Vegan Pesto

Vegan Pesto
The Spruce
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
218 Calories
21g Fat
5g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 218
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 27%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 203mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 174mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This simple vegan pesto recipe tastes surprisingly like the real thing. Traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, pesto is a basil, pine nut, and cheese mixture that originated in Italy. One of the most flavorful and easy sauces there is, pesto can be easily made into a vegan preparation by swapping the cheese with nutritional yeast, a vegan-friendly ingredient with a strong cheesy tang. Lots of garlic, fresh basil, seasonings, and good quality olive oil complete the list of ingredients. Simply blend and serve, no cooking required.

Toss this simple vegan pesto with pasta, use it as a pizza sauce to make a pesto pizza, layer it with lasagna noodles and vegan cheese for a pesto lasagna, or serve it up with bread or crackers for an appetizer. Keep it in your fridge for a week, always adding a tablespoon of oil on top to avoid the basil from oxidizing and discoloring.

This quick and easy pesto recipe is also gluten-free and is a raw foods recipe suitable for anyone on a raw vegan diet.

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil (loosely packed)

  • 1/3 cup oil (or other high-quality oil) 

  • 1 cup pine nuts (or cashews, or walnuts)

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Vegan pesto ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are ground. Pesto should still have texture and not be completely smooth.

  3. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Use it in your favorite recipe.

    Vegan Pesto in a food processor
     The Spruce
  4. Enjoy!

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is the same type of yeast used in baking or brewing beer, but heated and harvested to be made into a food product with amazing nutritional qualities and a cheesy and nutty flavor. Nutritional yeast is common in vegan cooking because it's usually fortified with key vitamins, especially B12. As strict vegan diets do not include ingredients high in B12 like meat, eggs, or dairy, nutritional yeast is then the most flavorful way of getting this important nutrient.

How Can I Use Vegan Pesto?

This quick vegan pesto can be added to a variety of dishes:

  • Use it in pasta, topping each serving with a teaspoon of nutritional yeast. Great for cold pasta salads, mix it with black olives and fresh finely chopped vegetables for a flavorful summer salad.
  • Toss it with roasted potatoes, turnips, and parsnips for a beautiful side dish.
  • Mix 1/2 cup of pesto with 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and use this thinner version as a salad dressing. Mix 2 cups of arugula, 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, and 4 ounces of vegan feta cheese. Toss the salad with the sauce and serve immediately.
  • Make sandwiches and wraps using the pesto as a spread. Use grilled vegetables like eggplants, zucchinis, onions, and peppers as your filling, and smear a generous amount of pesto on a fresh baguette or wrap.
  • Top grilled tofu with a dollop of pesto and serve in a vegan bun with a side of arugula and sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Mix 2 tablespoons of vegan pesto per 1 1/2 cups of cooked brown or white rice. Use this flavorful rice as a side dish, or add any vegetables of your liking to make it into a rice salad.

Additions and Substitutions

Our vegan pesto can be made with a variety of ingredients without losing its vegan quality:

  • Use sunflower seeds or 1/2 cup of natural sunflower butter instead of the pine nuts. This will also make the pesto nut-free and suitable for people with tree-nut allergies.
  • Replace half of the oil with soy milk for a thinner sauce that can double as a salad dressing.
  • Add 1/2 cup of rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes. This will give the sauce a beautiful tangy flavor.