a food processor, followed by the garlic, salt, oil, and finally the basil.
  2. Press down the basil before securing the lid.
  3. Pulse the ingredients about five times to initiate the mixing action.
  4. Blend the ingredients until they well combined, but still a little coarse.
See variation options in post above.

This recipe is Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy free, Egg free, Gluten free, optionally Nut free (see notes above), Peanut free, Soy free, Wheat free, Sugar free

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


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