Homemade vegan pesto is packed with fresh basil to make a rich and flavourful sauce. Ready in under 10 minutes and ideal for topping pasta, pizza or bread and more.
Our garden is full of basil at the moment, so we thought it the perfect time to share this easy way to make vegan pesto with you.
We propagated our basil by taking cuttings and rooting them in water, and we ended up with loads of plants! So we’ll be making a big batch of this vegan pesto to freeze and enjoy later in the year as well.
This versatile and fresh green sauce is one of our favourite recipes to use up an abundance of greens and you”ll love how easy it is to adapt to use other seasonal herbs and green leaves.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this vegan pesto:
- Fresh basil leaves (homegrown or organic is great)
- Cashews nuts – you can use raw, or toast them it’s up to you!
- Nutritional yeast, otherwise known as ‘nooch’. This adds to the cheesy flavour and replaces the parmesan in traditional pesto. We buy it in bulk.
- Garlic cloves
- And olive oil – choose a tasty extra virgin olive oil.
Step by step
Here’s a quick visual guide to making the pesto. You can skip toasting the nuts if you are in a hurry!
Step 1 – Wash your basil (or other greens) and remove any very thick, tough stalks – small ones are ok!
Step 2 – If desired, lightly toast your nuts (or seeds) in a pan to bring out extra nutty flavour.
Step 3 – Place the basil leaves, nuts, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender bowl and blend to a paste.
Step 4 – Scrape down the sides, then slowly pour in the olive oil whilst blending.
Variations & substitutions
Nuts or seeds
Instead of cashew nuts, you can use pine nuts as is traditional for Italian pesto.
You can also use walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazels, pecans… Each will bring a subtly different and unique flavour to the finished pesto.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent nut free and budget friendly alternative.
And pumpkin seeds or pepitas can add a wonderful flavour too.
Basil and other greens
Instead of basil, or if you don’t have the full amount, you can also use other leafy greens. Pesto is a great way to use up spinach or excess salad leaves.
Other herbs such as parsley or lemon balm can also be used to make pesto. One of our favourites is coriander (cilantro).
Experiment with different combinations of greens and nuts or seeds and have fun discovering new flavours!
Oil free vegan pesto
If you want to make this pesto without using oil, simply leave the olive oil out and add some water or broth until you reach the desired consistency.
Or alternatively you can use a vegan yoghurt instead.
You can also use half water and olive oil if you want to reduce the oil content, but still have its flavour.
If you are a big fan of garlic, add a clove (or two more!) or make our vegan wild garlic pesto instead!
And if you like more tang, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
If you don’t have a blender or food processor, then you can roughly chop the ingredients first and pound them with a mortar and pestle. And if you’ve got no mortar and pestle, simply take a bit of time and finely chop everything before combining. This is what we do when we make pesto in our campervan!
How to store pesto
Transfer your pesto into a clean jar for storage. (We love our silicone spatula for getting all the good stuff out of the food processor!)
Homemade pesto naturally turns brown when exposed to air. It’s still fine to eat.
To reduce browning during storage, pour a little extra olive oil on the surface of the pesto. This layer of oil will stop the pesto from turning brown and oxidising as it doesn’t come into contact with air.
Store in the fridge for up to one week.
You can also freeze pesto for longer storage.
Our top tip is to freeze it in small portions so it’s easy to use and quick to defrost. An ice cube tray is ideal. Simply transfer the frozen cubes into an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months.
Here are some of our favourite ways to use our freshly made vegan pesto:
- Mix it with pasta and peas or fresh tomatoes for a quick and tasty dinner.
- Spread it on bread.
- Use it to liven up soup.
- Swirl it into hummus.
- Use it to make our yummy pesto bread.
- Or use instead of tomato sauce for a green pizza.
We hope you enjoy this easy vegan pesto! Check out our other Italian inspired vegan recipes:
Our Vegan Sunflower Seed Parmesan which is great to go on top of pesto pasta!
This Vegan Carbonara with a creamy sauce and yummy smoked tofu bits.
And our Easy Vegan Tiramisu for dessert!
- 2 cups packed (100 g) basil
- 1/4 cup (35 g) cashews or other nuts or seeds
- 1/4 cup (15 g) nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- First wash your basil (or other greens) and remove any tough stalks.
- If desired, lightly toast your nuts (or seeds) in a pan to bring out extra nutty flavour.
- Place the basil leaves, nuts, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender bowl and blend to a paste.
- Scrape down the sides and then slowly pour in the olive oil whilst blending.
- Transfer to a clean jar for storage, and drizzle a little more oil on top to stop it from browning.