Pesto, No Nuts Please!

Embrace pesto season with these nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free recipes

Photo: Cookie and Kate Photo: Cookie and Kate

Before being married to someone with a nut allergy, I indulged in pesto fairy often. It’s a magical sauce that can be used in a variety of ways, the perfect addition to a simple pasta dish, drizzled over homemade pizza, or mixed with mayo for a delicious sandwich spread. There are many varieties of pesto, from the traditional Ligurian version, to Mexican-inspired pepita and cilantro, to lemon and basil.

Now, just hearing the word pesto makes me fearful due to the fact that 99.9% of pest recipes contain nuts, which are lethal to my husband. I’ve primarily avoided pesto, until this morning when the article “Making Pesto? Hold the Pine Nuts” in The New York Times caught my eye. Essentially, the pine nut industry may be contributing to the crash of an ecosystem.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a majority of pine nuts imported into the USA come from the Korean pine tree, a keystone species found primarily in the southern parts of the Russian far east.The importance of the Korean pine to this rich ecosystem cannot be overstated. Innumerable animals from chipmunks and Asiatic black bears to nutcrackers and crossbills all depend on the nuts produced by this tree to survive the long winter of the southern Russian Far East. Wild boars crunch open the calorie-rich cones with their powerful jaws; red deer nibble at the fallen nuts. And shaded by the trees’ broad trunks, tigers stalk their prey.

The pine nut market in North America sources only about 20 percent of its supply from native species, primarily the pinyon pine of the American Southwest. While the pine nuts traditionally preferred for pesto were imported from Europe, harvested from the Italian stone pine, increases in global demand and skyrocketing prices have shifted the American market toward less expensive Asian varieties, of which the Korean pine is the most important.The global demand is making this harvest unsustainable. The entire Korean pine ecosystem could collapse if it continues.

Rejoice! Does this mean that there may be a shift in pestos available that are nut free? Here’s to hoping! In celebration, I’ve rounded up five of my favorite no-nut pesto recipes, which are also gluten-free and dairy-free as well.

Super Kale, Hemp, and Flaxseed Pesto. Photo: Cookie and Kate Super Kale, Hemp, and Flaxseed Pesto. Photo: Cookie and Kate

Super Kale, Hemp, and Flaxseed Pesto: I’m a huge fan of this healthy recipe, as hemp seeds are high in protein and full of essential amino acids. The flaxseed oil increases the amount of omega-3’s, and kale is one of the healthiest foods around, full of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and B6 content. Get the full recipe from Cookie + Kate here.

Slow Roasted Tomato and Pepita Pesto. Photo: One Green Planet Slow Roasted Tomato and Pepita Pesto. Photo: One Green Planet

Slow Roasted Tomato and Pepita Pesto: This gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free recipe is perfect to spotlight one of my favorite foods, the tomato! As we near the end of tomato season, this recipe brings them full front and center by baking them for two-three hours before adding them the mix. Add in rosemary, pepita seeds, basil, crushed pepper flakes, garlic, and olive oil to create the perfect topping for pasta, pizza, and sandwiches. Get the full recipe from One Green Planet here.

Simple Pesto. Photo: Instructables Simple Pesto Without Nuts Simple Pesto. Photo: Instructables Simple Pesto Without Nuts

Instructables Simple Pesto: Created by someone who had a boyfriend with a nut allergy (sounds familiar!), this basic recipe takes under five minutes to make, and is a delicious mixture of basil, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese (option if you want to make this dish dairy-free). Get the full recipe from Instructables here.

Oil-Free Broccoli Pesto. Photo: Detoxinista  Oil-Free Broccoli Pesto. Photo: Detoxinista

Oil-Free Broccoli Pesto: The addition of broccoli to pesto adds a nice crunch, without the need to add nuts! Using water and lemon juice instead of olive oil also makes this a healthy detox option. The cheese topping is optional if you’d rather make the sauce dairy-free. The best part? It only takes 15-minutes to make! Get the full recipe from Detoxinista here.

Avocado Pesto. Photo: The Full Helping Avocado Pesto. Photo: The Full Helping

Avocado Pesto: Created by one of my favorite Vegan bloggers, The Full Helping, this recipe was made for a reader who asked if there were any pesto varieties that were nut-free, as she was allergic to all tree nuts. With just six ingredients, this creamy avocado pesto is perfect as a dip, or served over pasta (gluten-free). Get the full recipe from The Full Helping here.


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