Bright and zesty vegan pesto that you can make in five minutes. Full of fresh, summer flavors that make a great addition to an easy weeknight meal. Made with just a few simple ingredients like basil, lemon, garlic, salt, pine nuts and olive oil.
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- This simple vegan pesto only requires seven healthy ingredients that are easy-to-find in your garden or grocery store.
- You can whip this up in five minutes.
- Made without any animal products, so it's a great option for vegans or those that are lactose intolerant.
- Gluten free
- Great sauce to meal prep and use throughout the week in your meals.
🌱 Ingredients & substitutions
- Fresh basil leaves - this is a great way to use up all the basil in your garden in the summer. I love going outside and picking the leaves right off my basil plant.
- Pine nuts - adds a subtle nutty flavor to this vegan basil pesto.
- Lemon juice - roll the lemon out to extract even more juice. This adds a bright, fresh flavor.
- Nutritional yeast - this has a nice cheesy flavor that you're looking for in traditional pesto. You can also use vegan parmesan cheese for a more traditional basil pesto flavor. My favorite is Violife. Just grate it to prepare it for this recipe.
- Extra virgin olive oil - the richness of the olive oil makes the sauce super satisfying. Olive oil is full of healthy fats. You can also add more water if you don't want to use much oil.
- Fresh garlic - it's not a pesto without fresh garlic. I like to grate it before adding it into the food processor, so the flavor is more evenly spread.
- Salt - use more lemon juice to season if you'd like to use less salt.
Use different nuts - Almost any nut or seed works in this recipe. Try out cashew nuts, walnuts or almonds if you don't have pine nuts on hand, or if you'd like to try different flavors.
Try adding sun-dried tomatoes - this adds a deep umami flavor to the pesto, especially if you don't have any nutritional yeast on hand.
Try different greens - it's fun to try out different herbs and greens. Replace a cup of the basil with arugula, parsley or spinach or any of your other favorite herbs.
👩🍳 Helpful tips
To stop the pesto from turning brown if exposed to air, you can quickly blanche the basil leaves in boiling water for one second, then put them in ice water before adding to the food processor.
It's best to use a smaller food processor. Using a large food processor won't blend up the pesto very well. You can also use a mortar and pestle, or a blender on a slow setting.
Try using roasted garlic instead of raw garlic for a different and more deep flavor. Just roast it with some olive oil in the oven until soft.
Lightly toasting the pine nuts on the stove for a few minutes until lightly golden brown is a great way to add more depth of flavor.
Step one: Rinse the basil off and remove the leaves from the stems. Add the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic cloves, nutritional yeast and salt.
Step two: Pulse until you get a roughly chopped mix. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
Step three: Add the rinsed basil leaves.
Step three: Turn on the food processor and pour in the olive oil as the food processor is running, until you get the desired consistency. Add more oil or water if needed, one tablespoon at a time.
🥄 Specialty tools
The only tool you will need to make this is a food processor. If you don't have one, you can also use a small blender, but you will need to stop every now and then and scrape the pesto from the sides.
Using a blender will also make the consistency more smooth and sauce-like, like in the photos.
You can also use a mortar and pestle, which is how I've seen some Italians make it.
🍝 How to use pesto
I love to make vegan pesto pasta. After straining the pasta, make sure to save a quarter cup of the pasta water. Then add as much pesto sauce to the hot pasta as you'd like. Mix it in with a little pasta water for more flavor. Try it with this Homemade Vegan Pasta.
Put this homemade pesto in a pasta sauce, on roasted vegetables, sandwiches or dollop it on top of a pesto pizza. This would taste great on air fried asparagus.
Some of my other favorite ways to use this is to dollop it in a salad, like this couscous salad or in a salad dressing.
It also tastes good in vegan ricotta cheese. Check out these Vegan Pesto Ricotta Stuffed Shells.
❄️ Storing tips
This pesto will last in the fridge, in an airtight container for a week. Make sure to use an airtight container because the pesto will turn brown if exposed to air.
❓ Recipe FAQs
Traditional pesto is made with dairy cheeses like dairy parmigiano reggiano and pecorino. Vegans don't eat any animal products. It's easy to make pesto vegan by using a vegan parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy flavor.
If you're allergic to nuts you can also use sunflower seeds, hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for a nut free pesto.
You can also skip any nuts or seeds altogether and make what the French call "pistou". They then add this into a vegetable and white bean soup called soup au pistou.
Yes! If you want to make individual servings that you can quickly add to any meal, freeze it in an ice cube tray over night. Once it's frozen, add the pesto cubes to a freezer friendly ziploc bag. It will last in the freezer for 3-6 months. Pop a pesto cube into any meal you'd like to add a burst of flavor to.
🥗 More recipes you'll love
If you loved this recipe, leave a 5 ⭐️ rating on the recipe card and comment below!
Super Easy Vegan Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil (tightly packed)
- ½ cup pine nuts (or raw walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, or hemp seeds. )
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ lemon (juiced)
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast (or vegan parmesan)
- ¼ teaspoon salt (add more if needed)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons water (if needed)
- Rinse the basil leaves off and remove the leaves from the stems. Set the leaves aside.
- Add pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt and nutritional yeast to a small food processor or small blender and pulse until roughly mixed.½ cup pine nuts, 3 cloves garlic, ½ lemon, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- Add the basil leaves to the food processor and pulse. Drizzle in the olive oil while it's running. Add some water if needed for desired consistency. Stop the food processor occasionally to scrape down the sides.2 cups fresh basil, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons water
- Taste and add more salt if needed. If it's too acidic, add more nutritional yeast, if it's too thick, add more olive oil or a splash of water.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.