Simple Vegan Pesto

May 29, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 20 min


  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
In This Recipe


  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.

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Reviews (98) Questions (0)

98 Reviews

Jessica August 24, 2018
What a great recipe. I'm raw vegan and really wanted to explore how to make pesto without Parmesan. The only thing was I had to drizzle a little water while blending to get it all puréed. Still it has great consistency and I poured it over my salad. Yum!
carol B. July 22, 2018
Great flavor and color, but the pesto separated. I had to add oil (slow drizzle) before all was mixed up due to lack of no fluid. How do people manage that? Smaller batches I guess. . I did this in my Vitamix. Maybe will try doing it next time in CuisineArt. Comments/suggetions?<br />
Jennifer D. July 4, 2018
This is delicious! I am cutting back on superfluous dairy; I don’t miss the cheese at all in this. I made mine in the blender (my only food processor type thing is a mini chopper), which was fiddly, but manageable. I did my nuts/garlic in two batches, scraped it out, followed by the basil in batches. I layered everything back into the pitcher then proceeded with the recipe as written (adding a bit more XVOO, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then blending a final time). The secret to not wasting ANY pesto is to use a narrow bladed silicone spatula to scrape every last bit out. If you don’t mind all that fiddliness, then don’t bother buying a food processor (I never used my old one and it didn’t make the cut when we moved).
Lmp March 7, 2018
I wanted to love this but sadly, after following the recipe mostly to a tee, this pesto came out SO bitter. Could it have been the walnuts? Even after adding parsley and more olive oil, I had to throw it out. 😢
SD July 17, 2018
Probably. Try it with pine nuts. Always taste nuts before adding.
plantasia August 9, 2018
you probably added "brewers yeast" instead of "nutritional yest" brewers yeast is naturally very bitter while nutritional yeast is cheesy. :)
Rachel September 4, 2017
This is really really really good. Rivals any non-vegan pesto I've ever had. I can't believe how much "cheesy" flavor the nutritional yeast adds. Thanks for the recipe!
Jen August 25, 2017
This is spectacular holy cow! Was just looking for a quick lunch, I didn't know I'd find my new favourite thing! I used cashews instead of pine nuts or walnuts because it's all I had on hand, and it really turned out fantastic! I even skipped the nutritional yeast because I JUST ran out, and it was still super good! Im so impressed! Thank you for this recipe!
Briar R. August 21, 2017
This has been my go-to for years because a bag of nutritional yeast costs way less than good parm and lasts longer, too. Now that I have to be dairy-free, I'm doubly glad to have this recipe up my sleeve.
Jennifer F. July 17, 2017
Delicious, followed recipe exactly and I'm in love with this pesto 😊 I put in on bow tie pasta, so yummy!
Ellie A. July 9, 2017
I didn't have *quite* enough basil, so I supplemented with some parsley and chives. Super yummy! With the nooch, I didn't add any extra salt.
chez D. June 17, 2017
Delicious w/ gnocchi! So delicious... I used toasted almonds as my nut, pineapple vinegar as my acid (I didn't have a lemon on hand), and added some red pepper flakes. I don't have a food processor, so I used my Vitamix and lost way too much pesto to the Vitamix, was so good I must just deal with the wonkiness of the Vitamix again, or perhaps this pesto will finally get me to buy a food processor. : )
Melissa M. May 31, 2017
I tried this last week and it was delicious. I just tried it again and it tastes so strange, almost inedible and doesn't have that bright green colour like last time. The basil is fresh from the garden, could it be the walnuts? Any thoughts?
Marie September 13, 2017
Once it starts to oxidize, it loses its bright flavors. Try freezing batches of leftovers, or making sure the top layer is covered with a bit of olive oil so so o air touches the surface.
RuthAnn May 25, 2017
Oh! Forgot to mention, I always make this pesto when my basil is starting to turn brown. I toss in the stems, too.... lots of flavor hiding in those.
RuthAnn May 25, 2017
This is YUMMY! I substituted toasted walnuts, as pine nuts were too pricey. I used just a few tablespoons of oil. This freezes beautifully. Once you thaw and slather on hot pasta, you could never tell it's been frozen.
Bex W. May 4, 2017
I love it! I used 1/4 cup oil and no nutritional yeast but it's still delicious :)
CJnOC February 6, 2017
Couple of things to consider. Try roasting the pine nuts in a skillet. After that I throw the pine nuts in the food processor first and get it to a nice crunchy, tight mince. Then I remove it. Then add everything the remaining ingredients and get to that nice consistency. I then mix the pine nuts back in, add salt to taste, and incorporate.
Arwen September 7, 2016
I love the flavor combinations, but for my taste the nutritional yeast was really overpowering. I'll probably cut by ⅓ to ½ next time. I do like nutritional yeast, but it was a bit strong!
Kristin B. July 28, 2016
This pesto is not just enjoyed by my carnivorous friends, it is actually preferred!! Is it possible to can? My basil plants are out of control! As far as freezing, I have had mixed results.
robin L. May 16, 2016
...How long will this last? I still have a jar of it from '11 days ago' (as I can see from my comment below). It still tastes good...but can I still use it? And maybe thin it out a bit w/more lemon juice?
robin L. May 5, 2016
This is delicious. I like the nutritional yeast, it rounds out the flavors.
John December 7, 2015
This pesto have the perfect color.