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How to Make Pesto Without Cheese (It’s Easy!)


Pesto is a divine taste that adds a burst of flavor to pizza, pasta, salad, sandwiches and more. Thanks to pine nuts, high quality olive oil and fresh basil, eating pesto feels indulgent. Traditionally, a pesto sauce would include cheese, and if you order the pesto pasta or pizza at a regular restaurant, for example, it would most likely be cooked wth cheese. This sad reality hit me in the face when I started eating more of a vegan diet; as a longtime vegetarian, I enjoyed pesto dishes for years without really thinking about the fact that this seemingly innocent sauce had cheese packed with animal rennet. That just won’t cut it for those who don’t eat cheese. So what’s a vegan to do in order to enjoy pesto?

You might be able to find pre-made vegan pesto at vegan and/or speciality food markets. Otherwise, ordering pesto at a restaurant or buying pesto sauce sold at regular grocery stores is a no-go. A typical basil pesto recipe would call for basil, freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, and spices like salt, pepper and garlic.

Of course, you could always make your own pesto! It’s so easy to create pesto without the cheese. Here are steps to making pesto:

1. Gather Ingredients

For vegan pesto, you will need basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and either pine nuts or walnuts. You can make a great pesto with these ingredients alone, but if you want to get that cheesy taste that pesto has, put in some nutritional yeast. These cheesy little B 12 flakes will give anything a creamy, cheesy taste and consistency. Try the pesto from this recipe with the following measurements: 4 cups/120 g packed fresh basil, ½ cup/120 ml extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup/30 g pine nuts, toasted, 1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh garlic, and ¼ tsp salt.

2. Blend With a Food Processor

Next, you’re going to blend your ingredients. Put the basil, oil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Then, puree until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add in nutritional yeast flakes if you desire.

3. Serve With Delicious Vegan Food

Now that you’ve made your pesto, it’s time to choose some tasty ways to enjoy it. You could always eat it as a dip or spread. Try spreading it on some bread. Make a pizza, like this Raw Vegan Pizza with Spinach, Pesto, and Marinated Vegetables and this Fresh Summer Vegan Pesto Pizza. If you like lasagna, try this Vegan Pesto Lasagna and this Raw Vegan Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto. Do you like burgers? Try pesto on these Red Lentil Burgers with Kale Pesto.

Image source: Vegan Pesto Lasagna

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15 comments on “How to Make Pesto Without Cheese (It’s Easy!)”

Click to add comment
Grace Ellen
3 Years Ago

Tracy Marotta

Jan Roberts
3 Years Ago

I make it like this but omit the olive oil...its bad for me.

Melissa Veganly
3 Years Ago

Nutritional yeast

Thomas Boyer
3 Years Ago

The funny thing is I always made what I thought was pest when I still ate cheese, but I never used parmesan.

Norma Bucknor
3 Years Ago

Most classic pesto recipes do have cheese but I suppose it's optional. Cilantro chile pesto is also very tasty. (no cheese)

One Green Planet
3 Years Ago

Most store bought pesto or pesto served in restaurants has cheese in it :-/

Aurora Fatta Meltzer
3 Years Ago

I always make it without cheese, alternating herbs and nuts, selecting one of these: pistachios, cashews, toasted pine nuts, almonds and - one or more of these : fresh oregano, basil, mint, cherry tomatoes, garlic - and very little garlic, ginger, a pinch of sugar, light soy sauce

Dub Klot
3 Years Ago

@ Debra. You don't if you're a vegan but most store bought pesto will have parmesan

Charmaine Wheeler
3 Years Ago

Chris Wheeler

Suz Backstrom
3 Years Ago

Thank goodness all the comments are making sense at least. I have never made pesto with cheese. Geez!


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