Avocado Pesto & Other Nut Free Alternatives

avocado pesto

You know, I always said I would never be one of those bloggers who talks a lot about her personal life. I was going to keep it cool, calm, collected, and above all, professional. CR would be informative, educated; never intimate. Yup.

Apparently things change, because in the last two weeks I feel as though I’ve done nothing but whine about grades, about moving, and about missing my old job. And you should all thank your lucky stars, because I just came very close to drafting a post about how I had a meltdown today when my phone broke and my ISP lost any connection to my blog and my computer froze, all at the same time. Instead, I’m going to feign at least a little respectability and talk about something I’m capable of sounding authoritative about: food.

A while back, I shared a recipe for pistachio pesto with you all. One reader wrote me privately to ask if I had any pesto recipes that were as thick and as delicious as the one I’d posted, but free of tree nuts (to which she’s almost always allergic). I said sure, I’d figure something out. In the end, I figured two things out: two pesto recipes that are 100% raw vegan, and 100% nut free. The first is avocado based, which may sound a bit weird, but as Diana recently pointed out, what’s weird about avocado pesto? The second, which is more traditional, is sunflower seed based. Both are delicious, versatile, and easy to serve to friends with nut allergies.

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Avocado Pesto (raw, vegan, GF, soy free, nut free)

Serves 4

1 small avocado
1/4 tsp salt (more to taste)
Black pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cup basil, tightly packed

1) Blend all ingredients except for basil in a food processor on high till smooth.

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2) Add all the basil and pulse to combine. If the mix is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water. Serve over zucchini pasta or kelp noodles in the raw; for a cooked version, try this over brown rice noodles or regular pasta! I served mine over zucchini pasta, along with a big salad and some juice pulp crackers.

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SO delicious! All those rich, heart healthy MUFA’s, but none of the heaviness we associate with oil and nut based pesto. Avocado freak that I am, I was delighted.

A few nights later, the spiralizer came out once again: this time with some sunflower seeds.

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Sunflower Pesto (raw, vegan, GF, soy free, nut free)

Makes 4-6 servings

1 cup sunflower seeds, soaked for at least 1 hour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
Dash black pepper
2 cups basil, tightly packed
3 tbsp good olive oil
Water (if needed)

1) Place soaked nuts in a food processor. Process till mixture is very thick but already looks a bit like nut pate.

2) Add basil and pulse till basil is incorporated.

3) With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Check consistency: I like this pesto thick, and soaking the seeds will have already helped thin it all out, but if you want, start adding a little water till it’s a perfect consistency. I added a few tablespoons.

4) Serve over pasta or however you like!

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I also tried this over a mix of zucchini AND kelp noodles, which was great:

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One of the reasons I like pesto so much is its versatility. It’s unmistakable and always delicious—not to mention difficult to mess up—but there are so many ways to prepare it. I can’t wait for bushels of summer basil, so that I can keep experimenting!

OK. I think I did a good job of pretending I didn’t spend the better part of my day freaking out fretting over technology. On that note, dear readers, I bid you…


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  1. Thanks for sharing this avocado recipe! My 4 year old daughter is allergic to nuts & milk and this is the first time she is able to taste pesto. She kept on dipping her finger into it to taste and then says, “mmmmm mama this is so good, you have to taste it” as she holds her green-tipped index finger up at me.

    Thank you!

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  3. I JUST made the avocado pesto, and served it with zucchini pasta. AMAZING! This is the first time I’ve enjoyed zucchini pasta so thank you! I will be making this often!

  4. whoah. Spooky! I literally just pushed “Publish” on my blog which was all about my raw avocado pesto lunch. It was so delicious! (My kids also like avocados mashed well as a simple, delicious sauce on wholegrain pasta) When can one possibly go wrong with an avocado I say? I worship at its altar regularly!Beautiful photography as always.


  5. Wow, so cool to find your site, Gena! I’ve never used or made pesto, but have heard so many good things about it. Now i need to grow some basil. And I’ve never even heard of kelp pasta, although i uet many different types of sea vegies in my & my dog’s food. thank you!

  6. Gena! I just want to say that I am really getting into raw cooking and experimenting in the whole ‘raw food movement’ and I LOVE your blog! so many delicious and easy recipes to follow. 🙂 thank you!

  7. aaaaah these look so good — especially the avocado one!! I miss pesto and have always wished there were a vegan, non-nut-based one. Another success, Gena! thanks!

