This vibrant green pesto sauce is loaded with all of the traditional ingredients (fresh basil, pine nuts, and olive oil) but made dairy free with the use of creamy, delicious roasted garlic as the stand-in for parmesan cheese. Spread it on crusty bread, toss it with pasta, or use it as a pizza sauce – you can’t go wrong!
Table of Contents
- What is pesto?
- Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Recipe Step by Step
- Recipe Tips and Tricks
- How to Use Pesto Sauce
- How to Store
- Dairy Free Pesto FAQs
- Is pesto unhealthy or healthy?
- What do you eat pesto with?
- Is pesto Italian or Mexican?
- Is pesto usually served hot or cold?
- Is it worth making your own pesto?
- What can I use instead of pine nuts in pesto?
- Dairy-Free Pesto with Roasted Garlic Recipe
This pesto has my heart, always and forever. It’s so rich and full of flavor, but somehow bright enough that I could (quite literally) eat it by the spoonful. I’ll settle for mixing it with chicken (pesto chicken salad-style), serving it alongside plantain chips or arugula salad, or tossing it with pasta and salmon for the most delicious salmon pesto pasta dish ever – that’s more sensible, right?!
What is pesto?
Pesto is a delicious, flavorful green sauce that is typically made with garlic, pine nuts, basil leaves, olive oil, and (in many cases, but not this one) cheese. It originated in Italy and is SUPER flavorful and versatile!
This dairy-free pesto recipe includes roasted garlic to offset the missing cheese flavor, toasted pine nuts (for even more flavor), and a lot of really fresh basil. Don’t worry, the pesto doesn’t scream “GARLIC!” … it screams “holy cow what is in this magic green paste that tastes so amazing?!”
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Below, you’ll find everything needed for a delicious dairy-free pesto sauce. Substitutions are listed when applicable, and exact amounts can be found in the recipe card!
- Fresh basil leaves – a signature ingredient in pesto! Fresh is key here.
- Garlic – garlic is the star of this pesto show!
- Pine nuts – we’re keeping things traditional with pine nuts here, but if you want to save a few dollars, feel free to grab walnuts or sunflower seeds instead.
- Lemon – fresh lemon juice adds some zing and acidity to the pesto.
- Salt and pepper
Recipe Step by Step
First, roast the garlic…
Roasting the garlic is the most time-consuming part, which is compensated by the fact that your house will smell like an Italian villa for the rest of the day. I love the smell of roasted garlic. Don’t be intimidated by the process! It’s super easy.
- Prep – preheat the oven to 375°F, and peel the outer layers of the garlic skin off, leaving the cloves still attached. Then, cut the top of the bulb off (making sure to cut the tops of cloves hiding on the side).
- Wrap – wrap the prepped garlic bulb in parchment paper with the cut side up, then place the wrapped garlic in a muffin tin to balance.
- Bake – roast the garlic at 375°F for 30-45 minutes.
- Let cool – remove the garlic from the oven and let cool before handling.
Then, make the pesto…
Now that the garlic is roasted, you’re closer than EVER to having a delicious herby sauce at your disposal – lucky you! Here’s how you’ll pull the rest of the recipe together:
- Toast the pine nuts – stirring constantly, toast the pine nuts in a small/medium-sized pan over low/medium heat. Remove them from heat when they’re slightly brown and fragrant.
- Pulse ingredients in a food processor – add the basil, lemon juice, roasted garlic, toasted pine nuts, and half of the EVOO to a food processor, and pulse until everything is evenly combined.
- Pulse the rest of the ingredients – add the salt, pepper, and remaining EVOO to the food processor, and pulse until the pesto is smooth and creamy.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Squeeze the roasted garlic – instead of trying to peel the roasted garlic cloves, use your fingers to squeeze them out!
- Don’t burn the pine nuts – toasting the pine nuts adds A LOT of flavor to the finished sauce. Be sure to toast them just until they’re slightly brown and fragrant, though – they can go from perfectly toasted to downright burnt REALLY quickly.
- Use a blender – if you don’t have a food processor, just a blender (individual or regular) to make the pesto instead!
How to Use Pesto Sauce
Pesto is insanely delicious on SO MANY things. Here are a few of our favorite uses for it:
- As the sauce on homemade pizza
- As a spread on a sandwich
- Pesto Pasta Bake
- Baked Pesto Chicken Recipe
- Pesto Meatballs
- Pesto Chicken Salad
- Pesto Hummus
- Pesto Prosciutto Chicken Breasts
How to Store
Store your pesto in an airtight container (a mason jar works GREAT) in the refrigerator. Stored this way, it’ll last for up to 5 days.
For long-term storage, freeze your pesto for up to 3 months.
Dairy Free Pesto FAQs
Is pesto unhealthy or healthy?
Whether or not pesto is healthy or not is really dependent on your body and how it reacts to different kinds of foods. If you do well with the ingredients in this pesto recipe, then it’s a delicious, healthy option for you that is chock-full of anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy fat.
What do you eat pesto with?
You can truly eat pesto with ANYTHING! It’s incredibly delicious on a sandwich or pizza and can also be used as a toast or scrambled egg topper for breakfast.
Is pesto Italian or Mexican?
Pesto is an Italian basil sauce originally created in Genoa, Italy.
Is pesto usually served hot or cold?
Pesto can be served either way! You can heat it up for pasta or pizza or leave it cold for a sandwich spread. Either way is totally delicious.
Is it worth making your own pesto?
There are definitely some jarred pestos that are really yummy and made with simple ingredients, but honestly, nothing beats homemade, so if you’ve got the time, I recommend whipping up a batch of your own.
What can I use instead of pine nuts in pesto?
Pine nuts are typically pretty pricy, so if you’re looking to save some dollars, feel free to swap them for walnuts or sunflower seeds.
Dairy-Free Pesto with Roasted Garlic
- 1 cup packed (4 ounces) fresh basil leaves
- 1 garlic bulb
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Cracked pepper to taste
- Roasted Garlic
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Peel the outer layers of the garlic skin off, leaving the cloves still attached. Then, cut the top of the bulb off (making sure to cut the tops of cloves hiding on the side).
- Wrap the prepped garlic bulb in parchment paper with the cut side up, then place the wrapped garlic in a muffin tin to balance.
- Roast the garlic at 375°F for 30-45 minutes.
- Remove the garlic from the oven and let cool before handling.
- Stirring constantly, toast the pine nuts in a small/medium-sized pan over low/medium heat. Remove them from heat when they’re slightly brown and fragrant.
- Add the basil, lemon juice, roasted garlic, toasted pine nuts, and half of the EVOO to a food processor, and pulse until everything is evenly combined.
- Add the salt, pepper, and remaining EVOO to the food processor, and pulse until the pesto is smooth and creamy.