5-Minute Pesto (without Pine Nuts!)
Using almonds instead of pine nuts, this pesto without pine nuts recipe is a more affordable (and easier to find) yet equally delicious homemade pesto! With just a few simple steps, you can have a batch of pesto whipped up in no time that can elevate any meal or dish.
About Pesto without Pine Nuts
Can I fill you in on one of my favorite time-saving kitchen hacks? Having an arsenal of easy sauces and dressings that you can whip up in no time will elevate any meal or dish.
Even if you can’t cook a full meal, adding at least one homemade element is a sure-fire way to enhance a store-bought item like rotisserie chicken or pasta.
Because of this, I always keep pesto on hand as it’s one of my go-to sauces (I’m looking at you, pesto rosso) – it’s such a versatile sauce and packs a flavorful punch.
However, traditional basil pesto is made with pine nuts, which can be a bit pricey and hard to find.
So, I created an equally delicious basil pesto recipe that uses blanched almonds instead of pine nuts and other ingredients you probably already have in your pantry (for a nut-free, vegan pesto, check out my nut-free dairy-free pesto).
In no time, you’ll have a delicious pesto ready to spread on sandwiches, mix with pasta, use as a dip for veggies, or blend into a simple dressing (like my 3-ingredient pesto vinaigrette)!
Visual Guide: How to Make Pesto without Pine Nuts
Origins of Pesto
Pesto is a sauce that originated in the Liguria region of northwest Italy, specifically in the city of Genoa, although variations of the sauce can also be found in other parts of Italy. The original basil pesto is called pesto alla genovese, and is made by pounding together fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
Easy Prep Tips & Tricks
This pesto comes together in just five minutes and is so easy since there is no chopping or cooking.
To make things super easy (and not dirty other dishes), you will chop the whole garlic cloves in the food processor by themselves first.
Not only does this make the prep super simple, but it also ensures that the garlic gets minced enough since you do not want to over blend the pesto.
Then you’ll add the other ingredients in stages, finishing with the olive oil and just mixing until combined – you don’t want to over blend or else the pesto will taste bitter.
For a spinach-basil pesto, replace half of the basil for fresh spinach, which will yield a more mild-tasting pesto and boost the nutrition.
You can also replace half the basil with fresh parsley for another twist!
If you don’t have almonds, feel free to use walnuts, or for a nut-free version use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Garlic: I recommend using whole garlic cloves versus pre-minced garlic as the flavor will be a lot better. I do not recommend granulated garlic.
Fresh basil: Fresh basil is essential in this recipe. You could swap 1 cup of fresh spinach or fresh parsley for 1 cup of fresh basil.
Blanched almonds: Blanched almonds are almonds with their skins removed, and they have a sweet flavor similar to pine nuts, but are much easier to find. Roasted almonds with skins can be used, but the sauce will be a bit more brown. You can also use walnuts, or pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds for a nut-free option.
Parmesan: Try to use freshly grated parmesan if you can. Pecorino Romano is also a good substitute. Use a dairy free parmesan for a dairy free version
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Extra virgin olive oil: I highly recommend using extra virgin olive oil since the olive oil is a pronounced flavor in this recipe.
Make It Gluten Free + Dairy Free
This recipe is naturally gluten free. For a dairy free and vegan version, replace the parmesan cheese with dairy free parmesan cheese.
When it comes to serving this pesto without pine nuts, the possibilities are endless, hence why it’s one of my favorite sauces to have on hand.
Of course, I love to mix it with some cooked pasta (hello tuna pesto pasta!), however, pesto isn’t limited to pasta!
Spread it on a slice of bread and top it with mozzarella cheese and tomato for a quick and tasty lunch, use as a dip for grilled bread or vegetables, or try it as a sauce over simple baked chicken or grilled fish.
How to Store & Freeze
Pesto is a great make-ahead sauce so you always have a good sauce on hand.
It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, in a sealed container.
This recipe also freezes well!
Freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then store pesto cubes in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 6 months.
This Recipe is…
Pesto without Pine Nuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ½ cup blanched almonds
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add the lid to the food processor, turn to high, then drop in the garlic cloves to finely mince. Remove the lid and scrape the sides.
- Add the basil leaves and pulse several times until coarsely chopped.
- Add the cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse until just combined. Scrape down the sides.
- Turn the food processor to low, then slowly stream in the olive oil until just combined.
- Taste and add additional salt if desired.