  8. Love the look of that sunflower seed pesto. I make a similar avocado one but add in nutritional yeast and sundried tomatoes, yum 🙂

  9. I love your blog precisely because you don’t just talk about food. The grades, and moving, and past jobs are all part of the inspiration that goes into your food. If that is whining, feel free to keep it up. It makes for a tasty experience for the rest of us.

  10. I don’t mind if you’ve become the blogger you never thought you would be, if only for selfish reasons. It seems that my lack of interest in my own blog makes me doubly interested in others’. 🙂 I’m a blog-reading sponge these days, even if it’s mostly lurking.

    And you know I’m all over these pesto ideas, momma. Girl after my own heart.

  11. you can’t go wrong with avocados! GREAT idea! and love the idea of sunflower seeds. I’ve used pepitas, but I bet those guys are tasty, too.

    And I always love hearing about your life, too! 🙂 I’m sorry about your technology meltdown. My computer’s old and every time I use it, I hope it’s not the last….

  12. Oh I love how simple this is! I bet I could even make it 😉 hehe.

    Also: I think some intimacy in a blog is a wonderful thing! I like to feel like I really KNOW the person whose recipes I make. Maybe that’s weird but hey, it is what it is!

  13. oh my gosh, THANK YOU!!! I’m also allergic to nuts and these look delicious! I can’t wait to try! 😀

  14. oooh yum. try throwing some re-hydrated sun-dried tomatoes into the avo pesto – i’ve done something similar to that recipe with SDT (sounds like a disease, no?) and it was fabulous.

  15. Your website is so encouraging to me! I want to try so many recipes, just bought myself a food processor so I can do so. Every recipe you post looks awesome. Been vegetarian for 3 years but I’m trying to stay away from dairy now and stick to raw foods and vegan recipes. Thanks for all of your great ideas!

  16. Love the pesto recipe
    love the insight even more
    keep sharing and complaining and celebrating with us, please
    food blogs are like living cook books and I’m sure if the “Joy of Cooking” could talk it would tell us about the bad day it was having when it came up with the meatloaf recipe on page 546 or the how those chocolate chip cookies on page 871 made the road trip to meet the parents easier 😉
    hope you have a great weekend-


  17. Don’t forget perfect for we annoying types who don’t really like pine nuts and, thereby, most pestos 😉

    P.S. Ain’t it always the way that technology trips you up when other things are feeling shaky?!

  18. I hope your technology has received its pep-talk and bootstrapped itself together.

    Great that you shared an avo pesto recipe: that’s one of my favorite kinds! I’m planning to share a pesto recipe tomorrow, using nettles, my favorite wild green up here.

    Have a relaxed w.e!

  19. Nothing with avocado in it can be wrong.

    I made a pesto with pine nuts….I think those are usually okay for people with tree nut allergies?

    • I have always been allergic to peanuts, but I only found out I had also developed an allergy to tree nuts when I tried pesto for the first time and had a reaction. People can be allergic to different combinations of nuts, but pine nuts are certainly among the stronger of my tree nut allergies. A lot of people don’t realize pesto contains tree nuts, so at restaurants I usually take care to ask if my dish contains nuts OR pesto – just in case.

      Gena, I found this while looking through your old posts and am delighted that you have two nut-free pesto recipes! I’ve made pesto with sunflower seeds before but I can’t wait to try the avocado version!

    • pine nuts are definitely not safe for people with nut allergies so be careful! they are the number one reason why many including me are careful about italian food!

  20. I am anxious for our basil to grow, so I can make these! Lately I find myself pushing lots of avocado-based dishes at our table, as my husband is still navigating how to be satiated without eating an entire block of cheese — Midwestern boy gone vegetarian = lots of organic cheese… (Baby steps!) Good thing avocados are wonderfully persuasive in themselves.

    Best of luck on the move. Hopefully no more breakdowns (of technology, or of Gena [as a result of technology]). <3

  21. Not one, but TWO recipes for pesto?! Damn girl I don’t know how you do it amongst your technological fiasco, finals, etc, etc! Can’t wait to try these when I (eek!) cook for myself for the whole summer. Wish me luck 😛

  22. Pesto is something I tried to make when I first got my Vitamix, like 5 years ago, and didn’t have the ingredient ratios correct and it didn’t, ahem, turn out too well…and haven’t attempted it since. I love your two (non traditional) pesto recipes! They look wonderful!

    Life, as it intersects your blog, well…that’s what keeps blogs interesting, right? 🙂

    So sorry about your computer glitches. Hopefully that’s over and done with for awhile!

    Have a wonderful weekend, Gena, and thank you for being an amazing friend 🙂

  23. As soon as I read the first sentence of this post I thought, “This is going to be good.” I was right. 🙂

    5 days, Baby…