Make your own pesto without pine nuts! Learn how to make basil cashew pesto in 5 minutes! Use it fresh or freeze it for later to use on pasta, zucchini noodles, roasted vegetables, sandwiches, grilled meats, fish or seafood. A versatile Italian sauce you'll want to put on everything!
Creamy cashews replace pine nuts in this easy recipe for 5-minute basil cashew pesto. Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, but here in North America, pine nuts have recently become exorbitantly expensive. I've discovered that cashews make an excellent substitute.
Making pesto without pine nuts has now become our favourite way to enjoy it!
You may wonder how a sauce with so much flavour has so few ingredients! Here's what you'll need to make this basil pesto with cashews.
- basil: 2 big bunches of store-bought or about 2 packed cups of homegrown basil.
- cashews: raw, unsalted. You'll toast them briefly to enhance their flavour.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese will give your pesto the most flavour and the best texture.
- garlic: one or two cloves, depending on your taste
- lemon juice: freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a bright note and helps to preserve the bright green colour of basil leaves once they're chopped.
- sea salt
- extra virgin olive oil
Toast cashews in a dry skillet for a few minutes, just until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and let them cool a little. Toasting nuts enhances their flavour.
Add all ingredients except olive oil to the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse until ingredients are finely chopped, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary.
With machine running, slowly pour olive oil through the chute until well combined.
Transfer to glass containers or ice cube trays. This recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
The Italians know how to add a lot of flavour to a dish with a simple sauce! Pesto is so versatile and can be added to many different recipes.
Here are some suggestions for ways to enjoy this basil cashew pesto.
- Use it in this recipe for Easy Vegetarian Pesto Gnocchi
- Toss it with pasta, fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for an easy dinner.
- Add dollops of pesto to your homemade pizza.
- Drizzle it on roasted vegetables.
- Add a smear inside a sandwich.
- Spread it on crostini, then top with goat cheese.
- Serve it with grilled shrimp, prawns or chicken.
- Add cooked salmon to zucchini noodles and toss it all with a generous amount of pesto.
❓Adding pesto to pasta the right way
It may seem trivial, but there is a right way and a wrong way to add pesto to pasta! Usually, when preparing a pasta dish you heat the sauce first, then add the cooked pasta to the sauce with a little of the pasta water to bring it all together. You boil it to thicken and coat the pasta, then correct the seasoning with a little butter, oil, salt and pepper or cheese.
When adding pesto to pasta, however, the worst thing you can do is cook it! Exposing pesto to high heat destroys that fresh raw taste that makes pesto so appealing.
Instead, cook your pasta as usual, transfer it to a serving bowl and add the pesto and a ladleful of pasta water. Toss it all together, add some grated Parmesan cheese if you like, and enjoy!
🔁 Possible Variations
Change the nuts: substitute almonds, walnuts or the traditional pine nuts for the cashews.
Keep it dairy-free and vegan: add 3 - 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese
Make it thinner: add a little water until you achieve the consistency you like.
Change the texture: leave it a little chunky, or process it longer to give it a smoother consistency.
🥶 Freezer and storage instructions for basil cashew pesto
Once it's made, I like to transfer it from my food processor to small 4-ounce jars with lids. One jar is the right amount to toss with pasta for two people. Storing pesto in glass jars allows me to choose to refrigerate it (for up to a week or so) or freeze it for a few months.
You can also spoon it into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a zipper-lock freezer bag, label and store in the freezer. The cubes are just the right size for adding to roasted vegetables, for example.
🗒️ More healthy recipes with basil
Are you overloaded with garden basil? Here are a few ideas for ways to use it.
5 - Minute Basil Cashew Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil, packed
- ⅓ cup cashews, toasted
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup olive oil, extra virgin
- Toast cashews in a skillet until lightly browned. Let cool slightly.
- Add all ingredients to a food processor.
- Pulse until finely chopped, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl.
- With machine running, pour olive oil through the chute and process until well combined.
- Transfer to glass jars or ice cube trays.
- Refrigerate or freeze.
- Change the nuts: substitute almonds, walnuts or the traditional pine nuts for the cashews.
- Keep it dairy-free and vegan: add 3 - 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese
- Make it thinner: add a little water until you achieve the consistency you like.
- Leave it a little chunky, or process it longer to give it a smoother consistency.