Eating Meat for Dinner? Try Non-Dairy Pesto

If there is a farmers’ market near me, I will likely find my way to it.  For me, the fresher, the better, so I do my best to cook what’s in season.  So, with fresh basil and other herbs in abundance, this week, I bring you pesto!  There are plenty of vegetarian options for pesto dishes, but what if you want to throw some chicken into that pasta?  You could always leave out the cheese entirely, but you lose some of the depth of flavor.  I tried two different parmesan substitutes, both available at Whole Foods: nutritional yeast and Vegan Grated Parmesan by Galaxy Foods.  Though nutritional yeast sounded, frankly, nasty to me, it kept appearing online as the perfect vegan parmesan substitute.  The results were better than expected but a bit bready-tasting.  So, the recipe below uses the Vegan Parmesan.  It may not be quite as good as the dairy version, but to use in or with a meat dish, this does the job very well

Note that this recipe is for a simple basil pesto with a traditional pine nut base.  If you’re comfortable, play around with different leafy herbs and greens, like cilantro, mint, Italian parsley, and arugula, alone or combined.  You can also use different nuts.  Pesto freezes well.

Non-dairy Pesto

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

Total time: 5-10 min.

Yield: about 1 cup

Level: Easy


  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup Vegan Grated Parmesan by Galaxy Foods
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


If desired, toast pine nuts: either place them on foil in the toaster oven or oven at 350 degrees for 2-3 minutes or place in a dry skillet over medium high heat until golden and fragrant.

Place first four ingredients and about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the food processor and turn it on.  While the processor is running, add the remaining oil slowly through the feed chute.  Once the oil has been added, stop the processor, scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, and run it again until the mixture is relatively smooth.

Stir into pasta, use as a crust for chicken, or whatever else you can come up with.