Simple Vegan Pesto

By • May 29, 2013 • 26 Comments

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Author Notes: This pesto is so good, you'll never notice that it's dairy-free! Nutritional yeast adds cheesy flavor. Serve this in sandwiches, with pasta, or as a topping for thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes.Gena Hamshaw

Makes 1 generous cup

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  1. Place the basil, walnuts or pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is coarsely ground.
  2. Turn the motor on and drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the sea salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast, and pulse a few more times to combine.

Tags: basil, herbs, nutritional yeast, pesto, spread, Vegan

Comments (26) Questions (0)


12 days ago Charity

I'm allergic to citrus. Lemon alternative?


about 1 month ago SDK

I substituted a bit of water for the olive oil - it was still delicious! Bumped up the garlic and lemon as well.


about 1 month ago Therese

I just made this for my dairy allergy son, it is amazing!


7 months ago Urvish Tamakuwala

I just made this recipe and used raw pistachios instead of the pine nuts and used a little more garlic. Delicious!


7 months ago Trees

Just made this, and it's delicious! I only used about 1/4 cup of oil.


7 months ago IvorieJenkins

I tried shelled hemp seeds as pine nut alternative. Turned out great and a great deal cheaper than using the pine nuts!


8 months ago Karen

I am really happy to have found this recipe. Thanks! It tastes better each time I make it. I have found that 1/2 cup of oil is too much, though. I use about 3/8 cup ( 1/4 cup and then half of that). I used the 1/2 cup the first time and found the pesto too oily for my taste - especially if you use this as a sandwich spread, like I do sometimes. I also found that fresh lemon is better than bottled, and sea salt really is better than regular table salt, which I used when I didn't have sea salt. Yummy!


9 months ago Kater

the nutritional yeast makes this pesto I've ever made. Am headed out to the garden to decimate some more basil!


9 months ago Cookie16

You know, my batch, made 3 days, ago has yet to brown at all in the fridge! Yay nutritional yeast! That must be the secret...


9 months ago Cookie16

Made this last night — so very good! The nutritional yeast is a brilliant idea!


9 months ago Shayna Teicher

Love it! I foresee myself making this many, many times.


9 months ago Mare

I love this recipe and substitute pumpkin seeds for the walnuts or pine nuts. Also tried it using all three and that was really good as well.


9 months ago LiVe

Could I use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts/walnuts?


10 months ago bd20009

This was amazing. My boyfriend -- who usually hates pesto with cheese -- loved this too.


10 months ago Gena Hamshaw



10 months ago Jacqui Wallace

Is there an alternative for nutritional yeast? I'm allergic to yeast but I'd like to try this if there is something I can substitute for it.


10 months ago Jordan W-R

Thought the nutritional yeast is very yummy and does add a lot to the recipe, I tasted it before and after and you can totally leave the yeast out and still get a great pesto!


10 months ago MyLime

This is so incredibly good! As a fellow vegan foodie, I didn't think I'd get to fully experience the richness of cheese-laden pesto ever again, but this is absolutely perfect (especially with some almond "parmesan" sprinkled on top!). Veganism-affirming. This belongs in the Genius Recipes.


10 months ago Citygal

Would it be possible to make this in a blender, rather than a food processor (which I don't have)?


10 months ago dorifern

To make it in a blender, you need more moisture. I've had success with both of these workarounds: 1) blanch the basil, removing it pretty much as soon as it hits the boiling water, then shock it in an ice bath. Gently squeeze out the extra water from the basil, add to the blender. Follow the rest of the recipe. It ever-so-slightly diminishes the strength of the basil flavor, but it does turn it a pretty, verdant green. Or, 2) add the oil to the blender first, then add the other ingredients, turn the blender on (low, if you have the choice) and start drizzling more oil until the pesto starts to pull together to blend. Hope that helps!


10 months ago Randi LaMadeleine

Suggestions for nut alternatives? This sounds good, but I can't eat either walnuts or pine nuts. Maybe I'll try with sunflower seeds.


10 months ago dorifern

I like using pumpkin seeds (pepitas) in pesto


10 months ago Jens Dream Decor

I love this idea...I use Nutritional Yeast all the time to add a cheesy flavor because I can't eat dairy!


11 months ago RachelinAsia

My husband is lactose intolerant so when I make pesto I simply omit whatever cheese the recipe calls for. We've found that, surprisingly, it's still just as delicious! If I can find nutritional yeast, I will try this recipe, sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing! I also think that using fresh squeezed lemon juice kicks pesto up a notch.


11 months ago AlissaK

Made this last night with some bucatini. Used half walnuts and half pine nuts--was delicious! Definitely one of the best vegan pestos I've had. Also a big fan of nutritional yeast... never eaten it by the spoonful though!