It's so easy to make your own homemade nut-free vegan pesto and makes just about everything taste better. Use it as a sauce on pasta or to add extra flavor to soups, sandwiches, stir-fries, or tofu scrambles.
Whenever you have fresh basil (or any other herbs) you can make a big batch and freeze it to be used later so you always have some on hand.
🍃 What is vegan pesto made of?
Pesto is a bright green sauce made from chopped fresh herbs. Traditional pesto usually has parmesan cheese, but you can easily swap it out for nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese. Basil is most commonly used, but you can use cilantro, kale, arugula, spinach, or a combo of any of them.
🧾 Ingredients and substitutions
- Basil - This is the primary herb in all pesto. You can also make pesto out of cilantro, parsley, kale, or spinach for alternative flavors and extra nutrition.
- Garlic - Give it flavor, however, you can omit or reduce it if you don't like it.
- Nutritional Yeast - nutritional yeast aka Nooch gives vegan pesto a cheesy flavor without adding any dairy. It is a light yellow flaky powder with a cheesy flavor. Full of vitamins and a great source of B-12 for those who follow a vegan diet. You can find it at most natural food stores and large grocery stores. You can also swap this out for vegan parmesan cheese.
- Salt - for flavor.
- Olive Oil - Use a good quality oil, like dark extra virgin olive oil for the best-tasting pesto. You can use any other neutral-flavored oil that you would like in its place if you would like.
- Lemon Juice - to help the pesto maintain its bright beautiful color. The acid in the lemon juice will keep it from oxidizing.
- Red Pepper Flakes - (optional) but if your family likes a little spice to their meals, a dash or two makes it great.
🔪 Helpful tools
A food processor is the easiest tool to use when making pesto, but if you don't have one you can also use a blender or an immersion blender.
🥄 How to make vegan pesto
Step 1 - Put all of the ingredients into a food processor except for the oil.
Step 2 - Turn on the food processor and slowly add about 1/2 of the oil.
Step 3 - Stop and scrape the edges and then blend again slowly adding the remainder of the oil.
Step 4 - Keep in an airtight container or freeze.
🥜 How to make it nut-free?
Traditional pesto recipes use pine nuts, but nuts are not necessary for pesto. They provide a depth of taste and texture to pesto but are definitely not a requirement.
If you want that nutty taste without nuts, you can also use seeds instead like raw pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds. Just swap out the seeds equally for nuts.
My family is very fussy about nuts, so I find that it's easiest to just leave them out of the pesto completely and it still tastes great!
If you want a vegan pesto with nuts see my basic vegan pesto recipe.
🥡 Storage and freezing
I use basil or pesto in a ton of my recipes, so I make a big batch every few weeks and freeze it.
Freezing - Ice cube trays are great for freezing the perfect amount of pesto. I freeze the pesto in these trays, then pop the cubes out into a freezer bag. When I make soup, stir-fry, or anything that needs some fresh herbs, I just take out a cube or two and toss it in.
How long will pesto last in the freezer? Frozen pesto will keep in a sealed freezer bag for about 3 months.
Refrigerator - Pesto will keep well in the fridge for 5-7 days in a sealed container.
🌟 How to use vegan pesto
- Quick pesto pasta - Mix ¾ cup of pesto with a pound of cooked pasta for a quick meal. Toss in some fried tofu and veggies like cherry tomatoes or broccoli for a more complete meal.
- Mix some pesto into your favorite pasta salads or thin it out with some extra lemon juice and use it as a salad dressing.
- Top pizza, bread sticks, or vegan garlic knots with some pesto too!
- Turn your pesto into a creamy vegan pesto pasta sauce for a quick and easy meal.
- Make a delicious breakfast with this pesto tofu scramble!
- I always put a few cubes of pesto in my roasted marinara sauce.
- This vegan pesto hummus is sure to be a hit with your whole family!
- Spread some pesto on your next vegan grilled cheese sandwich for an epic lunch!
- Add some dairy-free pesto to vegan ricotta to make amazingly delicious vegan stuffed shells.
✨ More vegan sauces
- Cilantro Garlic Sauce
- Vegan Honey Garlic Sauce
- Orange Sauce
- Dairy-Free Garlic Butter
- Veggie Cheese Sauce
- Creamy Tofu Pasta Sauce
📌 Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for new vegan recipes!
📋 Nut-Free pesto recipe
Nut-Free Vegan Pesto
- 2 cups basil (substitute as much as 1 cup spinach for basil)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil (high quality)
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional to maintain color)
- Put all of the ingredients into a food processor except for the oil.
- Turn on the food processor and slowly add about 1/4 cup of the oil.
- Stop and scrape the edges and then blend again slowly adding the remaining 1/4 cup of oil.
- Store in an airtight container or freeze.
- Use ice cube trays to freeze pesto.
- Pop the pesto out once it is frozen and store it in a freezer bag.
- Keep frozen until ready to use.
- If you will use it within 7 days, keep it in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
*This recipe was originally published on March 17, 2017. It has been updated on April 4, 2020, to include new images and improved instructions and information.
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