Pesto with cashews is quick, easy and full of flavor. The zesty tart lemon flavor in compliments the richness of the cashews and parmesan with a nice pop of garlic making the perfect cashew basil pesto. This cashew pesto recipe is great on pasta and zucchini noodles or a dip for vegetables or chips.
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If you have never had pesto with cashews, you are in for a treat. Pesto is typically a combination of nuts and fresh herbs, often with the addition of seasonings, lemon and/or garlic.
The most traditional pesto (Italy!) is comprised of extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, basil, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano (Grana Padano) or Pecorino cheese (Fiore Sardo).
This cashew basil pesto is absolutely delicious on a pasta dish (angel hair, fettuccine, etc.) or dipping crackers or veggies.
Why pesto with cashews is a the best!
- Pesto with cashews is so delicious that it can compete head to head with more traditional pesto. The cashews are soft and have a subtle flavor that doesn’t complete with the herbs and spices.
- Cashew basil pesto can be made in a matter of minutes! It is great as a dip, served on pasta or as a topping on fish, chicken or veggies. Plus, easy clean-up.
- This cashew pesto recipe doubles as vegan cashew pesto (vegan friendly!) and your whole family will love. Big bold flavor and easy to make. Winner all around!
Ingredients for cashew basil pesto
Cashews: I recommend using raw unsalted cashews. Halves and pieces are generally less expensive than whole cashews. Since you are blending them, this is a good choice.
If you use salted cashews, omit extra salt from recipe (or salt to your taste). You can also use roasted cashews if you prefer.
Olive Oil: I recommend a high quality extra virgin olive oil. If you do not have extra virgin olive oil, you can use a neutral oil such as avocado or canola oil.
Garlic: You should use fresh garlic cloves minced or pressed. This garlic press is great.
Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice: Meyer lemons are key in this recipe. Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons and are absolutely delicious. You can but them in season at Trader Joe’s or at your local grocery store (when in season).
Fresh Basil: One 4 oz container of Trader Joe’s basil yields about 2.5 oz (enough for a double batch of this recipe) once the stems are removed.
Parmesan Cheese: Use shredded parmesan cheese found in the cheese section of your local grocery store.
How to make cashew pesto recipe
Mince or press garlic though garlic press. Even though you are using a food processor, sometimes garlic can stick to the sides and not be fully chopped/combined.
In food processor, combine cashews, olive oil, pressed garlic, lemon juice, basil leaves and Parmesan cheese. Blend pesto with cashews to desired consistency
Meyer lemons are sweeter than normal lemons. This gives this recipe a beautiful sweetness. If you use regular lemons, you may wish to add ½ tsp. sugar if you would like a subtle sweetness.
This cashew basil pesto is chunkier and tighter. If you would like to stretch, you can use more oil (start with ⅛ cup).
FAQ and expert tips
Traditional pesto is a combination pine nuts, olive oil, fresh basil, garlic and cheese (pecorino or parmesan). However, pesto can also be made with many different nuts, herbs and oils such as cashews, walnuts, pecans, parsley or kale.
While traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, you can use any nuts such as cashews, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds.
Yes, cashews are an excellent substitute for pine nuts in pesto. You can use raw cashews or you can toast them. The mild flavor and soft texture of cashews compliments the other bold ingredients in pesto.
Yes! Cashew pesto is delicious and flavorful on pasta. Pesto with cashews is delicious on angel hair, fettuccini, bucatini, couscous and many other pastas.
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Pesto with Cashews (Cashew Basil Pesto)
- 1 cup raw unsalted cashews halves and pieces
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves (pressed or minced) about ½ tablespoon pressed/minced
- 3 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
- 1¼ oz fresh basil 1 cup packed
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Mince or press garlic though garlic press. Even though you are using a food processor, sometimes garlic can stick to the sides and not be fully chopped/combined.
- In food processor, combine cashews, olive oil, pressed garlic, lemon juice, basil leaves and Parmesan cheese. Blend to desired consistency