This Dairy-Free Creamy Basil Sauce recipe is packed with fresh basil flavor and a touch of garlic. It’s so delicious, you’ll never miss the dairy.
This creamy basil goodness works on almost anything.
My beautiful friend Chef Hillori Hansen perfected this recipe. (You may remember her from our video about Spatchcocking.)
We’ve served this sauce on fresh gluten-free pasta, over grilled fish, and we both love it with zoodles. This sauce is truly stand-alone delicious, and could easily be called “Creamy Vegan Pesto” or something similar.
It’s also great on salads! If I’m planning to use the whole batch as salad dressing, I usually add a little more lemon. Since it’s dairy-free, I don’t have to worry about the sauce getting warm at picnics or BBQs. Score!
Making Recipe Swaps:
I often make this basil sauce without the miso because the stores in my town don’t carry it. If you omit the miso, you’ll probably need to add a pinch or two of salt.
I’ve made it without the nutritional yeast too. I like the funky faux-Parmesan flavor the yeast adds when I’m serving the sauce on pasta or warm quinoa salad, but I prefer it without when I’m using the sauce for a salad dressing or with fish.
I suggest you try this recipe Hillori’s way first (as written) and then make your own customizations.
We’ve shared the super-easy recipe for Dairy-Free Creamy Basil Sauce below, and showed you how-to with a video. The biggest part is soaking the cashews – once you do that, you’re off to the races. I usually make a double batch of the sauce and stow some in the fridge – it’s easy if you have a big blender.
Along with the sauce recipe, we’re sharing directions for making the zoodles (zucchini noodles) and assembling a colorful, flavorful meal. The recipe serves three as a main course or four as a side. Just make a few more zoodles if you’ve got a bigger crowd.
Pro tip: soaking is key.
Seriously – don’t skip soaking the cashews, that’s an important step! You can soak the cashews for 3-6 hours in filtered water and then drain them. If you’re short on time, soak the nuts in really warm (like almost boiling) water for 45 minutes – 1.5 hours.
If you’d like to add a little more protein to this dish, these Roasted Shrimp with Sweet Peppers are fabulous on top. For a meat-free meal, serve alongside Warming Root Vegetable + Turmeric Soup in the winter or Traditional Gazpacho when it’s sunny out. They’re all plenty fabulous for a party and simple enough for a weeknight meal.
Dairy-Free Creamy Basil Sauce And Zoodles Recipe
For the Basil Sauce:
- 1 cup cashews soaked until soft*
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
- 2 teaspoons miso
- 2 cloves chopped fresh garlic
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For the zucchini noodles and assembly
- 4 medium zucchini
- Salt for sprinkling noodles
- 1 cup cherry or pear tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 cup basil cream sauce
- 3 large basil leaves, chopped
- Blend cashews, water, lemon juice and zest, nutritional yeast, miso & garlic until smooth.
- Add chopped garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Blend on lowest speed to incorporate.
- Spiralize the noodles or use a peeler to shave around the zucchini into thin strip pieces (roughly 4 cups).
- Sprinkle salt over noodles and let rest for about 15 minutes (this should pull out water from the noodles).
- Rinse and pat the noodles dry with paper towels.
- Stir in the sauce, tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.
- Garnish with chopped basil.
Photos: Meg van der Kruik – she had to make more sauce because her family couldn’t stop eating it!
Eat your colors, friends. But do it deliciously.
Frequently Asked Questions about Creamy Basil Sauce:
You need the cashews to achieve the creaminess in this recipe. You could substitute macadamia nuts, but you’ll need to soak them a but longer and the texture of the sauce won’t be quite as smooth.
Yes, you can skip both of these ingredients. They both add depth of flavor, so I would add more lemon and possibly one more cloves of garlic. You’ll also likely need to add a pinch or two more salt.
Nope! You can serve this sauce on pasta, quinoa, grilled vegetables or fish. You can also use it as a salad dressing.
You can make both pesto and a creamy basil sauce with fresh basil.
You can serve basil sauce over pasta or zoodles, on grilled meats or fish, use it as a topping for pizza or focaccia, or as a salad dressing.