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When you're looking to make some pesto but don't have any pine nuts (or don't want to spend the money on them) this pesto without pine nuts is the way to go. It's a budget-friendly flavor packed sauce you're going to love.
Traditional pesto is made with a mortar and pestle by smashing pine nuts, then adding basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, and salt.
We're veering from tradition for ease and for your budget. This recipe uses a food processor instead of the mortar and pestle, and walnuts instead of pine nuts.
Ingredients to make basil walnut pesto
I almost ALWAYS make substitutions when I try recipes based on what I have on hand. Here's the ingredients we use in the recipe, as well as ingredient substitution suggestions.
- Basil - Basil is traditionally used. Grab it at the store or off your basil plant in the sunny window. I've heard of people using spinach, but haven't personally tried it.
- Walnuts - Traditional pesto uses pine nuts, but this recipe uses walnuts instead. You could also substitute almonds or sunflower seeds if you'd prefer.
- Parmesan - For vegan walnut pesto, omit the parmesan in this recipe.
- Garlic - I like using granulated garlic in this recipe, but you could use roasted garlic or fresh garlic. Use what you like and what you have. Roasted garlic will have the most depth of flavor, fresh garlic will be . This is mostly for my kids. My husband and I like the spicy garlic flavor, but if there's any hope of our kids eating it, the spice can't be there. Use what works best for you!
- Salt - We like using Himalayan salt like this one since it still has the minerals.
- Olive Oil - Use a good extra virgin olive oil for this sauce.
How to Make Pesto without Pine Nuts
To start making your basil walnut pesto, grab your ingredients and your food processor.
Add the basil to the food processor bowl, then the shredded Parmesan (if using). Add all the other ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of your food processor.
Pulse your food processor a few times and then turn it on until you've got a uniform consistency. Scrape down the sides, if necessary.
Once you've got the uniform consistency, pour in the olive oil with the food processor running. Then serve your pesto or store it for later.
Recipe tips & FAQ
Can you use other nuts in pesto?
This recipe gives you one alternative to pine nuts in your pesto, but you can also use almonds or sunflower seeds to get that creamy texture and nutty flavor without noticing too much.
Why does my pesto taste bitter?
If it tastes a little bitter, try adding another pinch of salt. Salt will counteract the bitterness, as would more Parmesan, or something acidic (like lemon juice).
Basil has a strong flavor and the pesto will also have a strong flavor. Remember that you'll likely be eating it WITH some other food (on chicken, on pasta, etc.) so even if it tastes really strong in the bowl, the flavor will be toned down a bit in your final dish. If you want a milder flavored pesto, or if you're running low on basil, use half spinach, half basil.
Should I use the basil stems in the pesto?
Basil stems are edible (as are the stems of other green herbs like cilantro and parsley). If you're going the mortar-and-pestle route, the stems might be a little difficult to smash down into a paste. But with the food processor, it works just fine (another reason I recommend the food processor for this recipe). I typically cut off the thickest part of the stems at the bottom and throw the rest in.
How long will my basil walnut pesto last?
Your basil walnut pesto should last 5-7 days in the fridge, or 3-4 months in the freezer. You can freeze your pesto in small jars or in ice-cube trays (my favorite method).
To freeze your pesto in the ice-cube trays, scoop it in the ice-cube tray and the freezer. Once it's frozen you can transfer it to a freezer-safe container or a Ziplock bag. Grab a few cubes when you're ready to use them and toss them in with your hot noodles for a quick dinner that's easy to thaw.
How to use basil walnut pesto
Now that you've made your basil walnut pesto, you need to find something to go with it. Here are some ideas:
- Use it as a pasta sauce with some grille chicken and tomatoes
- Spread it on your sandwich or in your wrap or burger
- You could also use it as a pizza sauce (although I'm pretty hooked on this tomato paste pizza sauce)
- Mix it with some avocado oil mayo as a dip for your baked sweet potato fries
Looking for more delicious homemade sauce recipes?
Once you start making food from scratch, you'll realize how much better it tastes when it comes from your own kitchen. Here are more yummy homemade sauce recipes to try this week:
- Easy Pizza Sauce With Tomato Paste
- Best Homemade Peanut Dipping Sauce
- Creamy Cilantro Lime Mayo
- 5 Minute Coconut Curry Sauce
- No Cook Honey Barbecue Sauce
- One big bunch of basil (or about 3 oz), stems included
- ⅔ cup walnuts
- ⅓ cup finely shredded Parmesan
- ½ tsp granulated garlic (or 2 garlic cloves or 1 head of roasted garlic)
- ¼ tsp salt, plus more if needed (to taste)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Put the basil, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and salt into the bowl of your food processor.
- Pulse your food processor a few times and then turn it on until everything is the same consistency.
- With the food processor running, pour in the olive oil.
- When the olive oil is incorporated, taste and add more salt if needed.
- Fresh garlic will give a spicier pesto. Since we have young kids in the house we use garlic powder or roasted garlic and they love it.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 96Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 65mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g