When I moved to Seattle in 1999 I was an uneducated vegetarian. I wasn’t aware of nutritional needs and I had no idea how the dairy industry in America worked. I just knew I didn’t want to eat animals anymore. I also didn’t know what pesto was made from. All of these things led me to blindly order a tofu sandwich from one of my favorite spots, The Crocodile Café, and what followed was a very eye-opening experience. Not only was that the moment where I decided tofu wasn’t for me—though I’ve since learned that there are a million ways to make it good and I now eat it often—but it was also when I learned that pine nuts are bad news in my world.
Shortly after eating a few bites of the sandwich I felt very itchy and my throat began to close up. Pesto was made with nuts! I don’t know why I didn’t know this before, but I did now. My nut allergy is nowhere near as severe as that of some people. I get these symptoms and as my body starts to fight I get really weak all over. Luckily, when this happened to me my office was right down the block so I could go lie down and wait for it to pass.
The unfortunate thing here is that I really liked the pesto that did me in. But since that day I’ve steered clear of it completely. But seeing it so frequently throughout the vegan food community got me to thinking about it and so I decided to find a way to make a version that those of us with a tree nut allergy can enjoy fear-free.
This Easy Nut-Free Pesto uses brown flax seed instead of pine nuts to get a similar earthy, nutty taste and the same texture. It’s an adaptation of a pretty traditional pesto recipe, but made vegan, of course, by substituting nutritional yeast for the parmesan. It’s really easy to make and is very versatile. You can mix it into your pasta with a little water to get a saucy dish; bake it into bread; or even mix it into a vinaigrette to top your favorite salad.
I’m really happy that I could share a pesto recipe for those readers who suffer from a nut allergy like I do. But I think this recipe is so tasty that even if that’s not you, you’ll still love it. So give it a try and don’t forget to tag @nutfreevegan on social media so I can see your photos.
- 1 clove garlic, loosely chopped
- ½ cup flax seed (I used brown, but golden would work too)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups basil leaves, stemmed and tightly packed
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- juice from ½ lemon
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- Add garlic, flax seed and olive oil to food processor or blender. Pulse for about 30 seconds or until everything is somewhat smooth and mixed.
- Add in basil and continue to pulse until everything is blended well.
- Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients until everything is combined.
- Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
This recipe is gluten-free.