Basil Cashew Pesto (Vegan, Whole30, Paleo)

This dairy-free, vegan basil cashew pesto is made with fresh herbs and pre-soaked nuts, which give it a gorgeous velvety cream consistency. Spread over sweet potato toast, use as a dip, add to your salad or as a sauce for pasta or zucchini noodles. 

Basil Cashew Pesto Recipe - vegan, dairy-free.

Basil Cashew Pesto

I bought a big bunch of fresh basil the other day and wanted to make my regular pesto but realised that I only had some cashews on hand (I usually add pine nuts). I often use soaked cashews for making a dairy-free ‘cheese-y’ sauce and in dips, so they quickly ended up in a blender together with fresh herbs and olive oil.

The mixture of this cashew pesto is a thicker, creamier consistency of a regular pesto and has that beautiful fresh basil flavour mellowed out by the nutty, sweet nuts and olive oil, plus a hint of garlic.

This basil cashew pesto is vegan and paleo-friendly and is quite low in carbs, so it’s suitable for a keto diet.


What Goes Into This Cashew Pesto

I wanted to keep this basil cashew pesto dairy-free so it’s suitable for paleo, Whole30 and vegan diets, so there is no Parmesan cheese or any other kind of cheese. Cashew nuts give it plenty of creaminess so you don’t need it anyway. 

I went with the traditional basil but you can easily use other fresh herbs or a mixture. You could do a coriander/cilantro for a Mexican-inspired pesto or oregano and rosemary for a Greek-style. Arugula or rocket can also be used for a more mellow leafy green flavour.

Garlic and lemon will give it a little acidity and a pungent kick. Finally, the key to any good pesto is good quality olive oil. This is where extra-virgin would be the best bet. 

Cashew pesto ingredients

How To Use Basil Cashew Pesto

You can use this paleo and vegan cashew pesto in a variety of ways:

  • as a spread over roasted sweet potato toast or toasted sourdough
  • use it to top sliced tomatoes or grilled vegetables like eggplant and zucchini
  • drizzle over roasted carrots or pumpkin
  • use it as a spread in a tasty paleo wrap or any kind of sandwich really
  • as a dip with fresh carrot and celery sticks
  • stir through some scrambled eggs or add a dollop on top
  • as a sauce with zucchini or celeriac noodles, or with your favourite gluten-free pasta
  • as a crust on grilled or baked fish or chicken
Basil cashew pesto over scrambled eggs

More Dairy-Free Pesto Recipes

Full Recipe 

Find the full list of ingredients, instructions, and a nutritional breakdown below. If you have questions or cook this recipe, please let me know in the comments, and make sure to rate this recipe so it’s easy for others to find.

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Basil Cashew Pesto Recipe

Basil Cashew Pesto

  • Author: Irena Macri
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Yield: 1.5 cups 1x
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Italian
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Velvety and creamy, this cashew pesto is made with fresh basil, olive oil, lemon and garlic. It’s full of flavour and is a nutritious dip, condiment or sauce. It’s dairy-free, so it’s paleo, vegan and Whole30 friendly.It’s also low-car and keto friendly.


  • ½ cup cashew nuts, soaked in warm water for 34 hours
  • 1 medium bunch of fresh basil (about 2 cups packed with leaves)
  • 1/3 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 clove of garlic, chopped roughly
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • A generous pinch of pepper
  • ¼ cup water (you can add more for thinner consistency)


  1. Pre-soak the cashew nuts in a bowl of warm water for 3-4 hours and strain through a sieve.
  2. Tear off the basil leaves and save the stalks for a soup, although you can also use some of the stalks in the pesto.
  3. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender. Process into a thick puree, adding a little more water if the consistency is too thick. Taste the pureed mixture for salt and lemon, and add more if you like.
  4. You can also add some chilli or more garlic, if you like an extra kick, or some nutritional yeast flakes for a more cheesy flavour.


Store this creamy cashew pesto in an airtight jar or container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.


  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 95
  • Sugar: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 98 mg
  • Fat: 9.4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.6 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

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Vegan cashew pesto recipe
Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author:Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share delicious recipes that I have cooked and loved. I’ve been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition. You will find many healthy recipes as well as my favourite comfort food on the blog because I believe in a balanced diet.More about me here. Sign-up for my newsletter and subscriber freebies.

PS. Some posts contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.

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