Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano / Mia / Katie Workman /

I’m in a big pesto place right now.  I guess some people might feel like pesto is a kind of “yesterday” food, but I have never been too much into food-is-fashion, and it’s just so amazing and versatile.

I do love it on pasta, but I also love to stir a spoonful into rice, maybe this Scallion Tomato Rice, or soup, or to  dot some on hot pizza, or use it on a crostini.

basil in a pot

And I always make my pesto myself myself because:

1) it’s easy, and 2) I’m allergic to nuts.

No Nut Pesto

Even though you can buy nut-free pestos (or pistous as they are sometimes called), nuts are so frequently connected to the idea of pesto that the whole notion just makes me nervous.  If the label says “no nuts” then it’s a mental thing, clearly. 

But pesto is so simple to make that I’m always happy to remove any back-of-the-mind concerns and make it myself.  Plus, you always get a super fresh result with your own ingredients, especially at the height of basil season. 

Those of us with allergies need a quick and easy for no-nut basil pesto recipe at the ready. Pesto is so easy to make in the food processor, and so versatile.

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What is Pesto Made of:

Classic pesto is made with fresh basil, Parmesan or another hard Italian grating cheese, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  And pine nuts, usually, or another nut, but again, not in this recipe!  But that’s the classic pesto recipe, and you can play around with the ingredients.

Basil Pesto:

The classic herb featured in pesto is basil.  And working with fresh basil in your kitchen makes the world seem like a better place.  Basil smells like summer.  Plus at the height of herb season you need a way to use up all of those leafy bunches, whether they come from your own garden, or from a farmers’ market.  (Or in my case, also sometimes from from my friends at Melissa’s or my neighbor Ted’s garden.) . You can play around with other herbs as well, instead of basil, or combine herbs.

How To Make Nut Free Pesto:

Traditionally, in Italy, pesto is classically made using a mortar and pestle.  I’m just not that industrious or patient, so I use my food processor.  You can also make pesto in a blender.

Place the garlic and basil in a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is roughly chopped. 

Basil and garlic in a food processor about to made into nut free pesto /  Katie Workman /

Add the oil and pepper and process, scraping down the sides, part way through, until everything is well blended.  If it is very thick, add a bit more olive oil.  Add the cheese and pulse until blended in. Taste and add salt if needed.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano in a food processor Katie Workman /

Pecorino Romano vs. Parmesan:

Parmesan is the cheese most often used in pesto, but another option (and a slightly cheaper one) is Pecorino Romano, made from sheep’s milk.  You can buy it in chunks or already grated (Gasp! Oh no, how could you? Well I do, all the time).  It’s quite salty though so when you use it, taste before salting as you would normally do.

This is a pretty thick pesto, a real paste, and if you want a thinner pesto for drizzling or tossing with hot pasta you could add some hot water from cooking the pasta, or some extra olive oil.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto in a bowl for serving / Mia / Katie Workman /

Freezing Pesto:

You can freeze pesto, so it makes sense to make a big batch when a windfall of basil comes your way.  Is there anything more depressing than throwing out unused extra herbs?  Well, sure, there are plenty of more annoying things in the world, but still, why do it if you can help it?

You could use the ice cube tray trick, but ice cubes take a while to defrost, plus they are all the same size, so later in the month you may want 1 teaspoon or 1/4 cup pesto, and then those cubes might not work.  I use a similar technique to the way I freeze tomato paste – smushed out in a thin layer in a zipper top freezer bag. So easy, takes up almost no space, and you break off pieces in the sizes you need, as you need them.

Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano in a bag for freezing/ Katie Workman /

More ideas for this easy quick nut free, allergy friendly basil pesto? Pasta of course.

You will probably want to add some olive oil, and you might also want to top it with some shredded mozzarella or another cheese of your choice.

nut free pesto pon pasta

Use it in Couscous Salad with Shrimp, Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto Dressing.  As a condiment in a sandwich.

In an omelet, a dip, with meat, in a grilled cheese….the list continues to grow.

Cavatappi with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

Blended with fresh ricotta and spread onto a crostini.  Spread over grilled lamb chops.  Dripped over perfectly ripe tomatoes….

Tomatoes with Mint Basil Pesto / Photo by Mia / Katie Workman /

And check out 10 Things to Do With Leftover Pesto…..Fellow pesto-fans, what do you use it on?

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Nut-Free Basil Pesto with Pecorino Romano

The perfect no-nut pesto for those with nut allergies, so simple to make in the food processor.
Yield: 10 People
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  • 1 clove garlic roughly chopped
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • cup olive oil or more as needed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Kosher salt as needed


  • Place the garlic and basil in a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is roughly chopped. Add the oil and pepper and process, scraping down the sides, part way through, until everything is well blended.  If it is very thick, add a bit more olive oil.  Add the cheese and pulse until blended in. Taste and add salt if needed.


Nutrition Information

Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 18mg | Potassium: 7mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 133IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

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  1. Thank you! I am allergic to nuts as well, and have been looking for a good nut-free pesto recipe for all the basil my garden is producing this year. I made this, and it is really yummy! Thank you again!

  2. Looking forward to trying this! I’m going to use it in a pesto infused lasagna recipe I found… it is possible to make this pesto ahead of time & if so, how long does it keep?


      1. Have you ever tried it with sunflower seeds instead of nuts. My daughter is allergic to all nuts and sunflowers is my go to substitution.

  3. The comment about (nuts) being a mental thing is nuts. They’re a lot of people that are allergic to nuts. I am one of them and I like to enjoy good food like everyone else, but like many people I have a nut allergy

  4. I think you’ve misunderstood. I read it as it’s the nervousness that’s a mental issue, because the allergy is real and even “nut free” pesto feels like a risk.

  5. The author is allergic to nuts. The mental thing was trusting a pesto that says no nuts, but, because pestos often have nuts, the author prefers to make it herself.

  6. This was so easy and delicious so I planted extra basil to make it again and again. Yum Yum! Even if you are a nut lover you won’t miss them in this recipe.

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