When preparing a versatile and flavorful sauce that's a staple in many kitchens, basil pesto is a top contender. Whether you're a seasoned vegan or simply looking to add plant-based goodness to your culinary repertoire, this homemade vegan basil pesto recipe is a must-try!
This easy vegan pesto sauce is a delightful addition to pasta, sandwiches, salads, or a dipping sauce with the vibrant flavors of fresh basil, roasted pine nuts, garlic, and a hint of citrusy lemon goodness. Plus, it's an excellent way to put that surplus of basil from your garden to good use.
This Vegan Basil Pesto with pine nuts can be whipped up in less than 15 minutes. Fresh basil is the star and shines here! This dairy-free pesto is versatile; add it to your pasta, sandwiches, cream sauces, pizzas, soups, salads, potatoes, and more.
I love to make homemade pesto during the summer months when my own basil is plentiful in our patio garden. This easy-to-make pesto is so fresh, garlicky, and lemony!
Considering my love for Italy and Italian food, I had to have a pesto recipe on my blog; it's been updated with new photos and improved instructions.
The history of pesto
The name pesto comes from the traditional Ligurian method of making traditional pesto recipes 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 heart of this delicious vegan pesto recipe without animal products is the fruity extra-virgin olive oil and the fresh basil. I am a fan of nutritional yeast since it adds an element of umami.
See the recipe card for quantities.
- Pine nuts - lightly toasted to bring out the flavor of the pine nuts.
- Basil - Fresh basil leaves are essential; they are the main ingredient!
- Fresh lemon juice for brightness - do not use concentrate.
- Nutritional yeast - optional for a cheesy flavor; I highly recommend it.
- Extra-virgin olive oil - Use the best quality fruity olive oil you can find; it will make a difference.
- Garlic cloves - for flavor.
- Sea salt - you can use kosher salt as well.
How to Make Easy Vegan Pesto
I'll guide you through the steps to create an exceptional vegan basil pesto. Let's dive into this delicious and easy-to-make recipe.
Once you have the pine nuts toasted, it's a matter of minutes! First, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Bake the pine nuts until lightly colored. You can do this on a skillet at low-medium heat instead; stir the nuts frequently with a wooden spoon, so they do not burn.
Dice the garlic in the food processor by pulsing it a few times.
Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor - basil, sea salt, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and pine nuts.
Pulse for several seconds until the mixture is blended.
Add the olive oil in a slow stream while the food processor runs until you get a creamy mixture.
Hint: If you prefer a thinner pesto, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.
- Basil - If you're a bit short of basil, use spinach or kale instead. You can use beet greens or carrot greens instead of basil, or a mixture.
- Nutritional yeast - Feel free to omit this if you can't find it, although I like the cheesy flavor, umami, and creaminess it imparts. In this dairy-free version, you can try a touch of miso instead for umami.
- Pine nuts - Try walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pistachios, or almonds. If you'd like to try walnuts, look at this vegan walnut pesto.
Here are some different ways to make this homemade vegan pesto:
- Spice it up - Try spiced almonds instead of pine nuts. Or you can add more garlic. If you like the "bite" of garlic, use large cloves. If you like the garlic to be a bit more subtle, use one or two small cloves of garlic.
- Oil-free - Substitute olive oil with water.
- Budget-friendly - Try it with half cashews and half walnuts or all walnuts.
- Deluxe - Try pistachios instead of pine nuts.
How to serve
This recipe makes approximately one cup. You can get 8 servings that are 2 tablespoons each. Here are ways in which you can enjoy it:
- On pasta - This Perfect Vegan Pesto can be used immediately as a pasta sauce if you mix it with some reserved pasta water.
To make a pesto pasta sauce, reserve a cup of pasta water when 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. You don't want to cook the pesto; heat it gently with the pasta.
- Make pesto 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.
I love making this pesto with my food processor. I can't imagine making this pesto without it! However, you can make this pesto in a blender such as a Vitamix or equivalent.
Refrigerate the leftover vegan basil pesto in an airtight container for up to 4 to 5 days. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the pesto before placing the lid on top.
You can freeze the pesto for up to four months. The easiest way is to portion it into an ice cube tray. One "cube" is around two tablespoons.
Use the freshest and best quality ingredients you can find. Fresh basil, fresh lemon, fresh garlic - each quality ingredient makes such a difference!
Yes! You can freeze this Perfect Vegan Pesto for up to four months. To freeze it, place it in an ice cube tray and cover it tightly with plastic wrap.
Traditionally, pesto is not vegan since it typically contains Parmesan or Pecorino cheese. In addition, rennet is used to curdle the milk from which the cheese is made. When shopping for vegan pesto, always read the label; some brands are vegan such as Seggiano Fresh Basil Pesto Genovese. Not sponsored, just sharing a pesto I enjoy when I want to have some handy in the pantry!
Several types of pasta pair well with pesto, such as farfalle, gnocchi, linguine, and trofie.
You can substitute tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, or sunflower seeds.
Yes! If you are short on basil, you can use spinach, beet greens, carrot greens, or a mixture.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for vegan basil pesto as much as we did! If you make this recipe, please take a moment to ★★★★★ star-rate it and leave a comment below. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and share your creation with me! Tag me @resplendentkitchen and hashtag #resplendentkitchenrecipes.
How to Make Easy Vegan Pesto
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toast the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for approximately 8 minutes. After they turn slightly golden take them out of the oven to cool.½ cup pine nuts
- Chop the garlic in the food processor for several pulses.1 to 2 large cloves garlic
- Place the basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sea salt, and pine nuts in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse several times until mixed. Scrape down the sides as needed.3 cups fresh basil, 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Add olive oil in a steady stream and continue pulsing until it is combined. Use immediately, or refer to notes for storage instructions.4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- As noted above, the nutritional yeast is optional but I recommend it for the cheesy flavor. The pesto is delicious without it also.
- If you prefer a thinner pesto, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.
- If not using the immediately, place in an airtight glass container for up to 5 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.
Resplendent Kitchen offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site as a courtesy. Although resplendentkitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information from online calculators, these figures are estimates.