Eating dairy free should NOT mean that you have to stop eating your favorite foods, and, for me, pesto ranks pretty high on my list of favorites! So, the thought of never making pesto again when I got serious about eating dairy free was not an option! I think you’ll agree that this Dairy Free Basil Pesto (that is also nut free, by the way!) tastes just as good as traditional basil pesto!
Pesto has been one of my favorite foods since I was first introduced to it in the south of France where I was visiting my cousins, who were living there for a while. You could say it was love at first bite, especially since I was usually eating it tossed with a super fresh bowl of perfectly cooked pasta. Yum!
For a long time after I got back from France, I bought pesto because it was easy and because I hadn’t started growing my own herbs. But once I realized how ridiculously easy it is to grow basil and to make homemade pesto, I’ve never gone back to jarred pesto.
Homemade pesto is fresher and more flavorful than jarred pesto, and it costs WAY less to make it than to buy it, especially if you are using your own freshly grown basil!
Does Pesto Contain Dairy
The simple answer is YES! Traditional basil pesto contains cheese (usually Parmesan).
What are the Main Ingredients in Pesto
As with any food (whether packaged or homemade), every version is made a little differently. Pesto is no exception, however, there are a handful of ingredients that are typically used when making pesto. They are:
- Fresh basil
- Parmesan cheese
- Pine nuts
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
That’s about as simple of an ingredient list as it gets, and that’s one thing I really like about pesto. The ingredients are simple but when they are made into pesto, the result is an explosion of flavor!
How to Make Dairy Free Pesto
When I set out to create a dairy free pesto, I wasn’t sold on the idea of simply removing the cheese to make it dairy free. Yes, that would work, however, I knew the flavor would suffer by taking out the cheese.
I wanted to add an ingredient that would help mimic the rich, salty and slightly tangy flavor of the cheese. Hmm…then I thought about olives and decided they would be a perfect fit. I tried it and was really happy with the result!
But, I know, some of you may be saying “but I don’t like olives” so now what? Let me tell you that you aren’t actually going to taste the olives in the pesto. They will be so finely chopped that you won’t even notice them!
Plus, while olives do have a strong flavor, you’ll only be adding a small amount, so the olive flavor will not overtake the flavor of the basil.
If you’re still skeptical, just give it a try and then decide! You can always use half the amount of olives I call for if you’re really worried about adding them!
As a bonus, I’ve also made this pesto nut free, so if you can’t eat nuts, then this is definitely the pesto recipe you need to make!
If you’re a purist and the thought of taking out not one, but TWO of the main ingredients in pesto is bothersome, then you can certainly add some pine nuts. I’ve given a tip in the recipe so you know how much to use.
How to make pesto
Not only are the ingredients in pesto simple, it’s also super easy to make! Using a food processor is the easiest way to make pesto, however, if you don’t have a food processor, a blender can work too.
To make pesto, combine the dry ingredients in the food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Then, with the food processor running, gradually pour the oil through the feed tube in the lid and continue processing until the pesto is well combined.
If you’re using a blender, it takes a bit more time to get all of the ingredients finely chopped and well mixed. You will need to scrape the sides of the blender bowl more often, but it will come together!
What’s the Best Way to Store Pesto
Fresh basil can be stored in the refrigerator after it’s made. Technically, the pesto will be food safe up to 4 days when stored in the refrigerator, however, because fresh basil darkens when chilled, the pesto will darken the longer it is stored in the refrigerator.
I recommend storing fresh pesto no more than 2 days in the refrigerator.
For longer storage, freezing pesto works great! See below for how to do it!
Can I Freeze Pesto
Yes! Pesto freezes extremely well and won’t turn dark in the freezer like it will in the refrigerator. Here’s how to freeze pesto:
- Spoon pesto into the cubes of an ice cube tray
- Cover the tray
- Freeze the pesto for at least 6 hours or until the pesto is completely frozen
- Pop the pesto out of the ice cube tray
- Place frozen pesto cubes in a plastic freezer bag
- Place bags of pesto cubes in an airtight container
- Freeze pesto up to 1 year
- Pull out individual cubes of pesto as needed
If you’ve looked around my site enough, you’ll know that I love pesto because I have several other pesto recipes on my site! If you want to make a different kind of pesto than this Dairy Free Basil Pesto, then give one of my other pesto recipes a try! Check them out below!
Dairy Free Basil Pesto (Nut Free)
- 1 head garlic, roasted* or 4 cloves fresh peeled garlic
- 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup pitted green olives (not stuffed), drained
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Remove garlic cloves from head of roasted garlic (see tip for directions). In a food processor combine garlic cloves, basil, olives, salt, and pepper. Cover and pulse until basil and olives are finely chopped. While the processor is running, slowly drizzle oil through the feed tube in the lid and continue processing until mixture is well combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Use immediately or transfer pesto to a bowl and cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap. Chill up to 2 days (pesto will darken the longer it is chilled). For longer storage, freeze pesto. To freeze, spoon pesto into ice cube trays. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours or until pesto is very firm. Pop the pesto cubes out of the tray and place in a plastic bag. Store the bag of pesto cubes in an airtight container in the freezer up to 1 year.