It's so easy to make your own homemade vegan pesto and makes just about everything taste better. Use it as a sauce on pasta or to add extra flavor to soups, sandwiches, stirfries, 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.
- Salt - for flavor.
- Nuts - pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, or even hemp seeds will all work well in this pesto, or you can leave them out completely.
- 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.
🔪 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.
- Put all of the ingredients into a food processor except for the oil.
- Turn on the food processor and slowly add about 1/2 of the oil.
- Stop and scrape the edges and then blend again slowly adding the remainder of the oil.
- Keep in an airtight container or freeze.
🥜 How to make it nut-free?
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, sunflower, or hemp seeds. Just swap out the seeds equally for nuts.
🥡 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 - I found these ice cube trays at Big Lot for a few dollars. They 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 a soup, stirfry, or anything that needs some fresh herbs, I just take out a cube or two and toss it in. 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.
- 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 of your next vegan grilled cheese sandwich for an epic lunch!
- Add some to vegan ricotta to make amazingly delicious vegan stuffed shells.
Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for new vegan recipes!
An easy way to make vegan pesto with the option for no nuts. Although this recipe is dairy-free, this pesto still has a rich and cheesy flavor.
- 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
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt or to taste
- 1/2 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 in a freezer bag.
- Keep frozen until ready to use.
- If you will use it within 7 days, keep 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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