This vegan pesto recipe isn’t just as good as traditional pesto … it’s better! It only takes 5 minutes to make, but it’s the perfect sauce for any pasta dish.
Pesto is one of my favorite sauces. The sharp flavor of the fresh basil, the richness of the olive oil, and the saltiness make it a perfect sauce. It works well with any type of pasta, as a dip, or as a garnish on top of many recipes. There’s only one issue with pesto: it has a lot of cheese in it. So I came up with this super easy vegan pesto recipe.
Instead of parmesan cheese, this vegan pesto uses nutritional yeast. It provides the same rich, nutty flavor as parmesan, and a little salt replaces the sodium of the cheese. My second secret ingredient, hemp seeds, add extra richness and complexity to the sauce, while lemon juice makes it a little more acidic than a traditional pesto. It only takes 5 minutes to make, but you’ll find yourself keeping a jar of it in the fridge at all times.
What You’ll Need
Here are the ingredients that you need to make this vegan pesto. Check out the recipe card at the bottom of the article to see the exact quantities for each ingredient.
- Fresh basil
- Nutritional yeast
- Lemon juice – Make sure to use fresh lemon juice.
- Pine nuts – If you don’t have pine nuts, you can use walnuts.
- Hemp seeds
- Pepper – Make sure to use freshly-cracked black pepper.
- Extra virgin olive oil
How to Make Vegan Pesto
Here’s how to make this 5-minute vegan pesto recipe.
- Process. Place all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil, in a food processor. Process the mixture until everything is combined.
- Scrape. Take the lid off the food processor, and scrape the sides down with a spatula.
- Add the oil. Put the lid back on, turn on the food processor, and drizzle in the olive oil. Start with a small amount, and add more until the consistency is right, then the pesto is finished.
Tips for Success
Here are a few different tricks for making this vegan pesto.
- Use a little water. If you would rather use less oil, substitute some of it with water. The pesto will be less rich, and a little less velvety, but still very good.
- Use a blender. If you don’t have a food processor, feel free to use a blender. However, you probably need a high-powered blender to get the best results.
- Adjust the seasonings. After making the pesto, give it a taste test, and adjust the seasoning. Depending on how much oil you used, and the strength of the basil and lemon, you may need to add a little more salt, pepper, yeast, or lemon juice. Play with the flavors until they’re just right for you.
What to Serve it With
It goes without saying that this vegan pesto goes perfectly when served with pasta. Whether it’s on angel hair, rigatoni, ravioli, or spaghetti squash, this pesto works so well with any type of pasta. I also love a dollop of vegan pesto on top of Italian dishes such as vegan spinach lasagna, polenta, and roasted winter vegetables. And of course, you can use this recipe as the pesto in any of these dishes:
- Zucchini noodles with lime-arugula pesto
- Spring pesto quinoa bowls
- One-pot spring pesto pasta with peas & asparagus
- Savory pesto quinoa breakfast bowls
- Quinoa pesto zucchini noodles
How to Store Leftover Vegan Pesto
Store the leftover vegan pesto in an airtight container or a jar in the fridge. It will last for up to 5 days.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes! You can also store this pesto in the freezer for up to 6 months, in an airtight container. I like to put plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto before putting the lid on the container, to keep any freezer burn from occurring.
More Sauces to Make
I’m a huge fan of sauces. Here are a few of my other favorites to make.
- Spicy vegan vodka sauce
- Simple everyday tahini sauce
- Perfect vegan lemon dill sauce
- Chili lime tahini sauce
- Easy homemade vegan barbecue sauce
Everyday Vegan Pesto
- 4 packed cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 – 2/3 cups nutritional yeast depending on taste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts if you don't have/can't find pine nuts, although I just saw you can get raw ones on Amazon for a great price!
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves I like to use 3 but only had 2 when I filmed the video
- Generous teaspoon of salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil depending on consistency*
- Add everything aside from the oil into a food processor. Process until combined.
- Remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a spatula.
- Place the lid back on and with the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Start with 1/4 cup and add more if you need it. Scrape down the sides a few times and process again until smooth.
- Transfer to a glass container and store in the fridge for up 5 day or the freezer for up to 6 months.
- If you don't want to use that much oil, you can replace some oil with water (although it will change the texture and flavor considerably).
- I haven't tried this recipe in a blender, but I think if you do want to try it you'll need a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or BlendTec Twister Jar.
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