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The Best Vegan Pesto Recipe

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The only Vegan Pesto recipe you’ll ever need! This delicious, cheesy and healthy sauce contains 5 ingredients and only takes 5 minutes to make. Serve it with pasta, bread, grilled vegetables or potatoes. Only 209 calories per serving!

 

A Jar of Delicious Vegan Basil Pesto with a Spoonful on Top

 

Pesto sauce is one of the most loved condiments in my household. We consume a LOT of it and together with Sicilian pesto, green pesto is one of my all-time favorites.

There are many vegan versions of green pesto I’ve tried over the years (hello, vegan kale pesto) but after I tried this one, I think I found the best one.

If you are looking for THE BEST vegan pesto, look no further, because that’s the only recipe you’ll ever need! And here is why. This pesto is:

  • Creamy;
  • Delicious;
  • Versatile;
  • Cheesy (!);
  • Freezable (perfect for meal prep);
  • Healthy;
  • Nutritious;
  • Gluten-free and dairy-free;
  • Easy and quick to make.

The secret ingredient here is macadamia nuts. I must say, I’ve only tried them recently but I became a huge fan. Together with nutritional yeast, they give a lovely cheesy touch to the pesto that is so hard to replicate in vegan foods.

 

Ingredients for Pesto in the Chopper: Basil Leaves, Macadamia Nuts, Nutritional Yeast, Garlic Cloves, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

Ingredients:

  • Basil;
  • Macadamia nuts;
  • Nutritional yeast;
  • Olive oil;
  • Salt
  • Black pepper.

Ingredients for vegan pesto: basil, nutritional yeast, macadamia nuts and olive oil

Health Benefits

This vegan basil pesto is so nutritious you won’t believe it! Sometimes food is truly a medicine and this is exactly the case with this pesto.

Let’s start from basil, a unique source of vitamin K, manganese, essential oils and antioxidants.

It has some amazing health-protecting properties like anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as analgesic and immune-boosting benefits.

Macadamia nuts are great for healthy fats, antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, B vitamins, folate, copper, manganese and iron.

They are good in fighting disease and help you reduce weight.

Macadamia nuts keep your nervous system, brain, heart and bones healthy, while reducing inflammation and assisting in healthy digestion.

Collage: Macadamia Nuts in Shells Next to Fresh Basil Leaves

Nutritional yeast used in this pesto sauce is good for your hair, skin and nails. It is good for your immune system and contains immune-boosting, antibacterial and antiviral compounds.

It helps your digestion and is recommended to be consumed during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

Despite recent rumors, nutritional yeast is good for you and has minimum side effects if consumed in moderation.

I recommend Simply Organic nutritional yeast flakes that are great for this recipe.

Olive oil has a number of health benefits as well, which you probably have heard of.

Being rich in healthy fats, it boosts your metabolism, prevents aging, improves digestion and prevents inflammation, just to mention a few. Here is the full list of the health benefits of olive oil.

I recommend using good quality extra virgin olive oil, like cold-pressed organic La Tourangelle extra virgin olive oil.

How to Use It

You can use this pesto in so many ways! Here are some of them:

  1. The most obvious choice is delicious vegan pesto pasta;
  2. Use it as a spread for you toast;
  3. As a dip;
  4.  As a pizza sauce;
  5. In soups;
  6. As a salad dressing;
  7. With cauliflower rice;
  8. With normal rice;
  9. In sandwiches and burgers;
  10. With baked potatoes;
  11. With zucchini noodles;
  12. With roasted vegetables;
  13. Bake it into bread (I urge you to try it!)

The list goes on and on. I created a collection of 50 healthy vegan recipes with pesto that will give you more ideas about how to serve it.

This vegan pesto sauce can be used in so many dishes, being one of the easiest sauces you can make at home!

The Bowl of Vegan Pesto Pasta Garnished With Basil Leaves and Chopped Macadamia Nuts

Cook’s Tips

  • Store the vegan pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge for about 7 days.
  • This sauce freezes perfectly in ice cube trays, so feel free to double or triple the batch if you want to meal prep. Freeze in an ice cube tray for up to 3 months.
  • Start with 2 tablespoons water and keep adding water to the sauce until you like the consistency.
  • If you want your pesto to be very smooth, blend it longer. For more chunky pesto, pulse it just a few times.
  • Serve with pasta, as a bread spread, as a dip and salad dressing, as a pizza sauce, in soups, with rice or cauliflower rice, baked potatoes, roasted vegetables or bake it into bread.

Recipe Variations

  • You can use any nuts you like or have at hand in place of macadamia: walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans or cashews. They will add slightly different flavors to the pesto but it comes out delicious every time.
  • Use any leafy greens instead of basil to make your pesto more nutritious. You can add arugula, kale, spinach, parsley or cilantro. Here is a delicious wild garlic pesto recipe perfect for spring.
  • Add avocado/sun-dried-tomatoes/peas to spice things up. Alternatively, try my favorite avocado dressing.
  • To make the pesto sauce oil-free, add a few slices of ripe tomatoes.

Hand Holding a Spoonful of Vegan Pesto Sauce

How to Make It

Traditional pesto is made of fresh basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, pepper and Pecorino cheese.

In my vegan version, I keep all the ingredients except for cheese and pine nuts that I substitute with macadamia nuts and nutritional yeast.

Of course you can substitute any leafy greens for basil leaves and play around with other ingredients (see notes). Feel free to do so!

