Dairy-free Pesto (Paleo)

Ever since my daughter and I returned from our trip to National Jewish in Denver, where we discovered that she can eat pine nuts (even though she is severely allergic to tree nuts), I've been searching for the perfect dairy-free pesto recipe for her to sample.  Of course, traditional pesto contains parmesan cheese, but really it tastes great without it.  I combined a few recipes I found online to come up with this version.  Now go make it and slather it on your favorite crostini or pizza dough!

This version starts off with toasting some pine nuts (sometimes called 'pignolias').  I like to do this with a dry saucepan over medium heat.  Once they start to brown, they can burn very easily, so be careful!

It's been warm here in Albuquerque this fall, so my basil plant is going crazy.  I picked a bunch of leaves and squashed them into my measuring cup (after washing, of course). 

This recipe uses a bit of fresh squeezed lemon, which makes the pesto taste bright, if you know what I mean.  By the way, you must have one of these kitchen tools.  They make fresh squeezed, seedless lemon and lime juice a breeze.  Seriously, go get one.

Simply blend all of the ingredients (except for the oil) together in a food processor.  Once it looks like the picture below, slowly drizzle the oil into the processor, while the machine is running, until you have a smooth paste.

That's it!  Now your pesto is ready to enjoy.  Top your favorite crostini, pasta, pizza, vegetables, potatoes, or meat.  Really, there are so many ways to enjoy this deliciousness! What is your favorite way to enjoy pesto?


Dairy-free Pesto (Paleo)
(makes about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 c packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 c pine nuts (pignolias)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c Extra virgin olive oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Lightly toast the pine nuts by heating in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Place all ingredients in a food processor, except for the oil.
  3. Slowly incorporate the oil while the machine is running, until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Serve on crostini, pasta, vegetables, meat - whatever strikes your fancy!
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  1. Angie - This is very interesting! How did you discover that your daughter could eat Pine Nuts? We have always stayed away because of our daughter's tree nut allergy. I have been wanting a safe pesto for a while, but we'll definitely talk to our allergist first before trying Pine Nuts.

    1. Hi Justin! We discovered she wasn't allergic when we had a specific RAST test done this past summer. She had negligible IgE antibodies for it, so they performed a food challenge in the hospital and passed! You should definitely have her tested! Can she have sunflower seeds? One option is to use those instead of the pine nuts.

  2. Got it. We do need to have her tested, and we are thinking about doing a milk challenge within the next year. Thanks for the tip for sunflower seeds - she can have those. Also, it appears our son is not allergic to seeds either based on the skin test he went through yesterday. They weren't able to test him for the seed most likely to have caused the reaction, which was pumpkin seeds from a bag of Enjoy Life no nut granola. It was either pumpkin seeds or milk through a cross contact reaction. We were in a designated eating area at a museum. We wiped down the table but forgot to wipe down the high chair. It is possible the child before him left dairy protein on the chair that he then wiped on his mouth. We should have been more thoughtful.