You’ve just stumbled onto wonderful basil pesto recipe using cashews in the place of super pricey pine nuts. This non-traditional pesto recipe has a delightful depth of flavor with a mix of roasted garlic, raw garlic, shallots and lemon. If you are looking to blow away your guests without breaking the bank, stick with me to learn how to make this awesome basil pesto recipe!
This basil pesto recipe is gluten free, low carb, vegetarian and mightily mellow.
A Delightful Basil Pesto Recipe
When I first opened my catering company, we were ordering pine nuts in 5lb bags to make our basil pesto recipe. Each bag was about $80 which would make me so sad every time we needed to order a new bag… which was almost weekly. After watching my increasing level of sadness, Michele (with her infinite wisdom) suggested that we substitute a different nut. I loved the idea and was beaming from ear-to-ear with such a novel idea. Pesto without pine nuts.
We tested the idea with pecans, walnuts, pistachio nuts, almonds, peanuts and macadamias. Each one tasted a little different, but I never felt good about replacing the pine nut until we tried cashews. The first batch we made was too thick, but the flavor was divine. The next batch we pared back the cashews, increased the Parmesan and used roasted garlic. We were onto something truly special. After several batches, we arrived at this delicious basil pesto recipe I am sharing with you today.
The flavors are deeper and a little more mellow than a “traditional” pesto sauce. You can really add some zip by increasing the amount of shallot and raw garlic, or take a more reserved approach with less or no raw garlic at all. We will achieve balance in this recipe with lemon juice, fresh basil and good olive oil. Give it a try and I know you will be smiling from ear-to-ear as well… not only for how good it tastes but how much cash you save by using cashews as a substitute for pine nuts.
QUICK COOKING TIP: I don’t recommend making this recipe in a blender. If you look at your blender, you will see that the blades sit pointing up. Blades pointing up indicate that they are not able to scrape the bottom of the container. You will find that the oil and other ingredients sit below the blades and never get mixed. While they are chilling out below the blades taking a vacation, the basil will start laughing at you as it is stuck against the walls of the blender in giant chunks. I hate it when my food makes fun of me.
Instead of a blender, try using a food processor or immersion blender. Either one will make this pesto in no time flat. Since I did not bring a food processor with me to France, I am using my immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, I can recommend purchasing the following: the Braun MQ505 is my small immersion blender and the Braun MR5555MCA is my semi-pro immersion blender that was used at my cooking school. The semi-pro unit is an absolute workhorse, but is more than just about anyone will ever need unless you use an immersion blender all the time. The smaller unit is just about perfect.
You will note that both of these immersion blenders have a stainless steel base which is important simply because they are used in hot foods most of the time. Additionally, I have placed the cutting attachments in the dishwasher for both of these units repeatedly and have never had a problem. I will say that I bought the MQ505 as a replacement for my plastic based (but slightly cheaper) Hamilton Beach unit. The Hamilton Beach blender quickly formed some kind of nasty looking fluid right above the cutting head that I couldn’t get out no matter what I did. I think it was about 10 or 12 bucks cheaper than the Braun. I love using both of my immersion blenders which were happy finds considering how many choices are out there.
Ok- let’s take a look at this fantastic basil pesto recipe.
- 2 Cups Basil Leaves loosely packed with stems removed
- 3 Cloves Roasted Garlic
- 1 Clove Raw Garlic or less if you don't like the flavor of raw garlic
- ¼ Cup Cashews
- ½ Cup Olive Oil
- 1 TBSP Shallots minced
- 2 TBSP Fresh Lemon or more to your taste
- ½ Cup Parmesan finely grated
- 1 Pinch Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste
- Add all the ingredients except the Parmesan into a food processor or immersion blender container. Process until the desired consistency has been achieved.
- Remove the basil pesto from the container and mix in the Parmesan cheese.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
If your pesto is too thick after you add the parmesan cheese, just add in some more olive oil. The consistency will thin out a bit. Conversely, if it is too thin, add in more parmesan and it will thicken quickly.
We love garlic here, but I find that raw garlic can really overpower a dish. The purpose of pesto is to enhance a dish, not overtake the entire thing... which is why I use roasted garlic. The shallots and reduced raw garlic make this basil pesto recipe really delightful.
I have an ice cube tray that is used for pesto. Any extra that I have goes into the tray and gets frozen. Once it is frozen through, remove from the ice cube tray and add to a freezer bag. Now you have pesto ready for whenever you might need it!
Final thoughts on this fresh Basil Pesto Recipe:
When I made this recipe, I smothered it all over some grilled chicken which the family loved. It would also be delicious as a topping for my easy grilled chicken wings recipe or enhancing the flavor of some perfectly grilled pork chops. The next recipe that is being published (later this week!) is Sauteed Basil Pesto Shrimp. The flavor is so addictive you might not want to try it.
If you’re not into shrimp or grilling, this basil pesto recipe would work perfectly over pasta with some chicken added in. Or smear it over some sliced, toasted baguette topped with some thinly sliced, cooked Italian Sausage . Still not floating your boat? You can sautee some vegetables in olive oil (think summer squash, zucchini and onions) and add the pesto right in over the top for an incredible side dish.
No matter how you use it, I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Take care and happy eating!