Our Favorite Vegan and Dairy Free Pesto Recipe
This recipe is a long time family favourite and a delicious way to add in nutrient dense herbs. Our mint, basil, pistachio pesto has adapted and evolved over the years. When one of our children went vegan for many years we omitted the parmesan cheese, added a little more garlic and salt and have enjoyed it like that ever since. Not using parmesan definitely gives the pesto a fresher and brighter flavor profile. It is a great way to use up your prolific mint and basil. It is easy to find vegan pasta and pairing that with this pesto makes a pretty healthy vegan dinner.
Do you grow your own herbs? Basil and other herbs can be quite expensive at the supermarket but growing your own is really economical. Here is a great guide to growing your own basil at home. I am a big fan of growing herbs. I also grow sorrel and have a Sorrel Pesto recipe.
Is Pesto Gluten Free?
The happy answer is yes! This recipe is gf, vegan and even dairy free which differs from traditional pesto. While classic pesto recipes include parmesan cheese, they do not include any gluten if you make them from scratch with fresh ingredients.
How To Make This Classic Recipe
Making pesto is really easy. The key is to chop all your herbs in the food processor before you add the oil. If you add oil before or with the herbs, they can be too slippery to chop properly.
Start by adding your garlic, nuts and salt to the food processor and process until finely ground (no one wants big chunks of garlic). Process until they are a sandy texture, then add herbs a ½ c or so at a time. Pulse repeatedly until you've added them all and they are as fine as you want them. Then turn on processor and drizzle in oil until desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt as you like.
You can also make this with a mortar and pestle which is truly the more traditional way. This will give you a more rustic texture which some people prefer. Add your garlic and salt first and grind to a paste. Continue by adding the pistachios and grind until they are the texture you like. Next comes the mint and basil and once it is all a lovely finely ground consistency, add in your oil. You may use less oil making your mint basil pesto this way, use your judgement as you go.
How To Make The Traditional Recipe
Traditional pesto is simple - finely hand chopped garlic, pine nuts and basil, blended with olive oil and seasoned with parmesan cheese and possibly salt depending on how you're going to use it. You can definitely prepare this pesto the same way. Hand chopping with a good sharp knife or mezzaluna make this a more traditional texture and gives a little more variation in flavor when you are eating it. It also makes this a very meditative recipe...may I suggest a glass of dry Italian white wine while you work? (If you plan to serve this with meat you might omit the salt but if spreading over a large amount of pasta, you could use a little more salt.)
How To Freeze
This recipe freezes really well! To freeze, pack it into ½ c jars or containers and put a little drizzle of olive oil on top to keep the air off and the color still bright green. Then simply put in freezer with good air flow around the containers until it is frozen. Once frozen, you can pack you freezer containers tightly. (If using glass jars, be sure to leave some head space (1-2 cm at of air at the top) for expansion and keep the lid loose until it has frozen through.)
Other Recipes Using Mint and Basil
Do you grow mint ? Or do you have wild mint growing nearby? Mint is more versatile than many realize and I made a recipe round up full of recipes using this bright and fresh herb. Check out my 25 Best Mint recipes here. I also have the recipe for making Fresh Mint Tea at the bottom of the Green Family Farm post which is an all time favourite. And last but not least, I love my Basil Aioli Dip for veggies, eggs and sandwiches.
What To Eat With Pesto
My children love this on tortellini or spiral pasta. If you are vegan or gluten free, there are now many pastas that can accommodate your diet. Alternatively you can use spiralized veggie noodles.
To make an easy gluten free dairy free snack, spread pesto over some gf crackers, top with a slice of ripe tomato and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Summertime heaven 🙂 If you don't mind dairy, spread it on bruschetta and top with fresh mozzarella and then sliced cherry tomatoes. A perfect (and easy) Caprese bruschetta!
Pesto is also a great condiment with lamb chops or rack of lamb, grilled chicken or use a leftover tbsp or two to stir into a basic vinaigrette of 2 or 3 parts olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar. If you like Italian flavours, this is gold. This vegan pistachio pesto pasta is an easy side dish too, pair it with any grilled meat or tofu.
Fresh herb pesto made with mint, basil and pistachios is a bright, kid friendly favourite. A punchy yet milder flavour than versions with parmesan. This is an excellent dish when you are feeding company with various dietary restrictions because it covers almost all common allergies.
Because my children beg me to make it, I get them involved by delegating. They shelling the nuts which they do happily. Do you have a favourite "non-traditional" pesto? I would love to hear what different types of pesto you have made!
Whether you make the traditional basil and parmesan, my sorrel version, this vegan basil mint pesto or make one up with a combination of ingredients, you are in for a fresh and flavourful dinner. Pesto is ALWAYS made with fresh ingredients and the flavour is unparalleled. It is a punchy condiment delicious with almost any type of starch or protein from tofu to fish to meat or pasta, gnocchi, salad and more. (One of my favourite salads ever is a "simple" garden salad with peas and a pesto dressing from Courtenay's Atlas Cafe. If you're in the area, you've gotta try it!)
Vegan Basil Mint Pesto with Pistachios
- ½ c Fresh Shelled Pistachios
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- 2 Cloves Peeled Garlic
- 1 c Basil loosely packed
- 1 c Mint loosely packed
- ½ c Olive Oil You can use as little as ¼ c if you want this to be much thicker and more of a paste consistency
- Chop nuts in food processor (or a mortar and pestle) until fine, add salt and garlic and pulse until garlic is minced.
- Add herbs ½ c at a time until finely chopped. Then drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency. (Should be thick but spreadable)
- Adjust with Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Serve with fresh pasta or spiralized and steamed veggies.