Summer is coming to a close, and the Best Vegan Pesto is the perfect way to savor those last few warm days of the year. Whether you’re clearing our your garden and using up your leftover basil, or running to your local market, this recipe is perfect for enjoying on your favorite pasta dish, fresh bread or on top of those vine-ripened tomatoes.
Why this is the Best Vegan Pesto-
I like a pesto that is thick, creamy and bursting with the bright flavor or basil and lemon, but not drowning in oil at the same time. This recipe fits the bill, and has plenty of richness and good fats from the combination of walnuts and pine nuts.
This pesto is:
-Made from whole foods
-High in healthy omega 3 fats
How Can I use this Vegan Pesto?
Originating from the Liguria region in Italy, pesto was traditionally used in pasta dishes, sometimes with fresh veggies accompanying. Pesto is extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes. It is especially helpful in a whole food plant based diet, where you are trying to reduce your amounts of saturated fats that come from butter or oils.
Here are a few ways I like to use this creamy pesto-
- In a cold pasta salad. Combine some fusilli pasta with kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, fresh zucchini and mushrooms. Stir in this pesto and you’ve got yourself a winner at any summer barbecue.
- Spread onto freshly baked bread. This is a flavorful replacement for butter, and extra delicious if you add some vine ripened sliced tomatoes on top.
- Make a green lasagna! Use sliced fresh veggies, tofu ricotta and a whole wheat lasagna and replace your traditional tomato sauce with this pesto. It’s a light and bright alternative to the traditional dish.
- Make a quick tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Dice up your fresh veggies and combine in a bowl, stirring in your fresh pesto at the end. Great for lunches!
Some Helpful Substitutions-
Walnuts for Pine Nuts
If you don’t want to use pine nuts, can’t find them in your local market, or just think they’re too dang expensive, we’ve got you covered. Just use 1 cup of walnuts instead of 1/2 pine nuts and 1/2 walnuts. This recipe is traditionally made with all pine nuts, but I like the complexity that the walnuts add to the flavor, plus you get the added advantage of those healthy Omega 3 fats.
Add some avocado
For an even creamier sauce, you can add in 1/2 a ripe avocado. This is especially great if you are making a cold pasta salad. The smoothness of the avocado helps coat the pasta evenly. Just be mindful that if you add avocado, the pesto may start to darken a bit in the fridge overnight, as it does with guacamole.
Add some vegan parmesan
For an even more complex flavor, I like to add 2 tbsp of vegan parmesan if I have this on hand. I make a batch or Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Parmesan Cheese every few weeks to keep in the fridge. There are also many commercially sold vegan parmesans that are good as well.
To make this substitution, use 2 tbsp of vegan parmesan and 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, instead of 4 tbsp of nutritional yeast.
Do I need food processor?
No, this can be made with a blender instead, or even by hand if you are up for a lot of fine chopping!
If you are using a blender, you may need to stop and restart the machine a few times, and scrape down the sides to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated well. Be careful not to overland and make it completely smooth. You still want some texture to your pesto.
If you don’t have either, get our your knife and brush up on those chopping skills! Just chop the garlic, pesto, and nuts up as finely as possible. Combine in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir well, mashing the ingredients together with a fork, or even a piston, along the way to incorporate everything well. This will bring out their flavor more- the more you mash, the better!
Want to try other Vegan Oil free sauces?
They’re both loaded with flavor and easy on the arteries 🙂
The Best Vegan Pesto
- Food Processor or Blender (optional)
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- Juice of 1.5 lemons, or of 1 large lemon
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (use 1 cup walnuts if you don't have pine nuts)
- 2 fresh garlic cloves
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast (For more depth of use 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, and 2 tbsp vegan parmesan)
- 1/2 tsp salt (may add more to taste)
- Peel garlic, and chop roughly to prepare for food processor. (Not necessary, but it helps get a more even consistency)
- Add all ingredients to your food processor or blender
- Process until the desired consistency is reached. I prefer the pesto smooth, but with a slightly rough texture.
- Adjust salt to taste and serve with your favorite pasta, homemade bread or fresh tomatoes.