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I'm allergic to pine nuts, is there another nut I can use to make pesto?

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10 Answers 10

Almonds and walnuts are good alternatives as they have a similar texture and relatively subtle flavour. I'd go with almonds personally, as walnuts can be a little bitter.

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As I was writing nearly the same answer it alerted me that your answer was posted so I canceled mine :) The only thing I would add is that toasting the almonds or walnuts will make a big difference and I recommend doing that. I also have heard of people using cashews but I would stick with toasted/roasted almonds or walnuts. – stephennmcdonald Mar 21 '11 at 15:30
Toasted pecans work great. They have the fat content and texture of walnuts, but lack any bitterness. – justkt Mar 21 '11 at 16:04
I have substituted roasted walnuts and roasted cashew nuts on occasion: frankly the difference in taste was much less than I would ever have expected. The garlic and the basil are so overwhelming that the pine nuts don't add as much as you might think. If you make your pesto with Parmesan, you taste even less of the pine nuts. – Cerberus Mar 21 '11 at 23:12
What is put traditionally is walnuts. – nico Jun 23 '12 at 16:09
I'm not sure that these other nuts match the taste well. – alan2here Nov 14 '15 at 23:21

It's not even necessarily a substitution, as pesto is just a type of sauce made from a pounding up herbs and other stuff in a mortar & pestle.

It's just that most pesto that people see is the traditional 'basil pesto' aka 'pesto Genovese' which is garlic, oil, salt, basil and pine nuts, so they assume that it's the only 'pesto' ... you can find plenty of recipes searching for:

  • Pesto Sicilian
  • Pesto Trapanese
  • Pesto Rosso
  • Pesto Pantesco
  • Pesto Calabrese

In terms of nuts, I've seen recipes calling for hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, or even a combination of multiple nuts. I'm guessing they'd use whatever is abundant and in season in that particular region.

I've seen anchovies, capers or olives in place of straight salt; plenty of types of herbs, or even greens like spinach or arugula (aka rocket for the Brits).

(And on Good Eats, Alton Brown was a fan of pistachios in pesto; if I recall correctly, part of the argument was they were already green.)

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+1 for pistachio pesto (great with lemon zest too), or hazelnut (try with some orange zest). Delish. – KimbaF Mar 22 '11 at 9:29
To be honest, if you are in Italy and talk about pesto, people will "default" to basil pesto, by far the most used one. All of your others examples do exist, of course, but people will specify that they are referring to a non-basil pesto in that case. – nico Jun 23 '12 at 16:13

I've used sunflower seeds in my home-made pesto for ages. Salted or not as you prefer, they add the right little bit of crunch at a fraction of the cost of pine nuts.

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Yes, this is a good substitute! (The type without shells, obviously!) – Harlan Apr 4 '11 at 2:22
Seconded... This works really nicely, without corrupting the flavor like something stronger would. – Adele C Jun 23 '12 at 16:04

Commercial pesto brands seem to quite often use cashew nuts, seemed odd to me, as cashew nuts are quite expensive. Or you could just not use the nuts at all - would be more like a french pistou, but still good with pasta.

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In a pesto cashews are a close replacement. In other things not – TFD Mar 21 '11 at 20:57

It's very likely that someone allergic to pine nuts would also be allergic to walnuts and almonds (I am allergic to all of them, cashews, too).

I have used unsalted sunflower seeds, but most of the time I leave the pine nuts out and add more cheese or bread crumbs :)

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I normally use toasted walnuts, but have had success with macadamia nuts as well. I find pine nuts actually a bit low in flavor, in comparison to walnuts or macadamia nuts.

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Made pesto with oven toasted sunflower seeds, tasted great!! Was not as creamy or buttery as pine nuts...but was a great and economical substitution!

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On occasion I will throw in some sesame seeds (hmm... I wonder how tanini would work out?), but simply leaving out the nut component of a traditional basil pesto will yield a satisfying result, especially if all the other ingredients are fresh and top-shelf.

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Cashews are much cheaper than pine nuts when bought in large quantities.

I usually make my own pesto (from pine nuts, though) and I'd recommend almonds or cashews (depending where you get them), cashews if you want a more subtle taste.

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Back on topic: Cashews are cheaper than pine seeds, that is why most commercial pesto brands contain only just enough pine seeds to be able to write it on the ingredients list, if any. IF you have to buy pesto, look at the ingredients. – Jens Apr 3 '11 at 15:14

In addition to all of the great suggestions above, hazelnuts also work well. Peel them first by toasting them and then using a towel or silicon pot holder to rub the skins off.

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