Vegan Pesto Sauce

Vegan Pesto Sauce

I can’t get enough of this rich and creamy pesto sauce. It is so versatile and always adds a delicious touch to any dish! Tonight I spooned it onto a pizza, but I also like it tossed with potato gnocchi or pasta, stuffed into phyllo triangles, or spread on a sandwich. The options are virtually endless! Pesto couldn’t be easier to make if you have a food processor, and it is truly worth making from scratch if you can get fresh basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of basil (about 3 cups, loosely packed)
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic
  • 6 Tbsp raw pine nuts or walnuts (or a combination of the two)*
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)**

Preparation:

Place all ingredients except the olive oil and nutritional yeast into a food processor. Process to a finely ground consistency. Add olive oil and process again, until smooth and creamy. If desired, add nutritional yeast and process again until creamy. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*Classic pesto is made with pine nuts, but it is also delicious with walnuts!  Tonight I was short on both so I used about 3 Tbsp of each.  I haven’t tried it with any other nuts, but if you experiment and find a good one, let me know!

**Nutritional yeast is a delicious addition to this classic pesto and will give it a kind of “cheesy” flavor and a more rich and creamy consistency. If you buy Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast, it is also a reliable source of vitamin B-12. Some people don’t like the taste of nutritional yeast, others (like me!) can’t get enough of it. If you haven’t tried it before, I recommend experimenting with small amounts to see how you like it.



55 Responses to “Vegan Pesto Sauce”

  1. Rebekah

    Thanks – I am officially a nutritional yeast addict, I can’t get enough of the stuff! To me, it adds that little “something” to pesto that is needed when you omit the parmesan. Definitely makes it creamier!

    Reply
  2. Laura

    You should try macadamia nuts in pesto! Delicious :) I’m in Australia though so it’s not so hard to find them.

    Reply
  3. TomOfMaine

    We are nutritional yeast fanatics, can’t wait to try this out tonight ! We’ve got some Rising Moon organic vegan ravioli’s that we’re going to make it with.
    Along with a little garlic bread and some red wine, it’s going to be heavenly :-)

    Reply
  4. windycityvegan

    I can’t wait to try this with the nutritional yeast added. I often make pesto with kale and cashews, very delicious!

    Reply
  5. Wendy

    My new favourite pesto recipe. But I put in half cashews, half pinenuts. The cashews and the nutritional yeast really complement one another nicely.

    Reply
  6. Tara

    Thank you Rebekah! I have to admit that I’ve never made pesto before, but after my basil plant starting looking like it was gonna take a turn for the worse I grabbed all of the leaves and WOW! Used the pine nuts and threw some chopped steamed asparagus in with whole wheat linguine. Will make this again..and again…

    Reply
  7. Jenny

    I put this pesto in stuffed portobello mushrooms for a dinner party, and my guests begged for the recipe! I forgot to rinse out the tablespoon I had used to measure out some dried mint, so a tiny bit ended up in the pesto. I was pleasantly surprised by the unique flavor the mint imparted! It really was a few flakes, though, but you might try it next time you make it. A lovely recipe all around!

    Reply
  8. Christina Arasmo

    Awesome! I love nutritional yeast! Here’s something I made up tonight:

    Walnuts (1/2 cup)
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/8-1/4 teaspoon chili powder
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

    Blend until crumbly. WOW!

    Add oregano or basil too!

    Reply
    • Una

      How do you use this? Do you sprinkle on pasta or salad, or is it like as seasoning. The mix sounds really interesting.

      Reply
  9. Danu Stratton-Kent

    Just made this – delicious! Pesto was the one thing I thought I was going to miss on swapping vegetarianism for veganism, but the worry is over, this is fabulous.

    I have been making fresh pesto for years, and always disappointed with the jar stuff – no such disappointment to be had here with this! Just as lovely as the dairy (homemade) version, if slightly different.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  10. megan

    I love making fresh pesto for dinner events – but I needed to make it vegan this time and wanted a good recipe without butter :]
    Cheers! Thank you very much :]
    ~meg

    Reply
  11. Laurie

    I am anxious to try this with the nutritional yeast. I grow lots of basil and make many batches of pesto over the summer and freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes and store in freezer containers. Then when you want a quick supper, you just take out the number of cubes you need and defrost in microwave and toss on pasta and it tastes like you just made it and you can have homemade pesto all year!

    Reply
  12. Billi

    I have been making pesto for years and had never tried it with the nutritional yeast before…it was an awesome touch to a “classic” recipe. I use a combination of pine nuts and hazelnuts in my pesto…it gives it a unique flavor!

    Reply
  13. Brooke

    I just discovered your blog when I was searching for a vegan pesto recipe. I love your recipes! I hope you keep blogging.

    Reply
  14. Genessa Faye

    Thanks for the recipe! The basil was a little too strong for me so I cut the bite with 2 artichoke hearts and a few more pine nuts. Also, I boiled the garlic cloves for 15-20 minutes in “better than chicken” bouillon. Made it without the yeast, and it was really good. I’m going to try adding a little into the leftovers tonight though. Thanks!!!!
    Genessa

    Reply
  15. Rickie

    My best friends is vegan and we decided we wanted to make pesto from scratch. this is a great recipe! Thanks for sharing =)

    Reply
  16. James

    I had a vegan friend fly in to visit for the evening and I really wanted to stay in for dinner rather than hunt for a restaurant where she could eat more than a bowl of lettuce. We both hate tomatoes so the only thing I could think of was pesto, a google search brought up this recipe and I was skeptical about the “nutritional yeast” had never heard of it before, spent two hours at four stores and finally found it (Whole Foods has it in the supplement section.) I made the pesto without the yeast to see how is was and it had quite a bite to it, added the yeast and it turned into and almost perfect pesto. It was still had a bit of a bite so I put it on the stove and cooked it for a few minutes and it took the harsh fresh basil bite out of it! I will never go back to my dairy pesto recipes again! Thank you so much for this amazing sauce, and for introducing me to nutritional yeast!

