You’ve been meaning to add a zesty zing to your salads and pasta dishes, but do you really know what pesto sauce is?
From creating a vegan option to knowing which seasonings can make a good substitute, explore the 5 best substitutions for pesto sauce here.
Don’t miss out on adding flavor to your recipes.
What’s Pesto Sauce?
Pesto sauce has a long history as one of the oldest and most beloved sauces in Italy.
It is created using a classic combination of fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil.
In contrast to other sauces, pesto does not need to be cooked.
Pesto can be used in a variety of dishes from pizza toppings to pasta sauces or as an additive for sandwiches, soups and stews.
But what makes it so great? Here are some of the benefits of pesto sauce:
- Incredibly healthy: Pesto contains antioxidants that help fight inflammation and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Easy to make: With just a few simple ingredients you can easily make this traditional Italian sauce at home.
- Versatile: Pesto can provide delicious flavor in many different dishes making it an ideal accompaniment to any meal.
- Add depth and flavor to your dish: Combined with fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and garlic, pesto can give any recipe a burst of flavor and depth that you wouldn’t get with plain olive oil or butter.
Pesto is undoubtedly a great addition to any meal but if you don’t have the ingredients on hand, there are plenty of substitutes that can create an equally delicious results.
Read on for five great subisitutes for your pesto recipes.
5 Best Pesto Sauce Substitutes to Consider
For vegetarians or those avoiding dairy, however, pesto may not be an option.
But fortunately, there are several alternatives that can provide much of the same flavor and texture of pesto without any dairy ingredients.
Here are 5 of the best substitutes for classic pesto sauce to consider when you want to add some extra flavor and texture to your meals:
1 – Basil Vinaigrette
Basil vinaigrette is a great substitute for pesto sauce because it is made by combining fresh basil leaves with a blend of oil, vinegar, and spices.
It is usually served chilled and can be used as a topping for salads or as a dip for breads and crackers.
The flavor of basil vinaigrette is milder than that of pesto sauce but still very flavorful.
To add more punch to the dressing, consider adding some grated Parmesan cheese or garlic.
Consider serving the basil vinaigrette alongside grilled meats, roasted vegetables or sandwiches for an easy yet flavorful meal option.
2 – Other Herb Oils
Other herb oils can substitute for pesto in quite a few recipes.
This type of oil is made by infusing herbs or spices in mild cooking oil like olive or avocado.
You can find ready-made herb oil, or you can make your own at home.
The flavor options for this type of substitution are endless.
Some popular mixes to try include rosemary and garlic, cilantro and lime, oregano and basil, dried basil and garlic, oregano with Parmesan cheese, parsley and chives mixed with olive oil – the possibilities are almost limitless.
Depending on the recipe you’re using it for, you may even want to try balsamic vinegar instead of oil.
As with the other options on this list, simply blend your herbs in a food processor until they turn into a coarse paste before adding them to your recipe.
3 – Avocado Sauce
For a delicious, green substitute for pesto, try a creamy avocado sauce.
It is made with just a handful of simple ingredients and takes less than 10 minutes to make.
Avocado sauce can be served as is, or thinned out to the desired consistency by adding a few tablespoons of water.
It goes great with many pasta dishes, like penne with tomatoes and olives, topping fish tacos or served as a dip with vegetables.
Try experimenting by adding other herbs or spices to customize this versatile sauce to your taste buds.
- 2 large avocados.
- 2 cloves garlic.
- 1/4 cup olive oil.
- 1 lime juiced.
- 3 tablespoons cilantro or parsley (optional).
- Salt & pepper (to taste).
- In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients until smooth. If you want it thinner add 2-3 teaspoons of warm water.
- Pulse until everything is well combined but still slightly chunky for texture. If you prefer it very smooth and creamy you can add more olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt & pepper to taste before serving either hot/cold as desired.
4 – Chimichurri Sauce
Chimichurri sauce is an Argentinean staple made with parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and vinegar.
You can also include oregano and cumin.
It has a herbaceous quality that is slightly acidic from the vinegar.
It’s a great pesto substitute for dishes like grilled meats or fish that don’t need a creamy accompaniment.
You can whip up the sauce in minutes by blending together ingredients in a food processor or simply stirring them together in a bowl.
This herby condiment is incredibly versatile and can be used to top tacos, as a dip for vegetables, and as an enlivening dressing over salads or grains.
5 – Use a Variety of Nuts
Nuts are a great way to add richness and texture to your dish without the dairy of most pesto sauces.
Walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and cashews are all great options — mix them together or choose just one.
Toasted nuts can give an incredible depth of flavor as well.
Just be sure not to overdo it, since they can be very rich.
When mashing your ingredients into a paste, adding a little oil or broth can help keep the sauce light and spreadable.
Be sure to taste as you go — when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of less nutty than too nutty.
Pesto is a condiment that is near and dear to the hearts of many, but it can be difficult to find in store made with traditional ingredients, and it requires special ingredients that can sometimes be hard to come by.
If you’re looking for a pesto-style sauce that’s easier and more accessible, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available.
No matter which one you choose, your meal will still be stamped with the unmistakable flavor of seasonal Italian cooking.
5 Best Pesto Sauce Substitutes to Consider
- 1 – Basil Vinaigrette
- 2 – Other Herb Oils
- 3 – Avocado Sauce
- 4 – Chimichurri Sauce
- 5 – Use a Variety of Nuts
- Choose your preferred substitute from the list of options.
- Organize all of your ingredients.
- Use the proper substitute to cook your recipes.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!