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!
Looking to switch up your pesto game? This easy recipe for basil cashew pesto is nutty, fresh, and ready in just 5 minutes - and the best part is, it doesn't require pine nuts!
Use it right away or freeze it for later, and enjoy its versatility on pasta, zucchini noodles, sandwiches, roasted veggies, or your favourite meats, fish or seafood. This Italian sauce is so delicious, you'll want to put it 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 my favourite way to enjoy it!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- So quick! 5 minutes is all you'll need to pulse this in your food processor.
- Make ahead! Make a batch, portion it into small jars or even ice cube trays and freeze for another day and another easy meal.
- Versatile. Pesto has so many uses. It adds amazing flavour when you toss it with pasta, spread it on pizza, mix it with gnocchi, and add it to Pesto Smashed Potatoes.
Like making your own homemade sauces and seasoning? See How to Make Chimichurri Sauce, Homemade Cherry Barbecue Sauce without Ketchup and many more in my How-To category.
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
🔪 Step-by-Step Instructions to make pesto
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 the machine running, slowly pour olive oil through the chute until well combined. You're done!
Your pesto is now ready to use in your favourite recipes or freeze for later. It will last for up to a week in a covered jar in the fridge.
🍽 Ways to serve pesto
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. It's delicious on these Pesto Smashed Potatoes.
- 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.
🥶 How to freeze pesto sauce
Pesto sauce freezes well. Store it in your freezer to add to pasta, grilled potatoes or roasted vegetables.
Transfer the pesto to small glass or plastic containers, cover it with a lid and freeze. You can also freeze smaller amounts in ice cube trays. Once the pesto cubes are frozen, transfer them to a resealable freezer bag or an airtight container. It will last for 3 months or more.
Pesto cubes are just the right size to add to roasted vegetables. One 4-ounce jar of pesto sauce is the right amount to toss with pasta for two people.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto.
🗒️ More healthy recipes with basil
Are you overloaded with garden basil? Here are a few ideas for ways to use it.
More recipes for homemade sauces and seasonings
When you make this basil pesto with cashews, please leave a comment and a star rating below. Thanks in advance! Subscribe to my newsletter and have new recipes delivered straight to your inbox.
This recipe was originally published in 2020. It has been updated with extra information to make it more helpful.
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 escept olive oil to the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse until finely chopped, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl.
- With machine running, pour olive oil through the chute a little at a time. Check to see that it is emulsifying. You may have a little more oil than you need. Process until well combined.
- Transfer to glass jars or ice cube trays.
- Refrigerate for 5 to 7 days or freeze for 3 months.
- 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.
It feels like such a luxury to have enough basil from the garden to make pesto! Thank you greenhouse!
Lucky you to have a greenhouse! Happy to hear the pesto turned out well. Thanks for commenting!
I made this on the weekend with basil from my garden and added it to pasta salad. So delicious! Great recipe.
Will definitely be making this pesto recipe very soon. Sounds delicious and would make a great topping for baked chicken. Thanks Elaine.
Wishing you good health and joy as you celebrate your birthday. Enjoy!