Sesame Seed Pesto, a simple nut-free pesto sauce using sesame seeds instead of pine nuts. This nut-free pesto has only 7 ingredients and comes together in only 5 minutes.

sesame seed pesto in a white bowl with a gold spoon

Love pesto but can't eat nuts? Look no further! This twist on traditional pesto sauce uses sesame seeds instead of pine nuts, which makes it a great nut-free pesto sauce option for people with nut allergies.

👉 Here's why you'll LOVE this sesame pesto sauce:

  • It's delicious! Sesame seeds are an obvious substitution for pine nuts since they have a sweet, mild, and nutty taste – just like pine nuts.
  • It meets many dietary needs and preferences. By replacing pine nuts with sesame seeds and Parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast this recipe becomes vegan, gluten-free, and free of the major 8 allergens.
  • It's so simple. Unless you're using a mortar and pestle, this recipe lets your food processor do all the work. Pulse the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil, season, taste, and enjoy!

Want to learn how to make this 5-minute pesto with sesame seeds? Let us show you how!


🌿 Ingredients

  • Basil: There are tons of varieties of basil, but pesto is typically made with sweet basil (conveniently, the type sold in grocery stores). Choose basil with bright green leaves and no dark spots. If purchased ahead of time, store basil in a glass of water in your refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Sesame seeds: Similar to pine nuts, sesame seeds have a mild and sweet flavor. Sesame seeds also have a nutty flavor profile making them the perfect nut-free alternative for pesto. Sesame seeds are high in fiber, B vitamins, and healthy fats (USDA Food Nutrient Database). Though they come in both black and white, we recommend using white sesame seeds in your pesto.
  • Cheese or nutritional yeast: Traditionally pesto is made with cheese, but you can also substitute it for nutritional yeast (sometimes referred to as nooch) as a vegan alternative. It is a deactivated yeast with a savory, cheesy flavor that typically looks like yellow flakes, but can also be found as a powder. Nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12, making it an extremely beneficial ingredient for vegans.
  • Olive oil: Using a good oil is imperative since it adds flavor to your pesto. But it is also used to coat all the ingredients and to bring your pesto together as a liquid instead of a thick puree.
  • Garlic, salt, and pepper: Keep your pesto seasoning basic and use it to enhance the flavors of the pesto, not overpower.
  • Optional ingredients: We always recommend finishing your pesto with lemon juice to intensify the natural flavors.
bowls of basil, cheese, sesame seeds, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic on a white table
Ingredients: basil, sesame seeds, garlic, cheese, oil, salt, pepper

🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)

1️⃣ Step One: Wash and prep the basil

First, gently clean any dirt from the basil by running under cold water. You can do this up to 4 days in advance and then store in a wet paper towel in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator.

Dry the basil by laying it flat and pressing it between two kitchen towels or using a salad spinner.

basil leaves on a white marble tabletop
Wash and dry basil

2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the greens, sesame seeds, garlic, and oil

Next add the basil, sesame seeds, and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse.

As you're pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped and coated in oil.

basil, sesame seeds, cheese, and garlic inside a food processor
Add ingredients to food processor

3️⃣ Step Three: Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice

Finally, add in the remaining ingredients and blend again to combine. Give the pesto a taste and adjust any seasonings as needed to meet your preferences.

blended sesame pesto inside of a food processor
Blend until combined

♻️ Storage + freezing

Even though pesto is simple to make, we still recommend making enough to stash away for later. It's so versatile – from a sauce and sandwich spread to a marinade or flavor enhancer – it's best to just always have some on hand.

For best results, store your pesto with a layer of olive oil poured over top. This will help to minimize browning. Pesto will keep:

  1. Refrigerator: 1 week in an airtight container
  2. Freezer: 4-6 months in a sealed freezer-safe container
pesto with sesame seeds in a bowl on a white table

🌱 Pesto variations

Swapping out sesame seeds isn't the only variation! Below are a few ideas to make this pesto recipe your own.

  • Switch up the seeds: Use sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or pepitas for a different crunchy base.
  • Play with the greens: Consider arugula, kale, beet leaves, or carrot greens.
  • Do a combo: Switch it up by combining more than one green or seed in your pesto. Consider sunflower and sesame seed pesto or try arugula and kale pesto.
pesto sauce with sesame seeds in a bowl on a table with a colored napkin

💚 More nut-free pesto recipes

We hope you enjoy making pesto – we love how quick, easy, and versatile it is! Check out our other nut-free pestos, like:

Looking for more alternative pesto recipes? Try substituting basil for pesto with carrot tops, pesto with radish leaves, or pesto with beet greens. Or try a plant-based pesto like Vegan Kale Pesto, Vegan Parsley Pesto, or Vegan Cilantro Pesto.

🌟 Did you make this recipe? Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star rating and a comment below to let us know how it turned out. Save it for later by pinning to your favorite Pinterest board and make sure to tag us on Fork in the Road’s Instagram to show off your sustainable food creations!

Yield: 8 servings

Sesame Seed Pesto Recipe

pesto with sesame seeds in a bowl on a white table

Sesame Seed Pesto, a simple nut-free pesto sauce using sesame seeds instead of pine nuts. This nut-free pesto has only 7 ingredients and comes together in only 5 minutes.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Wash and prep the basil: First, gently clean any dirt from the basil by running under cold water. You can do this up to 4 days in advance and then store in a wet paper towel in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator. Dry the basil by laying it flat and pressing it between two kitchen towels or using a salad spinner.
  2. Blend the greens, sesame seeds, garlic, and oil: Next add the basil, sesame seeds, and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse. As you're pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped and coated in oil.
  3. Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice: Finally, add in the remaining ingredients and taste. Adjust any seasonings as needed to meet your preferences.

Notes

  • Make it vegan: Make this pesto recipe vegan by using dairy-free Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
  • Tools needed: food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board
  • Prep ahead: Make this simple pesto up to 2-3 days before serving, or freeze until ready to use.
  • Leftovers and storage: Leftover pesto should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for up to 2 months (possibly longer).
  • Nutrition notes: This recipe made as written (with vegan cheese and seeds) is plant-based, gluten-free, and nut-free. It is a good source of vitamin C, plant-based protein, and fiber.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 65Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 37mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g