Basil Salad Dressing

BY : PUBLISHED : August 4th, 2014 UPDATED: November 15th, 2021

This lemon basil salad dressing combines simple ingredients including fresh basil and lemon with peanuts (subs included!) for a budget-friendly vegan basil pesto salad dressing! Substitute expensive pine nuts and dairy for a delicious all-vegan version that requires just 4 ingredients, 5 minutes (or less), and a blender/food processor!

Creamy 5-minute Lemon Basil Pesto Salad Dressing

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly take on a creamy basil pesto salad dressing, you’ve found it. By substituting expensive pine nuts for a low-budget alternative, this pesto-inspired basil salad dressing packs in heaps of flavor but at a far lower cost. In fact, this basil pesto salad dressing is primarily made up of pantry ingredients (also like this avocado green goddess dressing and simple lemon dressing), for an addictive dressing that is ready in minutes. If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to pour it over everything! 

Whereas classic basil pesto combines basil, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon, and garlic, this basil vinaigrette uses peanuts. It may sound odd, but for anyone on a budget – this is an ingredient swap to get behind! So don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! (of course, if you have some pine nuts knocking about a kitchen cupboard somewhere, then feel free to use them! We’ve also included subs for those with peanut allergies).

The combination of fresh basil, bright lemon, and rich/creamy nuttiness makes for a creamy basil vinaigrette/dressing that any pesto lover will appreciate. Plus, it’s also surprisingly versatile – keep reading for several variations! Drizzle it over salads, in wraps, over potatoes, and more!

Looking for more ways to use up your basil crop? Why not try this creamy zucchini basil soup, lemon basil tofu, tomato basil pasta, or Thai? Also, help keep your basil fresher for longer by learning how to store it properly!

The Ingredients and Substitutes

Prepare this basil pesto dressing with just 4 ingredients plus salt, pepper, and water!

basil salad dressing ingredients in a white background

  • Basil: Use fresh basil without wilted leaves for the best flavor and color. 
  • Olive oil: Use a high-quality light and fruity extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. However, technically, you can use other oils like grapeseed, avocado, or even vegetable oil. 
  • Water: needed to achieve the correct dressing consistency.
  • Peanuts: Use raw, unsalted peanuts for the lowest budget version of this dressing. Walnuts may also work, but obviously, the flavor (and price) will differ. For a nut-free option, you could use sunflower seeds or the traditional pesto choice of pine nuts (which are technically a seed), though these aren’t exactly the most budget-friendly ingredient. To make them go further, you could use a combination of peanuts and pine nuts.  
  • Lemon: Make sure to use fresh lemon juice for the freshest results (and reduce waste by zesting the lemon first and saving the zest in the freezer until needed). For a basil vinaigrette with actual vinegar, you could use white wine vinegar- adjust the amount accordingly- but we prefer lemon juice (and it’s more cost-effective!)
  • Salt & Pepper: All you need is a pinch, adjusted to personal taste. 
  • Red pepper flakes: Adjust the amount to taste or omit entirely for a mild basil dressing. 

Optional Add-ins and Variations:

  • Garlic: Feel free to add some minced garlic. I recommend using one clove and increasing to personal taste. 
  • Nutritional yeast: You can add some nutritional yeast to this vegan pesto salad dressing in place of parmesan (which is in many dairy pesto salad dressing recipes).
  • Avocado: For creamier, richer, lemon basil salad dressing, add ½-1 avocado to the dressing. 
  • Pesto: To further the depth of flavor in this lemon basil salad dressing, you can add around 1tbsp any vegan green pesto to the dressing (like this avocado, walnut, kale, or sunflower seed pesto). Adjust the seasonings accordingly.

How to Make Creamy Basil Pesto Salad Dressing?

This basil salad dressing recipe couldn’t be simpler if it tried. In fact, the entire recipe takes just one step!

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth!

Make sure to taste the lemon basil dressing after blending and adjusting any ingredients to personal taste. 

basil salad dressing ingredients in a white background

Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions!

How to Serve Lemon Basil Salad Dressing?

Unsurprisingly, this basil salad dressing is perfect for serving over all sorts of salads, particularly those with Italian and Mediterranean flavors that pair well with pesto, including:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Olives
  • Bell peppers
  • Zucchini (and summer squash)
  • Asparagus
  • Cheese: dairy-free options like feta, halloumi, and mozzarella work particularly well with this basil pesto dressing. 
  • Peas/Snap peas
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Leafy greens: spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, etc.
  • Legumes: white beans, chickpeas, black beans, etc.  

For example, Caprese salad, herby orzo salad, pearl couscous salad, pita Panzanella salad, or even vegan calabacitas, etc. 

However, you can also use the lemon basil salad dressing as:

Let us know in the comments what your favorite way to enjoy this basil pesto salad dressing is!

How to Make-Ahead and Store?

Store the prepared peanut basil salad dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for between 3-4 days, giving it a shake between uses. 

basil salad dressing ingredients in a white background

Though we haven’t tried, you may also be able to freeze this dressing. To do so, transfer it to an ice-cube tray, cover it with plastic wrap (to avoid discoloration), and freeze until solid. Then transfer to a freezer-safe bag and store for between 2-3 months. You can then thaw (in the fridge on in 10-second spurts in a microwave) as much as you need each time. 

The basil pesto dressing may discolor slightly but should still taste fine. 

Top Recipe Tips and FAQs

  • Adjust the texture: Since this basil salad dressing contains peanuts, it’s naturally slightly chunky. If you want a smoother sauce, you’ll need to process it for longer. Alternatively, to help get a smoother lemon basil dressing, you can soak the peanuts in cold water for around 7-8 hrs. (overnight works best). As a bonus, soaking the peanuts can also neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors making them easier to digest, cause less bloating, and even increase your vitamin and mineral absorption. 
  • Experiment with the herbs: This sounds a bit odd to write on a basil pesto vinaigrette recipe, but you can experiment with substituting the basil for other herbs/greens like cilantro, mint, or even arugula, etc.  
  • If you can’t get fresh basil: Then you can still make a ‘cheat’ version of this pesto salad dressing by replacing the basil with any store-bought basil pesto.
  • Can I make a creamy basil dressing that is nut and seed-free? You may be able to make a version of this dressing using cooked white beans in place of the peanuts, which are neutral in flavor AND low budget (yay!). However, we haven’t tried – so can’t guarantee results.

More Vegan Dressing Recipes You’ll Love

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Basil Peanut Salad Dressing Plant Based on a Budget 2

Basil Salad Dressing

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly take on a creamy basil pesto salad dressing, you’ve found it! By substituting expensive pine nuts for a low-budget alternative, this pesto-inspired basil salad dressing packs in heaps of flavor at a very cheap price!
4.89 from 26 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Dressing
Cuisine American
Servings 16 servings
Calories 113 kcal
METHOD Blender
DIET Vegan


  • 3 cups of basil leaves
  • ¾ cup of water
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of peanuts
  • Juice of ½ of a small lemon
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, 
  • Red chili flakes, to taste (optional)


  • Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.


Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Calories: 113kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 3gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gSodium: 3mgPotassium: 83mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 237IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 1mg
Keyword basil, chilli pepper, dressing, easy dressing, lemon, lemons, peanut, peanuts, quick dressing, quick recipe, salad, salad dressing, vegan, vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedonaBudget! 🙂

About Jake

Jake switched to a plant based diet in 1996 and quickly realized he had no idea how to cook. All these years later and he's still trying to figure it out...

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