Are you a fan of pesto but don’t consume Parmesan cheese for dietary, ethical, or religious reasons? Fret not, as there are several alternatives to this staple ingredient that you can use to make a delicious and flavorful pesto sauce. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best substitutes for Parmesan cheese in pesto that you can try at home.

What is Pesto?

Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce made from fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. It is typically used as a pasta sauce but can also be used as a spread or dip.

The word “pesto” comes from the Italian verb “pestare,” which means to crush or pound. This refers to the traditional method of making the sauce by crushing the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle.

Why Replace Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese is one of the key ingredients in pesto and adds a distinct nutty and salty flavor to the sauce. However, not everyone can consume Parmesan cheese due to dietary restrictions (such as lactose intolerance), ethical concerns (such as veganism), or religious beliefs (such as kosher or halal). Fortunately, there are several alternatives to Parmesan cheese that you can use in your pesto recipe without compromising on taste.

Substitutes for Parmesan Cheese in Pesto

1. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a popular vegan substitute for cheese that has a nutty and cheesy flavor.

It is also high in protein, fiber, and B-vitamins. To use nutritional yeast in your pesto recipe, simply add 1-2 tablespoons of it to the mixture along with other ingredients such as basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts, and olive oil.

2. Pecorino Romano Cheese
Pecorino Romano cheese is a hard and salty cheese made from sheep’s milk.

It is a popular alternative to Parmesan cheese in Italian cuisine and can be used in pesto for a similar flavor profile. However, it may not be suitable for vegans or those with lactose intolerance.

3. Asiago Cheese
Asiago cheese is another hard and nutty Italian cheese that can be used as a substitute for Parmesan in pesto.

It has a similar texture and flavor to Parmesan but is less salty. You can use grated Asiago cheese in the same proportion as Parmesan in your pesto recipe.

4. Cashews
Cashews are a popular nut that can be used to make vegan pesto without Parmesan cheese.

They have a creamy and slightly sweet flavor that complements the other ingredients in the sauce. To make cashew pesto, blend together 1 cup of soaked cashews, 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and salt to taste.


In conclusion, there are several substitutes for Parmesan cheese that you can use in your pesto recipe without compromising on taste or texture. Nutritional yeast, Pecorino Romano cheese, Asiago cheese, and cashews are some of the best alternatives to consider if you’re looking to make pesto without Parmesan cheese. Experiment with different ingredients to find the perfect combination that suits your taste buds!