This recipe makes the perfect vegan pesto! This easy basil pesto recipe is entirely plant-based and comes together in less than 20 minutes. Enjoy it on pasta, grilled bread, pasta, pizza, or as a dip.
If you happen to have fresh basil on hand, I have the perfect vegan pesto recipe for you!
What led me to finally create a pesto recipe? A surplus of fresh basil in a large pot, right in our front yard. Over the years, we have tried growing different herbs. We’ve had success only with basil.
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!
What you need to make the perfect vegan pesto
To make this pesto, you are going to need three cups of basil. Before you start with cleaning the basil, you will need to lightly toast the pine nuts in a preheated oven for approximately 8 minutes at 350 F until lightly colored.
In the meantime, wash the basil 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.
The ingredients for this recipe are:
- fresh basil
- lightly toasted pine nuts
- 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
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.
What you need to make the perfect vegan pesto
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
How to use pesto
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 the pasta water as you drain the pasta, to save it for thinning the pesto. Start with a couple of tablespoons of pasta water. Add more water as needed in small increments as you mix the pesto with the pasta in a pot over low heat until heated. You don’t want to cook the pesto, just heat it through with the pasta.
You can also use the pesto as a spread on crostini or a dip, slather it on sandwiches, mix it with cooked potatoes, or my favorite, put on pizza after it comes out of the oven.
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!
How to store pesto
Refrigerate the leftover pesto in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 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 would like to try a pasta recipe, take a look at my Asparagus Mushroom Pasta.
If you make this perfect vegan pesto recipe, be sure to leave me a comment, rate this recipe, and tag me on Instagram. Be sure to follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’d love to see you there!
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.