5-Minute Basil Walnut Pesto Sauce & Cucumber Bites {Paleo, Vegan, Dairy-Free}

If you are looking for ideas for a healthy New Year’s Eve appetizer recipe, look no further! After I shared this dish at a friend’s Christmas party and everyone devoured it, one of my friends there asked me for the recipe so she could make it for her family’s Christmas dinner. This is tried, tested, and approved 🙂 And you can whip it up in 5 minutes!


The first time I shared this recipe was two weeks ago during my very first cooking class. I had so much fun teaching it and can’t wait to do more classes in 2015!

During the class, we focused on making recipes that “cool,” calm and nourish the body. One of those recipes was for an Italian favorite – pesto sauce.

pesto demo

Teaching everyone about the health benefits of basil!

pesto food processor

All of the ingredients in the food processor before they are blended together.

Traditional pesto sauce is made with either parmesan or romano cheese, and since I’m dairy-free, I wanted to come up with a recipe that I could eat.

Something I’ve learned over the past couple of years that was news to me is that conventional dairy products are pro-inflammatory.

They promote inflammation in our bodies – and show up in annoying symptoms like excess mucous production and congestion, and other digestive, sinus and respiratory issues. Many people find that ditching dairy helps them get rid of or reduce all of those symptoms.

I never would’ve thought it was possible that I could go through a winter without bronchitis or congestion, but I have now for 2 years in a row, so I can attest to the fact that going dairy-free works 🙂

After experimenting with about 5 different versions of this recipe for pesto sauce, I finally came up with one that I liked. The ingredients in it are amazing for our health because they are immune & beauty-boosting and inflammation-reducing.

plate of pesto

Inflammation is one of the main reasons most of us are carrying around extra weight and getting sick.

Fat tissue is often inflamed tissue, and as long as our bodies are inflamed, we will have trouble keeping off weight long-term.

Not only that, but inflammation is at the root of most major diseases from digestive issues like heartburn, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome to diabetes, heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and arthritis. For many of us, it’s “silent” so we may not even know it’s happening. We want to eat foods that help us “cool” our body from the inside out, so we can be well.

Check out the amazing anti-inflammatory benefits of this pesto:

  • Garlic. Known as an “allium” vegetable (same family as onions, leeks, shallots, etc.), garlic is a potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial food. Two of garlic’s sulfur compounds inhibit the activity of inflammatory messenger molecules in our body, thereby reducing inflammation.
  • Walnuts. These brain-shaped nuts are an excellent source of an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3 fats also help keep our blood sugar levels regulated, which helps us avoid inflammatory spikes. Extra virgin olive oil, which is also used in this recipe, is another source of healthy omega-3 fats.
  • Basil. This green herb contains an oil that blocks harmful enzyme activity that promote inflammation in our body. It’s also rich in flavonoids (plant pigments found in high levels in deeply colored fruits and vegetables) and antioxidants, which help “cool” and calm our body.
  • Lemon. Citrus fruit high in flavonoids and antioxidants that combat harmful free radicals that damage our body and its cells and promote disease.

I served the pesto on cucumber slices and topped them with some shredded red cabbage. They are PERFECT for a holiday appetizer or just as a snack. Your guests will rave about them if you bring them to a party! 🙂

pesto bites


2 small cloves garlic, peeled (or 1 medium)
2 cups packed fresh basil (I bought one pack of organic basil from Trader Joe’s and it was the perfect amount!)
1/2 cup raw walnuts
3 tablespoons lemon juice (juice from about 1 1/2 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Few dashes black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cucumbers
Optional: shredded purple cabbage


  1. Process garlic cloves in the food processor until the garlic is minced.
  2. Add the basil, walnuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and nutritional yeast. Process until a uniform paste has formed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the olive oil in the top hole.
  4. Process until the pesto reaches your desired consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if necessary.
  5. Cut ends off of cucumber and slice into 1/2 inch circles. Top each cucumber slice with 1 tablespoon of pesto. When I taught my cooking class last week, some of the attendees came up with the awesome idea of putting the crunchy purple cabbage (another super anti-inflammatory food) on top!


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  1. Kayla

    This sounds delicious and I love all these ingredients individually so I’m sure they’ll be great together! Thanks for the recipe.

    • Thanks, Kayla! You’re always so kind and thoughtful to leave comments – it really means a lot! Looking forward to some exciting new things to come in 2015 🙂 Happy New Year to you!

  2. nancy@bryantfinancialadvisory.com

    These are just so delicious—healthy, too!

    • Thanks, mom! Glad you liked them 🙂 We made some again today for a party, and this past week for an Eating for Beauty workshop.

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