Dairy-Free Basil Cashew Pesto: Savory Sauces

Directly Above Shot Of Pesto Sauce In Bowl On Table
Kasia Pohl / EyeEm / Getty Images
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
129 Calories
12g Fat
6g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 129
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 227mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Protein 2g
Calcium 139mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Most traditional pesto recipes call for Parmesan cheese, but this cashew-based version is both dairy-free and vegan, not to mention really easy to make! Serve over tofu, pasta, veggies, or rice for a simple--yet flavorful--lunch or dinner. If you prefer, you can always use a vegan Parmesan cheese substitute in place of the nutritional yeast, but take care to read the ingredient list to make sure that there are no hidden dairy ingredients like whey or casein lurking in the list.

Note: you may not need to use the full 1/2 cup of olive oil, and you may decide to use more. For a thicker, spread-like paste (if using on sandwiches, etc), use less oil; for a thinner pesto (to be used on pasta, over tofu or other proteins, etc), use more oil. Basically, just add the oil until the pesto looks right for your dish and palate!


  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoon garlic (minced)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashew pieces
  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Steps to Make It

  1. In a food processor, combine the basil leaves, garlic, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and sea salt, pulsing until finely chopped.

  2. With the machine still running, drizzle the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto reaches the desired consistency (read head note).

  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Store pesto in a covered dish in the refrigerator until ready to use. Pesto will keep for 2-3 days stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Cook's Note:

  • Feel free to use other fresh herbs in place of all of part of the basil; cilantro is a personal favorite, and sometimes even a little parsley adds a nice kick to this pesto. Likewise, feel free to substitute other nuts for all or part of the cashews: Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts are out-of-the-ordinary, rich substitutions, and traditional cooks can always opt to use pine nuts. Have fun and make it your own!

Ways to Use Basil-Cashew Pesto:

  • Use Basil-Cashew Pesto in any one of these tasty vegan recipes:
  • Baked Tofu with Pesto Recipe
  • Pesto and Macaroni
  • Pesto and Pasta
  • Vegan Pesto Flatbreads
  • Spread Basil-Cashew Pesto on veggie sandwiches to add extra savor and flavor.
  • Instead of using a red sauce or white sauce on your next Vegan Pizza or Gluten-Free Pizza, use Basil-Cashew Pesto!
  • Toss Basil-Cashew Pesto with cooked pasta and serve warm as an entree or cold as a pasta salad.
  • Toss cooked carrots, roasted butternut squash, roasted baby potatoes or other starches with Basil-Cashew pesto.

****This recipe is suitable for dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan diets, but as with any recipe intended for persons with allergies or dietary restrictions, make sure to read all nutritional labels carefully to make sure that there are no hidden dairy-derived ingredients (or other allergens, if these apply to you).

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