Vegan Pesto Without Nuts (French Pistou)

Pistou sauce in bowl on table
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • Total: 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1/3 cup (4 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
293 Calories
20g Fat
28g Carbs
10g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1/3 cup (4 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 293
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 3g 16%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 108mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 10%
Dietary Fiber 14g 51%
Protein 10g
Calcium 859mg 66%
*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 want the flavor of pesto without the pinenuts. This quick and easy vegan version of pistou is more of a fresh basil sauce since it's also made without cheese. In France, pistou is traditionally prepared without cheese, but almost all American and contemporary recipes tend to add cheese to appeal more to American palettes.

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 added to a quick egg or tofu scramble in the morning. It adds tons of fresh flavor to the standard breakfast dishes. 

The process of making pistou is similar to making a regular pesto sauce (after all, it really is just pesto without pine nuts and cheese), but it can be a bit of a challenge blending up the fresh basil until smooth. Adding the liquid first, rather than last, helps.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil (loosely packed)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use a good quality olive oil)
  • 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.

  2. Give the basil leaves a good rinse and gently pat them dry. Make sure any larger and thicker stems are removed from the leaves. They don't blend well and can taste too bitter and woody. 

  3. Add about half of the olive oil and the lemon juice to a blender or food processor, followed by the basil leaves and garlic. Process until well blended, scraping the sides as needed.

  4. With the blender running, slowly add the remaining olive oil, blending until smooth. Add salt and a bit of pepper if you like. Start with a small amount and add more to taste.

Tips

  • Pair your French pistou sauce with Italian vegan gnocchi or any kind of pasta. A grooved or corkscrew pasta to hold onto the pistou is best. 
  • Use vegan pesto as a dip for crusty bread.
  • 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.