I can remember the first time I ate my mom’s homemade pesto when I was a kid. I loved it so much I wanted it on my birthday dinner that year. This classic basil pesto is so versatile, you can put it on virtually any dish to give it a burst of flavor.
Traditional pesto calls for parmesan cheese. I’ve always omitted that because I don’t eat any dairy products, so now it’s vegan too!
One more difference from a traditional basil pesto is I use walnuts instead of pine nuts. I feel that the taste doesn’t change the flavor at all and I like walnuts better anyway.
What is Pesto?
Not everyone knows what pesto is, so let me tell you! It’s a green herb sauce. The most traditional (the one everyone thinks of when you say pesto) is a basil pesto.
The general definition of pesto then is that it’s an herb or leafy green blended with garlic, oil, salt, nut and acid (i.e. lemon juice). I’ve seen carrot top pesto, kale pesto, mint pesto, chimichurri sauce…They all are the same basic recipe. All super yummy! My favorite will always be basil though.
As mentioned above, here’s the few simple ingredients you’ll need most of which you will already have at home, except probably the fresh basil itself.
- Fresh Basil
- Lemon Juice
- Olive Oil
I might be stating the obvious here, but you have to use fresh basil leaves. Dried will not work for this at all. Fresh basil is a little finnicky especially if you’re buying from the supermarket. It tends to go bad rather quickly, so when you plan on making this, you should use the basil within a day or two of buying it.
If you grow basil, even better! I always use fresh basil from my garden to make my pesto.
Pro Tip: You can make pesto in bulk and freeze it in ice cube trays for the winter when fresh basil won’t be available. One ice cube is exaclty 1 oz.
Make Homemade Pesto
On to the fun part. So you’ll need all of your ingredients and a food processor. I have a mini that also doubles as an immersion blender. Put everything in the food processor except the olive oil. Blend for a couple seconds then add in your olive oil and blend until smooth. That’s it!
Use it right away or cover with siran wrap so it’s touching the top to reduce browning. If you plan on freezing it, do it immediately.
What to Eat with Homemade Pesto
Pesto is delicious on practically everything shy of dessert. I love pesto in a salad or to spice up any type of grain (rice, couscous, quinoa etc.). Pesto is terrific on steak or fish. I love it on salmon.
It’s also delicious on sandwiches. Make a panini classy by adding pesto! Try it with turkey or roast beef. You can even add it to grilled cheese.
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Easy Dairy Free Pesto
- ¾ Cup Fresh Basil Leaves
- 3 Tbsp Walnuts
- 1 Garlic Clove
- ¾ Tsp Lemon Juice
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Blend everything except oil in a food processor. Add oil in slowly and blend until it's a smooth paste.
- Taste! Add more salt if it needs it, or more oil if it's not paste-y enough. Enjoy immediately or freeze in ice cube tray.