Gluten Free - Dairy Free - Soy Free - Nut Free Option
Bountiful Basil. It's everywhere and I simply can't get enough of it. It's the hat trick of herbs! I love the look of the plant, the aroma, and the taste. Whenever I see basil leaves I can't help but think of pesto. Pesto, pesto, pesto. I can't stop talking about it!
Let's talk about pesto some more. Pesto requires so few ingredients for such full flavor. In its most basic form, you can make fresh pesto from basil, olive oil, lemon, and sometimes garlic. This is truly all you need. Most conventional pestos today include the addition of pine nuts and parmesan cheese in the equation. Then you can break out and get a little funky with your pesto power and make it with garlic scapes, cilantro, parsley, spinach, arugula, and the list of possibilities continues. Get creative and try it any way that sounds delicious to you, but if you're looking for a solid basic pesto template that is dairy free and nutrient rich, you've come to the right place. As with any fresh ingredients, the amounts will vary greatly depending on the freshness of ingredients, time of year, where it was grown, and your own personal taste. I encourage you to make this recipe knowing that the measurements are fluid. There will be times when you'll want more or less lemon, garlic, or salt. For an added boost of greens we've snuck some spinach into the recipe, but if you're not feeling it, use more basil instead. You do your pesto. Taste as you go and make it how you like.
Basil's amazing health benefits come from flavonoids that protect your cells and chromosomes from oxygen damage, and oils that give it anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The oils in basil are highly volatile, so be mindful of introducing them to too much heat. When using basil in a hot dish, add it at the end of cooking to protect its essence and to maximize flavor.
Why no pine nuts? This recipe doesn't include pine nuts, but you can definitely swap them in if you prefer. I love pine nuts just as much as the next person, but they aren't always in the grocery budget, so for a cost effective pesto I use almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds instead. When I find myself missing pine nuts, I purchase a small amount from the bulk section of my grocery store and add them to the final dish, so I still get that pine nut crunch.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, so if you're avoiding yeast due to candida or other infection this is safe to consume. The flakes have a strong yellow color and cheesy flavor. This makes them a great substitute for dairy products. Nutritional yeast is an antiviral and antibacterial immune booster, a complete protein, and contains complex B Vitamins. Nutritional yeast supports your nervous system, brain, mood, and energy levels.
When making a batch of pesto, I like to make multiple batches at once and freeze some for future use. (See storage tips below for the best way to store pesto in your freezer). When you're ready to open a new jar, remember that pesto isn't just for pasta. It's great on sandwiches, slathered on roasted vegetables, mixed in with your eggs, or eaten as a dip with your favorite crackers and vegetable sticks.
Prep time: 15 min.
Makes: 1/4 cup
- ¼ cup almonds or 1/3 cup walnuts
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ cup basil, packed
- 1 cup spinach
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 ½ Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 - 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. hemp seeds (optional)
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- Wash and dry basil and spinach leaves.
- If using a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients in the blender. Using a tamper, blend until it reaches the desired consistency.
- If using a food processor, pulse to roughly break down nuts (don't go too long or else you'll end up with nut butter). Once the nuts have been broken down into a crumble, add the remaining ingredients and continue to pulse until smooth and desired consistency is reached. Pause every now and then to scrape down the container.
- Taste and add extra lemon juice and/or salt, if desired. Flavors will meld once the pesto has sat for a bit.
Prep: make a double batch and freeze some for later use!
Storage: keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Just add a layer of olive oil to cover the pesto before freezing (to prevent air exposure and freezer burn).
Swap: make it nut-free by using 1/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
What are some ways that you enjoy eating pesto?