This homemade vegan Basil Pesto recipe is hands down one of the quickest, easiest, and most versatile Italian sauces you can ever make! You can adjust it to your liking, use other herbs or leafy greens, and even make it nut-free if you have to! Serve it with pasta or use it as a spread for bread, tortillas and wraps, or as a topping on pizza, naan, casseroles and more!
The best vegan basil pesto recipe
Basil is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow at home. All it needs is to be watered regularly and get plenty of full morning sunlight. And when summer arrives and the soil warms up, they grow in abundance!
Seeing a profusion of them in my herb garden usually drives me in a frenzy to cook up different recipes involving this aromatic leaf. I always make sure to make plenty of Pesto Sauce for storing to tide me over colder months.
What is Pesto?
The term pesto derives from the Genoese verb “pestâ” (Italian “pestare”), meaning to pound or crush, and is an uncooked sauce usually eaten with pasta. The most famous version is probably Pesto alla Genovese, a basil sauce also known as “Pesto verde“. For this, basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan are crushed until a creamy sauce is obtained.
To make the traditional Pesto alla Genovese vegan, I use cashews and nutritional yeast flakes in this recipe instead of traditional parmesan cheese. However, if you have any vegan parmesan left over, feel free to use it up.
Ingredients Used and Alternatives
All you need to make this 5-minute recipe are 9 plant-based ingredients, a pan for toasting, and a food processor or blender!
- Fresh basil leaves: You can add or swap this with other herbs or greens like parsley, spinach, kale, or arugula.
- Nuts: I used pine nuts and cashews, but feel free to use your favorite nuts or even seeds such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds or hemp seeds.
- Garlic: you can also try using wild garlic for a more mellow clove flavor.
- Nutritional yeast flakes: You can use vegan parmesan too.
- Olive oil: You can use any type of olive oil, but extra virgin is still best. In a pinch, you can swap for a neutral oil like grapeseed, canola, or vegetable oil.
- Fresh lemon juice: you can also use other citrus juices like lime.
- Salt and pepper: to taste.
How to make Vegan Basil Pesto
As always, I recommend checking out these step-by-step instructions and the recipe video first. Then you can find the full recipe with exact measurements in the recipe card below!
Step 1: First, toast the pine nuts and cashews to bring out their flavor. Afterward, add them to the food processor together with the basil leaves, garlic, and nutritional yeast flakes.
Step 2: Next, add the olive oil, lemon juice plus salt and pepper to taste and you are done! Now you have a beautifully vibrant, aromatic, and super flavorful pesto sauce!
Tips when making Basil Pesto
- Make sure to stir the nuts regularly or shake your pan while they are toasting. Nuts tend to burn easily. Remove from heat once they turn golden are aromatic.
- You can also opt to toast the garlic if you like to take the sharp edge off and soften the clove flavor a bit.
- Using lemon juice brightens the sauce up and keeps it vibrantly green longer!
- Make adjustments to the sauce as you please. You can make it as smooth as you like by grinding them longer. Make it more savory by adding some vegan cheese or salt and pepper, or make it tangier by squeezing extra lemon juice.
Make ahead and Storing Basil Pesto
You can make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to a week. Make sure to let the sauce completely cool down before placing it in a jar, or a tightly sealed container.
For longer storage, you can freeze the pesto in ice cube trays for up to 2 months. Then thaw small portions whenever you want.
- Can I make it nut-free? Oh, yes! For a nut-free version, swap them for sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sesame seeds.
- Is it gluten-free? Yes, all the ingredients used for the sauce are free of gluten. Make sure that you use a gluten-free brand pasta if making it.
- Can I use other herbs and spices? You can definitely try using your favorites like parsley, cilantro, sage, mint rep pepper flakes, or chives.
How to serve Pesto
This versatile sauce is commonly served with Italian pasta or gnocchi, just like my Garlic Basil Parsley Pesto, Wild Garlic Pesto or Creamy Avocado Pasta. But you can also use it as a spread for bread, tortillas, wraps, or as a topping on pizza, naan, casseroles and more!
This Vegan Basil Pesto is:
- Nut-free possible
- Quick and easy to make
- Quite versatile
- Fresh and flavorful
- Great for making ahead!
- Perfect as a sauce for pasta, gnocchi, potatoes or as a spread!
More easy vegan pesto recipes to try
- Avocado Pasta (Creamy Guacamole)
- Gnocchi with Wild Garlic Pesto
- Ribbon Noodles with Garlic Parsley Pesto
- Stuffed Gnocchi with Spinach Pesto
- Pull Apart Bread with Wild Garlic Herb Butter
- Spaghetti with Pesto Rosso
- Fusilli with Pesto al Arrabiata
- Chickpea Pasta with Coconut Curry Cashew Pesto
If you try this easy vegan basil pesto recipe, feel free to leave a comment and a star rating! And if you take a picture of your dish and share it on Instagram, please tag me @biancazapatka and use the hashtag #biancazapatka because I love seeing your remakes! Enjoy! 🙂
The Best Vegan PestoAuthor:
- 17.6 oz (500 g) pasta
- In a pot of salted water, cook the pasta according to packaging instructions until al dente. Then drain.
- Add the pine nuts and cashews to a pan and toast for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and nutritional yeast flakes in a food processor or blender and pulse until well chopped, scraping down the sides as needed.
- With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and lemon juice. Pulse until combined and relatively smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the Pesto with pasta or store it in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Enjoy!
- Serve this pesto with pasta or use it as a spread for bread, tortillas, wraps or as a topping on pizza, naan, casseroles and more!
- Freezing: You can freeze the pesto in ice cube trays for up to 2 months. Then thaw small portions whenever you want.
- Basil: You can also try other herbs or greens like parsley, spinach, kale, or arugula.
- Nuts/seeds: You can use your favorite nuts such as walnuts, almonds or pistachios. For a nut-free version, swap them for sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sesame seeds.
- Spices: For variation try adding your favorite spices.
- Please read my blog post for further information on this recipe!
- The nutritional information is calculated for 1 serving of 6 without pasta.
IF YOU HAVE PINTEREST, YOU CAN FIND ME HERE AND PIN THE FOLLOWING PICTURE, IF YOU LIKE! 🙂
©Bianca Zapatka | All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post for the recipe. More info here. Thank you for supporting biancazapatka.com!
Disclosure for affiliate links with asterisk (*):
This page may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You can find more information here.