But I would like to stick to the traditional recipe this time, making the vegan version as close to the original as possible. And I think I managed to do it.

The recipe will take you no more than 5 minutes to make. Assemble all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.

If you feel like using a mortar and pestle, feel free to do that.

 

Vegan Basil Pesto Being Blended in the Chopper

Make sure to check the recipe video and the full recipe below for instructions. If you can’t see the video, disable your AdBlock for this page by clicking on the AdBlock button and selecting Don’t run on this page.

 
The Best Vegan Pesto Recipe - a Whole Spoon of the Delicious Pesto
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4.76 from 33 votes

The Best Vegan Pesto Recipe

The only Vegan Pesto recipe you'll ever need! This delicious, cheesy and healthy sauce contains 5 ingredients and only takes 5 minutes to make. Serve it with pasta, bread, grilled vegetables or potatoes. Only 209 calories per serving!
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pesto sauce, vegan basil pesto, vegan pesto
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 209kcal
$5

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Add basil leaves, macadamia, garlic and nutritional yeast in a cup of a food processor or blender and blend until a thick paste forms, scrapping sides. Add extra virgin olive oil and water, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Notes

This recipe makes about 1 cup of pesto which is roughly 8 servings (2 tablespoons per serving).
For usage ideas, check these 50 healthy vegan recipes with pesto.

Cook’s Tips

  • Store the vegan pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge for about 7 days.
  • This sauce freezes perfectly in ice cube trays, so feel free to double or triple the batch if you want to meal prep. Freeze in an ice cube tray for up to 3 months.
  • Start with 2 tablespoons water and keep adding water to the sauce until you like the consistency.
  • If you want your pesto to be very smooth, blend it longer. For more chunky pesto, pulse it just a few times.
  • Serve with pasta, as a bread spread, as a dip and salad dressing, as a pizza sauce, in soups, with rice or cauliflower rice, baked potatoes, roasted vegetables or bake it into bread.

Recipe Variations

  • You can use any nuts you like or have at hand in place of macadamia: walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans or cashews. They will add slightly different flavors to the pesto but it comes out delicious every time.
  • Use any leafy greens instead of basil to make your pesto more nutritious. You can add arugula, kale, spinach, parsley or cilantro. Here is a delicious wild garlic pesto recipe perfect for spring.
  • Add avocado/sun-dried-tomatoes/peas to spice things up. Alternatively, try my favorite avocado dressing.
  • To make the pesto sauce oil-free, add a few slices of ripe tomatoes.

Equipment

food processor
rubber spatula
glass jar

Nutrition

Calories: 209kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 284mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 3120IU | Vitamin C: 11.1mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 2.7mg
Tried this recipe?Follow @happykitchen.rocks on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #happykitchenrocks!

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Recipe Rating




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Toria

Saturday 30th of May 2020

Tried it with the tomato instead of oil and added a dash of chilli powder and small amount of lemon juice. Very nice thank you.

Elena Szeliga

Saturday 30th of May 2020

Thank you for your feedback, Toria! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

Ronda

Friday 2nd of August 2019

Recipe looks great with one exception: I checked with Frontier on their Nutritional Yeast--even though they do not "add" folic acid to the final product (really important to get Folate NOT folic acid) the yeast IS actually grown on a medium containing folic acid. Bummer. Folic Acid is listed in the ingredients on front of the bag. Frontier told me the amount of Folic Acid is 0.8 mg/100Gms serving. Sound tiny but that is 800 mcg of Folic Acid- about twice the amount found in most multi-vits. If you avoid Folic Acid...keep searching...So far only Dr. Fuhrman's brand is certified no Folic Acid...but it is expensive.

Elena Szeliga

Friday 2nd of August 2019

Hi Ronda, looks like you've done a thorough research on this! I don't avoid folic acid but if you do, check these non-fortified nutritional yeast flakes from Sari Foods. They are available on Amazon and quite affordable. Hope that helps!

mary e. from Ohio

Tuesday 23rd of July 2019

Looks great! Would it change the flavor profile much if I subbed avocado oil for olive? Thx! -mary e

Elena Szeliga

Tuesday 23rd of July 2019

Hi Mary, go for it! Avocado oil is less intense than olive but it will be delicious anyway! Let me know how you like the recipe :) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Cheers!

Helena

Tuesday 23rd of April 2019

Such an easy and healthy recipe! One of my favorite sauces to use with grilled meals as well as cheesy breadsticks. Yum!

Elena Szeliga

Wednesday 24th of April 2019

This sauce is good with almost about everything, isn't it? Thank you Helena!

Sarah

Friday 7th of September 2018

This recipe is awesome! I’m dairy free and have been looking for some fresh recipe inspiration. I made this today and plan to use it on GF pasta and I’m also going to attempt a cauliflower crust pizza today so I think it will work great as the sauce on that.

Elena Szeliga

Saturday 8th of September 2018

Sounds awesome! I love all of your ideas. Thank you for your kind feedback! So glad you enjoyed the pesto, Sarah!

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About Elena Szeliga

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Elena Szeliga is the founder of Happy Kitchen.Rocks, where she shares delicious and healthy vegetarian and vegan food, from weeknight dinners to veganized classics and gourmet appetizers. Her recipes have been featured at Better Homes & Gardens, BuzzFeed, Country Living, The Kitchn and Reader’s Digest. Her mission is to help cook easy vegetarian and vegan meals with simple and fresh ingredients. Read more about Elena.

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