Basic Dairy-Free Pesto


Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Taste was kind enough to share his basic dairy-free pesto recipe with us. It’s a fabulous vegan recipe that is perfect on pasta, proteins, or vegetables, and it can be adapted in a pinch!

Basic Vegan and Dairy-Free Pesto Recipe with Tips for Variation

A Basic Dairy-Free Pesto Recipe Created by a Vegan Chef

To start us out, Chef Jason has some tips for making, presenting, and enjoying this dairy-free pesto recipe.


Find a small, white serving dish, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and place the pesto in that with a small serving spoon. That’s if you’re going to serve it separately. Usually, pesto is either placed in a small mound on top of another recipe or spread on top of it.

Time Management

If you do not serve this dairy-free pesto fresh, cover it with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the basil from oxidizing, cover it with plastic wrap, and store it in your refrigerator.

Complementary Food and Drinks

Vegan pesto is incredibly versatile. It can be mixed into a soup, thinned out to make a sauce, tossed with veggies, spread on top of something, or be served as a dollop. It can even be used as a dip! One classic recipe with which you can try this is bruschetta. Also, try thinning it out a bit and using it as a thick pasta sauce, lightly coating the pasta.

Where to Shop

Trader Joe’s is absolutely the best commercial chain at which to purchase the basil. You can get a big box of organic basil there for just over $2.00. You can also get big bags of pine nuts at Costco for a very good price.

How It Works

Dairy-free pesto is fairly easy. It’s basically basil blended with fat to make it rich and the garlic is added for a hint of pungent bite. The pine nuts are the main fatty taste with the olive oil added in to smooth it out. The high fat content is one reason that pesto is served as an accent to a dish.

Tips for Customizing this Versatile Vegan Pesto Recipe

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

Basic Vegan and Dairy-Free Pesto Recipe with Tips for Variation

Special Diet Notes: Basic Dairy-Free Pesto

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

4.4 from 5 reviews
Basic Dairy-Free Pesto
Prep time
Total time
Pesto is one of those fancy recipes that is actually fairly easy to make. Add this to a recipe and you will be an instant gourmet chef to your guests!
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: ½ cup (about 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.
Kitchen Equipment Needed: Measuring Spoon, Measuring Cup & Food Processor.

This recipe is reprinted with permissions from the February 2009 issue of the Vegan Culinary Experience.

For More of Chef Jason’s Vegan Recipes, Get His Cookbooks!

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.


  1. Thank you for this recipe – you wouldn’t believe the number of pestos which are advertised as “dairy free” which have cheese in them!

  2. Hi! I also really appreciate this versatile recipe. First a Q: I assume that a blender will work ok too? I don’t have a food processor.

  3. Love this recipe but waaaay too many ads clutter this page up. Consider removing them or at least keeping the recipe part ad-free. Takes terrible screen shots and prints when trying to save for later.

    Won’t be back as a result. Good luck.

    • I’m so sorry this is an issue for you. We actually have a cap on ads that is lower than comparable sites and blogs, so this surprises me that you are seeing so many! As for the in-recipe ad (which we capped at one, many don’t), it doesn’t show if you use the actual print function in the recipe. Just click on that little printer image in the recipe and you’ll see it clear as day – available to use and print! That function works much better than screen shots and is made for clean printing. Good luck and glad you liked the recipe!

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