Basil & Cashew Pesto

My own basil pesto recipe using cashews instead of cheese.

The south Louisiana summer heat is starting to set in. This is the time of year when my garden quickly gets out of control and I lose the motivation to keep up with it. As with most herbs, basil does better when you trim it frequently. Letting the leaves get to mature can result in a bitter basil so don’t be afraid to cut it way back….and start stocking up on jars of fresh basil pesto!

Breaking From Tradition

A traditional basil pesto recipe calls for lots of garlic, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. I have never been a fan of pine nuts. They taste soapy to me and they are ridiculously expensive. By using cashews, you get the richness you need with the bonus of not needing to add parmesan cheese!

Lots of Lemon

Make sure you have plenty of lemons before you start your pesto….it makes all the difference. One of my favorite kitchen tools is my lime juicer – made for limes, not lemons. I usually just cut my lemons into pieces that will fit it. A friend recently gifted me this super little gadget – a combo lime/lemon juicer. Love it!! It gets the most juice out of every lemon – you just can’t do that with your hands.

The Process

To make pesto, I like to throw the garlic into the processor first and pulse it a few times to break it up. Next I add my cashews and pulse again, same reason. Add the basil – more than you think you’ll need – and squeeze the juice of 2 small lemons in before you start processing.

Processing cashews makes them rich and creamy – it’s what many vegans use in place of cheese. I also recommend using a high quality extra virgin olive oil when making basil pesto. That combined with fresh lemon juice will bring the most flavor out of your basil.

Using Pesto

Pesto can be used in so many ways. I always have a jar in the fridge ready to go.

  • Mix pesto with high quality olive oil and use as a drizzle over fresh sliced tomatoes
  • Stir into broth based soups
  • Use as a pasta sauce

One of my favorite things to do with pesto is to stir it into warm quinoa and serve with sauteed kale, a soft boiled egg, avocado and crumbled goat cheese. That recipe is on my Something Borrowed page (Savory Quinoa Breakfast Bowl).

Also check out my “Recipes Using Pesto” collection.

Jenny’s Basil & Cashew Pesto

My own basil pesto recipe using cashews instead of cheese.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes


  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, unsalted
  • 3 or 4 cup fresh basil pulled off tough stems
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • salt


  • Pulse the garlic clove in a large food processor just to break it up. Add the cashews and pulse 2-3 times. Add basil and juice of two lemons. Turn on the processor and drizzle in 1/4 of olive oil while running. Stop processor and use a spatula to scrape down the sides, then process again. Drizzle additional oil as needed but only until you have a thick paste. Season to taste with salt.
  • Divide the pesto into 2 small mason jars and drizzle olive oil on top. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Published by Jenny G

I'm sipping coffee in the morning, reading a cookbook for fun. Always planning my next trip and what I'll eat when I get there. Hoping to inspire others who share my love of cooking and eating, and to celebrate the wonderous diversity of food. I love to explore the world so I'll share my best itineraries and travel tips. Of course, sometimes I'd rather be snuggled up with a glass of wine and a good book so let's discuss those here too. And don't forget to feed the birds!

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