Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free Pesto

When my sister and I came across lush basil plants last Friday at our town’s farmers’ market, we couldn’t help ourselves and brought one home as a “gift” to my mom. A gift that we certainly will be reaping the benefits of. Basil, in my opinion, is the flavor of summer. My family always has one planted in a big ceramic pot on our sun-soaking deck so I can enjoy it finely chopped on top of watermelon, in my water with freshly squeezed lemon and, most importantly, in pesto. Pesto is a staple in my house this time of year and the taste of family barbecues, pool parties and beach picnics. This summer will be a bit different, however, as I have taken such huge strides in cleaning up my diet. Being gluten-free and cutting back on all dairy (except Chobani…it surprisingly doesn’t have an affect on my stomach like cheese or other milk products), the typical pesto pasta salads I used to indulge in will no longer be much of an option. So that’s why I decided to take matters into my own hands yesterday. Since my wallet hates pine nuts, as does my friend Amy, I embraced the lower price tag, texture and health benefits of walnuts.

(Inspired by Gluten-Free Goddess)
2 cups loosely packed basil
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste

Ready? This is easy. Like really easy. Start by washing and removing any stems from the basil. In a food processor, combine basil with the walnuts and garlic, pulsing until fully chopped. Slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil and process. I left mine kind of chunky but for more of a thin, spreadable paste, add more extra virgin olive oil and continue to process. Season with sea salt, a little pepper and hint of lemon, if desired. Cover and chill before serving.

Pesto is simple and extremely versatile. You can throw in virtually any herbs to put your own twist on the recipe and serve it over grains, greens, legumes, burgers, fish, baked potatoes, etc. for a fresh, seasonal dish in just seconds.  Now that I have figured out that pesto can taste great without the cheese and pine nuts, I cannot wait to start experimenting more! Maybe a coconut oil version? Or how about throwing some cannelli beans in there for a hummus-like consistency? Hm…glad my creative chef hat is back on!
What is your summer staple? 

Sprinkled with Love,


2 Responses to “Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free Pesto”

  1. Great looking basil plant and pesto. A tip I just learned…when your basil starts to flower, cut the flowers off. They sap the flavor out of the leaves. At least that’s what I heard.


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