This 10-minute vegan pesto has all the classic and punchy flavour of the Italian sauce, but none of the dairy. To make pesto without cheese, I substitute both nutritional yeast and light miso for a bit of umami and a hint of funk. The miso is also naturally salty, so it helps to season this vegan pesto recipe nicely. I have a bunch of recipes that call for this sauce, so knew that it was time to post my go-to version.
I like to go classic with a vegan basil pesto. Other greens are great in certain contexts–see the “Substitutions” heading below. But basil is usually my first choice though as it is so familiar. My base of choice is a 50/50 mix of pine nuts and walnuts. Pine nuts are typical, but also super expensive. I find that the buttery flavour of walnuts is quite complimentary. Olive oil is such a crucial ingredient as well, so I recommend using one that you really love the flavour of. I’m a big fan of Brightland’s olive oil.
We use a food processor to mix this vegan pesto up super quick!
- You can use other leafy herbs in place of the basil for a totally different vibe that isn’t at all traditional. I like a mix of parsley and mint for certain dishes. Kale or spinach pesto is fun to make as well!
- Pistachios or almonds work great in place of the pine nut/walnut mixture. I prefer nuts that are more “meaty” (as opposed to mellow and creamy ones like cashews) for pesto.
- For a vegan pesto with no nuts, look to toasted sunflower seeds!
How to store and freeze:
- As soon as you’re done mixing it in the food processor, transfer to a sealable glass jar. Tap the jar on the counter a few times to settle it down and get rid of air bubbles. Then, pour a thin film of olive oil on top to prevent browning or discolouration. Close the lid on top and store in the fridge. The pesto lasts like this for up to a week.
- Can you freeze pesto? Yes! Follow the same steps that you would for the fridge, including the film of oil on top, and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
What to serve with vegan pesto:
- Pasta is a natural go-to! Try it in this Vegan Skillet Lasagna or dolloped into this Creamy Vegan Spinach & Mushroom Pasta.
- I love to stir up vegan pesto and a squeeze of lemon with some tahini or cashew butter for a quick sauce to drizzle over grilled vegetables.
- Spoonfuls of vegan pesto on a pizza is always a power move. Try it with this Spicy Vegan Butternut Squash Flatbread.
- Stir it into Mushroom Risotto.
- Simply folding pesto into sautéed vegetables or grain salads is a simple way to add lots of flavour.
I really hope that you’ll try my vegan pesto recipe! I am fully convinced that the miso makes a huge difference. Even as a person who loves nutritional yeast, I think too much of it can be quite heavy and take away from the fragrant basil. In this recipe, the miso helps us keep that perfect savoury balance with just a smaller amount of nutritional yeast.
10-Minute Vegan Pesto
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 ½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon light miso
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ⅓ – ½ cup olive oil, plus extra
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pesto has so few ingredients, so I like to ensure that I really enjoy the flavour of the olive oil that I’m using and I also use the freshest basil I can find.
- You can substitute the pine nut/walnut combination with almonds, sunflower seeds, or pistachios. I tend to prefer “meatier” nuts/seeds in pesto (as opposed to creamier ones like cashews or macadamias)
- A handful of baby spinach in with the basil makes the pesto extra green without adjusting the flavour at all.
- If I have an extra minute, I will blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for 20 seconds and then plunge them in an ice bath. From here, I gently squeeze out the excess moisture and proceed with the recipe. This extra step gives you extra, EXTRA green pesto.
- Place the pine nuts and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the "S" blade. Pulse the nuts until they are a coarse, meal-like consistency.
- To the food processor, add the garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, miso, salt, and pepper. Pulse until garlic is finely chopped.
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula. Then, add the basil all at once. Pulse until the basil is finely chopped.
- Turn the motor on and drizzle the olive oil in through the feed tube. I like my pesto a bit more saucy and fluid, so I use the full ½ cup. Once you have the consistency you like, stop the motor.
- Add the lemon juice to the pesto and give it a little stir. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning if necessary (more salt, lemon etc).
- Transfer the vegan pesto to a sealable jar. Bang the jar on the counter a few times to settle the air bubbles. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the surface (to prevent browning). Close the lid on top and keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can also freeze the pesto for up to 6 months.