    Reply
  17. Or

    Going to try it tonight but without the yeast. Nothing against it, just don’t have it and it’s too late fro shopping. I do have a batch of my home made vegan nut “cheese” so i will mix a little with some of the pesto. I’m sure it will be great. I’m addicted to this “cheese” like you are to the nutritional yeast.

    Reply
  18. Angelika

    Your recipes are incredible! I found your website by chance and bought a food processor just to try these (no joke). I made the chickpea hummus and the pesto and they are both incredible! I can’t wait to try more recipes from your website. Thank you for being so thorough in your descriptions. I had no problems cooking the chickpeas from scratch.

    To the vegan pesto sauce I did add about 1/2 cup of compressed organic tofu and a bit more olive oil than the recipe called for. This stuff is even firmer than extra firm tofu and once processed gives the grainy illusion of parmesan cheese (my vegan aunt-in-law tipped me off to this).

    Thank you again! I’ll look forward to more delicious recipes :).

    Reply
    • Sandy

      I’ve been making pesto like crazy & use walnuts or almonds to avoid the high cost of pine nuts. A friend told me she used pistachio nuts & they were great.
      Think I’ll go make some right now!

      Reply
  19. Amy Congdon

    Quick question – my son is allergic to peanuts/tree nuts, so pine nuts are out (trying to play it safe). Do you think I could make this with a seed instead? Like pumpkin seeds, maybe? Thanks!

    Reply
    • veganspoonful

      Amy – I’m sure you could make it with a seed, like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, though I haven’t tried it. Let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
  20. TomOfMaine

    This is a great recipe, we also add 1 or 2 avocados to the mix, makes for a nice thick batch of pesto. Lots of nutritional yeast of course :-)

    Reply
  21. Lucy

    Thanks for the inspiration – I just made something similar. I didn’t have quite as much basil as I wanted though. I forgot salt. And I used a combination of pine nuts and walnuts. Very creamy and yummy!

    Glad I found your blog. I am determined to make vegan food that my husband enjoys, even though I do cheat and eat dairy occasionally :)

    Reply
    • veganspoonful

      I like it with walnuts, too…but my husband can ALWAYS tell something is off if I don’t use pine nuts. He says pine nuts are essentially for that creamy, buttery flavor. Luckily they aren’t too pricey at Trader Joe’s.

      Reply
  22. Rachel

    WONDERFUL recipe! As a new vegan, the thought of not having pesto again almost made me change my mind. Now I don’t think I’ll ever eat regular pesto again, even if I do go back to just vegetarian!

    Reply
  23. Marilyn

    Wow! I love your website! I found this after looking at 10 different pumpkin pie recipes for thanksgiving. I love your inspiration. The pictures you provide are wonderful. I actually have many of the cookbooks you’ve commented on, but haven’t made the recipes that you’ve made out of them because mine don’t have all the pictures. Thanks so much! You rock!

    Reply
  24. Brandi

    I found a recipe for pesto like this before and it was super yummy. I love that little bit of cheese-y flavor the nutritional yeast adds.

    As for what other people commented on about using cashew nuts. I think I will try that with half cashew and half pine nuts for dinner with spinach pasta. yummy!

    Reply
  25. Shayla Roop

    OMG!! i just made this, and it is super delish!! I normally make regular pesto with freshly grated parm cheese but my vegan sis is coming to visit, and I wanted to prepare a vegan pesto for her. This recipe is a winner!! The nutri yeast is fab in this pesto. Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
    • Rebekah

      Yay! This is one of my favorite comfort food recipes – just made some this week over potato gnocchi. Mmmmm… Hope your sis likes it!

      Reply
  26. Susan

    Great recipe! I experimented and substituted 1/2 parsley and 1/2 cilantro instead of basil, and it turned out great too. Love this recipe!

    Reply
  27. Adrienne

    Thank you for the recipe! My boyfriend is allergic to peanuts, and therefore we have a difficult time finding nuts processed in a peanut-free facility. When we saw Blue Diamond’s almonds were processed in such a facility, we started using almonds in pesto sauces. We recently became vegan, so we were thankful to find your recipe and used it as a reference point. Definitely try almonds, if you ever have them hanging around! We also added almond milk to make it smoother and easier to toss with pasta.

    Reply
  28. Ruth

    I always use almonds for the pine nuts. Blanched almonds work really well, but if you have roasted sliced almonds like I always seem to, those work too.

    Reply
  29. Denise

    Yummy!!!!!! I used walnuts, cashews and nutritional yeast…..my 15yr old daughter will be very happy as when she invites her friends over pesto is a must! We live in Italy so it’s a staple here…It’s the equivalent to chicken nugget and chips! I did order a few jars of vegan pesto from Amazon which was ok but this is just like the real thing!!!!! 😀

    Reply

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