Vegan Pesto Without Nuts (French Pistou)

Vegan pesto without nuts (French pistou)

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1/3 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
167 Calories
18g Fat
2g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 167
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 292mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 4mg 20%
Calcium 30mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 59mg 1%
*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.)

French pistou sauce is just like pesto but is made without nuts—perfect for those with a nut allergy, or who don't want to spend the money on pine nuts, as they can be pricey. In France, pistou is traditionally prepared without cheese, but almost all American and contemporary recipes tend to add cheese to appeal more to American palates. Therefore, it's also a delicious sauce to make if you simply want the vibrant flavor of fresh basil: This quick and easy version is vegan, since it's also made without cheese.

Though traditionally added to vegetable soups or soups with pasta like minestrone soup, you can also use a homemade pistou to drizzle on salads, particularly bean salads, or over homemade noodles or vegan gnocchi. Pistou is also delicious when added to a quick egg or tofu scramble in the morning. It adds tons of fresh flavor to standard breakfast dishes; try it also over roasted potatoes

The process of making pistou is similar to making a regular pesto sauce, but it can be a bit of a challenge blending up the fresh basil until smooth. Adding the liquid first, rather than last, helps. It's also a situation in which there are so few ingredients, so you want to use your best extra-virgin olive oil.


  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for vegan pesto (French pistou) without pine nuts

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. Give the basil leaves a good rinse and gently pat them dry.  

    Basil leaves on a paper towel

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Remove any larger and thicker stems from the leaves; they don't blend well and can taste too bitter and woody.

    Basil leaves on a plate

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Add about half of the olive oil and all of the lemon juice to a blender or food processor, followed by the basil leaves and garlic.

    Basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  5. Process until well blended, scraping the sides as needed.

    Basil mixture in a food processor

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  6. With the blender running, slowly add the remaining olive oil, blending until smooth.

    Olive oil poured into food processor

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  7. Add salt and a bit of pepper if you like; start with a small amount and add more to taste.

    Salt and pepper to taste in vegan pesto (French pistou)

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  8. Use in your favorite recipes and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.

    Vegan Pesto Without Nuts (French Pistou) in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

How to Use Vegan Pesto (French Pistou)

  • Use this as a dip for crusty bread.
  • Pair it with vegan gnocchi or any kind of pasta; grooved ones work well to hold the sauce.
  • Try a dollop of pistou on top of minestrone, pasta e fagioli, or a Tuscan white bean soup.
  • Swap this vegan, nut-free pesto out for standard pesto in other recipes.

Recipe Variations

  • For a little variation or to make your pistou even more gourmet, try a blend of herbs. Add a bit of tarragon or parsley to the mix or use a savory gourmet oil like avocado or macadamia nut
  • You can add nutritional yeast to vegan pesto to replace the cheese, but you may find that if you use fresh basil and a decent quality olive oil, this pistou has such an invigorating basil flavor that you don't need the cheese flavor of nutritional yeast.

How to Store and Freeze Pistou

Store the pistou in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up 2 days. This can also be frozen, preferably in ice cube trays and then transferred to a zip-close bag, for up to 6 months. Pull out the frozen cubes and use as needed in sauces and soups.