Pesto is a versatile and fresh basil sauce ideal for serving with pasta for a quick dish. It’s quick and easy to make unless you want to use a pestle and mortar, and you can substitute the greens or nuts for those you prefer and serve it in several ways.
Regular pesto contains dairy because of the addition of cheese. In vegan pesto, you can recreate the flavor of the parmesan or pecorino by adding ingredients like nutritional yeast, lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, or capers. The secret to a good pesto is to use quality extra virgin olive oil, but you can also omit the oil if you prefer.
Here’s how to make vegan pesto that will wow every time:
Simple Vegan Pesto Recipe
The idea for pesto comes from the region of Liguria in northwest Italy, where it’s thought the locals got their idea from their traditional garlic-based sauce known as aggiadda and their tradition of using aromatic herbs. The first person to publish the recipe for the sauce was a 19th-century chef from the region, Giovanni Battista Ratto. He included it in his cookbook, The Genoese Cuisine.
Simple Vegan Pesto
So, you want to know how to make vegan pesto? To make this simple vegan pesto, you need a small blender or food processor for mixing, five minutes, and seven ingredients.
- 2 cups packed fresh basil (washed and large stems removed)
- 2 heaped T. pine nuts (you can use walnuts, sunflower seeds, or anything other nut or seed you prefer)
- 2 or 3 large cloves peeled garlic (depending on how garlicky you like it)
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 3 T. nutritional yeast
- About ¼ each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 3-6 T. water
- Blend the basil, nuts, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and sea salt until it forms a paste.
- Add olive oil a little at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. If you’re avoiding oil, use water or a vegetable broth at this stage.
- Next, add 1 T. of water and continue adding one until you have a thick but pourable consistency.
- Taste in case you need to adjust the salt, pepper, lemon juice, or nutritional yeast.
- Serve with pasta or vegetable noodles, grilled veggies, or over a salad for dressing. Delicious!
- Leftover pesto will keep well in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week or a month in the freezer.
Quick and Easy Vegan Pesto
As you saw above, there’s nothing complicated in learning how to make vegan pesto. Now that you know how here are some variations that you can make to the recipe:
Change the Greens
Summertime ensures an abundance of basil, especially if you grow your own. However, perhaps you are making the recipe when your basil is less abundant, then use half basil and half baby spinach leaves for an equally delicious result. The same applies when mixing it with arugula, parsley, kale, or radish greens. If you don’t have any basil or don’t like it, you can blend 50% of parsley and cilantro or spinach and mint.
Change the Nuts
Pine nuts (pepitas) are the classic nuts to use in a pesto, but they are not the only nut or seed you can use. Any nut or seed will work, including almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamias, and sunflower seeds are all great.
Up the Flavor
Pesto sauce is all about flavor, so don’t hesitate to boost your vegan version with umami. Add more nutritional yeast if you like a cheesier taste. You can also make it more savory by adding two tablespoons of capers or sundried tomatoes to the blender. Add more or less, according to your taste.
The Best Vegan Pesto Recipe
Recipes for how to make vegan pesto can’t differ much because the core ingredients differ a little. However, if you want a more decadent version, try this recipe for the best Vegan Pesto from Loving It Vegan.
The recipe calls for pine nuts and walnuts for an interesting nut flavor combination. Similarly, for a flavor balance, you will use basil and parsley in a ratio of one cup of basil to half of parsley.
Nutritional yeast, garlic, and lemon provide the cheesy flavor. Don’t forget to round everything off with the right amount of salt and pepper.
Homemade Vegan Pesto: A Flavorful Delight
Here’s a recipe from The First Mess for vegan pesto that includes miso paste for added flavor depth. Laura Wright created this recipe because too much nutritional yeast eliminates the flavor of the basil. The miso provides a similar flavor depth.
This pesto will take a little longer but is worth the extra effort. It differs from other pesto sauces since you blanch and cool the basil leaves to ensure a bright green sauce.
Elevate Your Dishes with Vegan Pesto
Learn how to make vegan pesto, and you can elevate any dish;
- The most natural way to serve pesto is with your favorite pasta. Prepare your pesto while boiling your pasta. Add one ladleful of boiling water from your pasta to the quantity of pesto you intend to use before draining the pasta. Once you have drained the pasta, put it back in the pot and mix the pesto into the pasta. The starchy water from the cooked pasta makes it easier for the pesto sauce to coat it evenly.
- Pesto sauce makes a lovely accompaniment for grilled veggies. Either drizzle it over or serve on the side. You can enhance the flavor of the pesto for grilled veggies by adding some more lemon and a bit of tahini.
- Serve pesto as a dressing for tomato or green salads.
- Pesto is a great dressing to serve with grain salads.
- Stir vegan pesto into a plain or mushroom risotto.
- For a delicious sandwich, spread pesto on your bread and top it with grilled veggies, fresh salad, fried tofu, etc.
- Finally, spread pesto on a pizza or flatbread base and top it with your favorite plant-based ingredients. Bake and serve.
Whip Up the Perfect Vegan Pesto in Minutes
Vegan pesto requires just a few minutes when using a processor or blender. These methods have helped reduce the time necessary for making it, considering that Italian grandmas chopped the ingredients finely by hand or used a pestle and mortar.
Undeniably, the homogenized pesto made by a blender won’t separate in the food, but using the old method allows the flavors and colors to pop as they disperse.
So, you prefer to whip up a perfect vegan pesto in minutes. We don’t blame you. Here’s a recipe for a 5-minute Easy Vegan Pest from Minimalist Baker. It takes only five minutes to learn how to make vegan pesto.
Vegan Pesto: A Must-Try Deliciousness
The Italians are known for excellent tomato-based soups and sauces. However, their verdant gardens in summer provide another excellent sauce component, basil. Pesto sauce may come from the lush coastal northwest of Italy, but its creamy, zesty, and freshness have made it famous across the globe.
The best way to try the deliciousness of vegan pesto is with pasta. When choosing pasta to serve with pesto, look for a variety with plenty of curves and grooves that allow it to gather and cling in all the right places for a flavorful mouthful each time. Therefore, pasta like penne or fusilli works well. However, if you only have spaghetti or linguine, use some water from your boiled pasta to assist the pesto in clinging, and you won’t miss out on any of its tastiness.
Unleash Your Inner Chef with Vegan Pesto
Now that you have several recipes on hand to help you make vegan pesto, let’s look at how to unleash your inner chef when assembling the famous fresh sauce.
Chefs and home cooks are often the best source of inspiration because they are open to trying new techniques and experimenting with flavors. Therefore, there’s no limit to the types of nuts and seeds you can use. You don’t have pine nuts, or do you find them too rich? No problem. Use any nuts you prefer or have at home. The possibilities are limitless, as seen in the recipes and ideas above. However, there are some we haven’t mentioned, and they are also worth trying. For example, hazelnuts and pistachios will work equally well as almonds or walnuts.
Another take that some people swear by is to toast the nuts, adding another depth to their flavor.
Don’t hesitate to use herb mixes that you like. Though Marjoram, tarragon, and fresh oregano haven’t been mentioned above, they make flavorful additions to the basil base.
Finally, add citrus zest or fresh chili to the blender if you prefer that extra flavor zing. Trust your tastebuds!
Learning how to make vegan pesto is easy and quick. This fresh sauce allows you to whip up a meal in as many minutes as you need to boil a packet of pasta, cut a salad, or prepare some grilled vegetables.