Pesto is a delicious sauce that is typically served over pasta. However, I tend to use it more like a condiment.
If you’ve never made pesto before, it would be good to know how pesto is typically made. It’s possible that after you make pesto the first time, and you see how tasty it is, you will want to seek it out on a restaurant menu in the future.
How Pesto Is Typically Made
The first thing you should know is it typically includes dairy. Typical pesto is made from crushed basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. At first glance, this list is pretty much paleo (aside from the Parmesan cheese).
The thing about making homemade pesto is that you can swap out any single ingredient, or several of them, and have a brand new pesto recipe.
Consider The Nut
Pine nuts are typically pretty expensive. For that reason I tend to never really buy them. They’re also not as versatile as say, cashews. If I had leftover pine nuts I probably wouldn’t go grab a handful as a snack. But if there were extra raw cashews laying around, I may use them for something else.
I also tend to use cashews for pesto because they have such a mild and moldable flavor. They’re smooth like butter and aren’t overpowering when combined with the other ingredients. To make them more easy on your gut you can also choose to soak the cashews overnight.
Speaking of butter, if you want a really delicious pesto, you might try using some raw or roasted macadamia nuts in place of pine nuts or cashews.
You can truly use any nut or seed you want; almonds, pecans, walnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, etc. and it would absolutely work to create a new-to-you pesto. I would definitely start with cashews though if this is your first time making paleo pesto.
Swap Out The Greens
Basil is a hardy herb that is typically used for pesto though it’s certainly not the only thing you can use. If you’re a fan of cilantro, parsley or even dill all of those are great alternatives.
If you really want to branch out you could swap the basil for a more dark leafy green such as swiss chard, kale, arugula, spinach or even dandelion greens. Just remember that you’re drastically changing the flavor when you reach for these more hardy greens so more salt and oil and additional spices and real food ingredients may be key to getting the flavor just right.
Change The Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is my typical go-to oil to use when making pesto but you can absolutely use avocado oil or any other nut or seed oil.
For example, if you’re using walnuts instead of pine nuts you could also use walnut oil instead of olive oil. It may make for a more expensive pesto that way but you definitely can experiment with the flavors.
Taste As You Go
Tasting is a must when making pesto! If you aren’t tasting as you go, you won’t know what you need to do next with the ingredients.
The amount of olive oil you add will vary the consistency of your final product. And you want to add the sea salt last to bring out the flavors once your consistency is correct.
The Kitchen Is Your Playground
If you’re looking for a simple paleo pesto, follow the recipe below and serve it on pasta, over chicken breast or pork tenderloin.
Alternatively, you can serve it as a dip or spread for appetizers. Either a bowl along with some cut carrots & celery on the side or spread over zucchini. Maybe even smear some pesto over some gluten-free, paleo crackers and top them off with some fresh cut red pepper or sliced olives.
My favorite way to serve pesto is on top of a heaping spoonful of sauerkraut that is stuffed in an avocado though I’ve also enjoyed it on pizza.
The kitchen most definitely is my playground. If it is also yours, take some of my suggestions and play around to create your own recipe for paleo pesto.