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Nut-Free Pesto

Ok, so I am a huge fan of pesto and enjoying experimenting with different herb and nut combinations. Unfortunately, my girlfriend is highly allergic to tree nuts and has never eaten pesto. Can you imagine?

Well, anyways, I've considered using toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds as a replacement, but have yet to actually conduct that test.

Does anyone know of any good, basic, pesto recipes that are completely nut free? Thanks!

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  1. When I 'googled' nut-free pesto, I found lots of options using pinto bean, sunflowers etc. That reminded me that I ran out of pine-nuts once and used leftover brown rice to get some of the same texture in my basil pesto. It worked there largely because the garlic is strong enough to compensate for the loss of 'nutty' flavour and brown rice does have abit of that, too.

    1. My SO is deathly allergic to peanuts and pinenuts, so pesto's usually out.

      I usually go the way that [cheap] restaurants go: I replace the pine nuts with Parmesan.

      1. I think you could make a basil pesto and just omit the pine nuts but if you want to try something different try adding a few sundried tomatoes to the pesto - it adds great flavor.

        1. Just omit nuts--they're there more for texture than for taste.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Erika L

            they're in there for fat and as a binder. adding grated cheese will do the dame thing. i've stopped using garlic in mine though as the raw flavor of it is simply too strong and off-putting.

            just whizz some basil with great olive oil and lemon zest, little salt and pepper. delish and very fresh/clean tasting.

          2. this may sound odd, but i've used powdered (ground to a powder) oatmeal and a little low-fat cream cheese in pesto, or just use the oatmeal with a little extra olive oil... it adds a little earthiness to the flavor and bulks up the texture a little.

            1. Leave the nuts out from almost any pesto recipe, and add parmesan. No, it's not a duplicate, but instead of thinking it's "fake pesto" or an "analog," think of it as a close alternative.

              1. Make pistou, the nut-less Provencal "pesto."

                Basil, garlic, olive oil, sometimes Parm...but no nuts.


                1. Thanks for all the responses, I've got a couple great options to experiment with!

                  1. my fav is roasted pumpkin seed and flat leaf parsley pesto. to die for..

                    1. I was curious about what were considered "tree" nuts and found this site: http://www.calgaryallergy.ca/Articles...

                      It says "pine nuts" are not considered tree nuts and would be a separate, and unusual, allergy. Just passing the info along. PS Pesto without nuts is best when made with Parmigiano Reggiano.

                      1. If she is only allergic to "tree nuts" then peanuts, pine nuts or even sesame seeds would all work in your pesto.

                        1. My folks make pesto with sunflower seeds often, and actually prefer it this way (I still like pine nuts the best by far).

                          I agree with escondito123 - seems like pine nuts should be very different from other tree nuts, so if she's willing to try a few as a test, might be worth trying.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: will47

                            DON'T have your girlfriend try a few as a test. That's an experiment best carried out in a doctor's office.

                          2. I have used sunflower seeds, and been quite happy with the results.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ferdzy

                              me too. toasting them makes it better.

                              1. re: magiesmom

                                Yes! Forgot to mention that part. Thanks!

                            2. Pine nuts are not tree nuts, and almost all people who are allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts can eat pine nuts (and coconut, and water chestnuts) with zero problems.. Have her test herself for pine nuts (she will know what to do).

                              Pine nuts are the traditional "nut" in pesto, tho of course you can use whatever you like. Pepitas or sunflower seeds will give you an interesting variation on the traditional pesto, perfectly nice but not the same as the original.

                              The secondary reason to have her test herself for pine nuts is that they are an excellent substitute for "real" nuts. I use pine nuts all the time in many "nutted" recipes.

                              I am very, very allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, but have zero problems with pine nuts or coconut, neither of which are actually tree nuts.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: migod

                                I am allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, pine nuts, sesame, coconut, sunflower seeds, and poppy seeds. Looks like parmesan, oatmeal, or brown rice for me!!

                              2. I collected lots of pine nuts in Spain last week and can confirm that they are not the same as other nuts - they are more like seeds which grow inside of pine cones, when the pine cone matures and opens up, the pine kernels simply fall out onto the ground. They don't grow on the branches like almonds and other nuts.

                                I made a really nice pesto recently when I was short of basil leaves using blanched radish leaves. I blanched and cut up a few handfuls of radish leaves, chopped it finely, sauted it in some olive oil and a tiny bit of garlic, added freshly shredded basil leaves, finely grated parmesan, a little bit of cream and then whisked in some cooking water from the pasta to make a pasta sauce. One of the best alternative pestos I've ever had.