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


11 Answers 11


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.

  • 6
    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. Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 15:30
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    Toasted pecans work great. They have the fat content and texture of walnuts, but lack any bitterness.
    – justkt
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 16:04
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    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
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 23:12
  • What is put traditionally is walnuts.
    – nico
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 16:09
  • I'm not sure that these other nuts match the taste well.
    – alan2here
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 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
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 9:29
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    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
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 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.

  • Yes, this is a good substitute! (The type without shells, obviously!)
    – Harlan
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 2:22
  • Seconded... This works really nicely, without corrupting the flavor like something stronger would. Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 16:04
  • I also use sunflower seeds on my pesto Genovese. Pine nuts are quite expensive where i live.
    – Morts
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 9:31
  • I've used raw (shelled!) sunflower seeds, lightly toasted, when nut-allergy issues are a problem.
    – Catalyst
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 12:26
  • Agree with the above (mainly on cost and availability reasons for me). You could experiment with adding sesame seeds (about 1/4 or 1/3) of the total seeds for a bit different taste and a bit coarser mouth feel (depending on whether you pulse or puree or use a pestle).
    – frIT
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 13:42

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
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 20:57
  • Pine nuts are generally more expensive than cashew nuts here in Italy. Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 8:48

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 :)


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.


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!


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.


Pine nuts are not actually nuts. They are seeds found inside the structure of the pine cone. Technically, sunflower seeds would provide the most similar flavor when looking for a pine nut substitution in traditional recipes. Sesame seeds would also offer a solution to those with nut allergies that don't have pine nuts on hand.


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
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 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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