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  • Ashley Porter

Vegan & Nut-Free Lemon Pesto + Pasta

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Jarred pesto sauce was a staple item in my pantry for years, until Hudson could not have dairy. Then I started making some without the Parmesan cheese, until Hudson could not have any nuts. Then we stopped eating pesto because I couldn’t imagine there was much left to pesto without the nuts and the cheese. I was so wrong!

My neighbor brought me lemon basil from our local farmer’s market and I immediately knew that I had to make pesto with it. I didn’t even know that lemon basil existed, but the smell alone of this stuff was so amazing! After combining the lemon basil with just a few simple ingredients, we had the most delicious pesto pasta that night for dinner, and I immediately asked my neighbor to bring me 3 more bunches of the basil the next week so I could make several batches of the pesto and freeze it.

Since I had never heard of lemon basil before, my guess was that it’s not readily available in most grocery stores so I had to try to recreate the flavors using regular basil too. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t taste as fresh and bright, but if it’s possible, I think I may have even liked this version of the recipe more! It’s amazing what fresh lemon juice can do!

I’ve mentioned before that our family loves a good sauce or dressing (like this chipotle mayo sauce), especially with all of the food restrictions we have. It can make a food item or a meal so much more exciting with just one addition, and this is one of those sauces! I stirred it into some cooked Jovial rice pasta that night, but I have also used it as a sauce over chicken, added it to my veggies and roasted potatoes as a side dish or in my morning scramble, and I’ve also added it to a salad for a burst of flavor. So good and so versatile!

The other great thing about this pesto is that it freezes beautifully! It’s a great way to make sure that you don’t waste any leftover basil sitting on your counter. I poured the pesto into small mason jars so I could freeze and defrost the entire jar in one use. When you are ready to use it, just pull the jar of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. You can also start to thaw and finish in the actual cooking process if you plan to add it to a saute pan. Because it is mostly olive oil it will thaw out quickly over the heat. If you wish to make lemon pesto pasta as I did, the 2-step instructions are below the recipe for the pesto.

Hope it adds so much flavor to your allergy-friendly meals!


Prep Time: 5 minutes Yields: 1 cup pesto


1 cup packed lemon basil (stems removed)

2 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

healthy pinch salt & pepper

*if using regular basil add 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1. Add basil, garlic, lemon juice (if using), salt, pepper, and 1 Tbsp of the olive oil to the food processor.

2. Process for 15-20 seconds, adding in remaining olive oil with the food processor running. Scrape down sides of bowl and process again for 10 seconds, until the basil is finely chopped and incorporated with the olive oil.

3. Use immediately or transfer to jar for storage in the refrigerator or freezer.


Prep Time: 2 minutes Cook Time: 8 minutes


½ cup prepared lemon pesto

1 lb gluten-free pasta (we use Jovial)

1. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and place back in pot on stove over medium low heat.

2. Add pesto to pasta and stir until well combined. For a stronger pesto flavor, use more than ½ cup of pesto. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve!

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