Skip to Content

Dairy Free Pesto

This dairy free pesto recipe hales from Italy, is made without nutritional yeast, and is so good you’ll be hard-pressed to tell that it is vegan! Serve over pasta for an Italian flavor so good, you won’t be able to stop at one plate.

a bowl of dairy free (vegan) pasta with pesto and a jar of pesto sauce in the background

The first time I had pesto was when I was visiting my friend Karen and her family in Massachusetts.

Karen’s grandparents were from Naples and on my second night we made pesto for dinner.

Under Karen’s direction, I chopped the garlic and basil, added oil, and seasoned heavily with salt.

She chose to leave out the nuts but came with the cheese – something I never before realized was in pesto.

However, it turned out that the cheese wasn’t kosher (Karen and her family are Catholic) so we left it out.

So, we coated the spaghetti in the pesto and cheese was put on individual plates. Needless to say, mine was dairy free.

The food smelled amazing and I couldn’t wait to taste it.

I twisted the green tinted pasta on my fork and lifted it to my mouth.

It was love at first bite!

I had plate after plate of the spaghetti until I was so stuffed I could not take another bite.

While I still make my dairy free pesto the way I had in Massachusetts as a lighter calorie version, this recipe isn’t that. 

This recipe is an Italian vegan recipe that uses macadamia nuts instead of cheese. You’ll be hard-pressed to tell that it isn’t traditional pesto!

Another Italian favorite of mine that I’ve made dairy free is Pasta al Limone, otherwise known as Pasta with Lemon.

What can I use instead of cheese in pesto?

You can use nutritional yeast or certain kinds of nuts, like cashews or almonds. This recipe uses macadamia nuts.

Recipe Tip:

I make this recipe in a blender because it is what I have. However, if you have a mortar and pestle, I highly recommend making this recipe the traditional way. 

Also, see the recipe notes at the bottom of the card for my dairy free, nut free version.

Yield: 4 servings

Dairy Free Pesto

a bowl of dairy free (vegan) pasta with pesto and a jar of pesto sauce in the background

This dairy free and vegan pesto uses macadamia nuts. It's so good, you'll hardly be able to tell it doesn't have cheese, if you can tell at all.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 2 ounces pine nuts or walnuts (55 grams)
  • 2 ounces macadamia nuts (55 grams)
  • 1 to 3 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (120 milliliters)


  1. Put half of the basil in a food processor, add the pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and the garlic clove. Blend these ingredients. 
  2. Add the rest of the basil, a pinch of salt, and the oil.  Blend again until the desired consistency is obtained.


For my nut and dairy free lazy version, leave out the nuts and add an extra cup of basil.

Recommended Products

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 39gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Skip to Recipe