This recipe makes the Perfect Vegan Pesto! This quick and easy basil pesto is entirely plant-based and will be ready in less than 20 minutes. Enjoy it on pasta, with grilled bread or pizza for dipping!
Last week, the basil had reached its peak and was almost past its prime. It was time to harvest it. We got nine cups of it! What was I to do with it? I had to make fresh pesto, of course!
Here's what you're going to need to make this vegan pesto:
- food processor
- chef's knife
- cutting board
- citrus squeezer
- baking tray or a small skillet, depending on how you're going to toast the pine nuts
- salad spinner, optional
Here's what you'll need to make this plant-based pesto recipe:
- fresh basil
- lightly toasted pine nuts, you can toast them in the oven or on the stovetop
- chopped garlic
- coarse sea salt
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- nutritional yeast, which is optional for a cheesy flavor and I recommend it!
- extra-virgin olive oil, try to use the best quality fruity olive oil you can find.
Start with lightly toasting the pine nuts in a preheated oven for approximately 8 minutes at 350°F until lightly colored.
In the meantime, prepare the basil by washing it in cold water, drain it, rinse it, and then dry it with a kitchen towel. You can do this in batches, laying the leaves flat on the towel, and rolling it up to dry the leaves. If you have a salad spinner, you can use that instead.
You will need a food processor with a metal blade to make the pesto. Place the fresh basil in the bowl. Add the toasted pine nuts, chopped garlic, coarse sea salt, the juice of half a lemon, and nutritional yeast. Pulse several times until the mixture is blended. Then add the olive oil in a slow stream while the food processor is running until you get
The history of pesto
The name pesto comes from the traditional Ligurian method of making this sauce with a mortar and pestle. Traditionally, pesto has been made with a combination of Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses, unless it was going to be added to soup or when the household could not afford the cheese. The version without cheese is referred to as a "poor man's pesto", which I learned while reading The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. In any case, the heart of a delicious creamy pesto is the fruity extra-virgin olive oil.
How to use pesto
- On pasta! The pesto can be used immediately as a pasta sauce as long as you mix it with some pasta water.
For using the pesto as a pasta sauce, reserve a cup of pasta water as you drain the pasta. Start with two tablespoons of pasta water and add more in small increments as needed while mixing it with the pesto over low heat until heated. You don't want to cook the pesto, just heat it through with the noodles.
- On pizza! I prefer to put the pesto on pizza after baking the crust because I'm not particularly eager to expose basil to that much heat. I cook pizza at 450°F. If I put basil on pizza, it's always after the pizza comes out of the oven, to avoid charring. A little wilting is ok, but I like basil to be green, not brown!
- As a dip! You can also use the pesto as a spread on crostini or a dip, slather it on sandwiches, or mix it with cooked potatoes.
How to store pesto
Refrigerate the leftover pesto in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Can pesto be frozen?
You can freeze it for up to a month.
To freeze it, place it in an ice cube tray and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Fresh pesto does not long enough in our household to freeze it!
If you make this Perfect Vegan Pesto, let me know what you think by ★ star rating it and leaving a comment below. You can follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Just tag me @resplendentkitchen and hashtag #resplendentkitchen.
This recipe was adapted from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein.
Perfect Vegan Pesto
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toast the pine nuts in the oven for approximately 8 minutes. After they turn slightly golden take them out of the oven to cool.
- Rinse the basil in cold water and dry it, using a dish towel.
- Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, sea salt, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast in the work bowl of the food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times until mixed. Scape down the sides as needed. Add olive oil in a steady stream and continue pulsing until it is combined. Use immediately, or refer to notes for storage instructions.
- As noted above, the nutritional yeast is optional but I recommend it for the cheesy flavor. The pesto is delicious without it also.
- If not using the immediately, place in an airtight glass container for up to 3 days.
- Pesto freezes well. Place it in ice cube trays, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the freezer for up to one month.
- This recipe is inspired by The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.