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.
Chef D. November 12, 2015
I love pesto on everything!
BarnOwlBaker November 5, 2015
Wonderful pesto! Used garden fresh parsley and basil, pecans (no pine nuts) and it is amazing. Thank you!
deb T. October 12, 2015
Just made it with arugula and a smidge of cilantro as well as the basil, plus I used a little garlic olive oil as well as EVOO - very good.....
Char F. September 27, 2015
June R. September 26, 2015
Oh yeah. I started in the. Cusinart then moved it to. The. Blend tech. Newest. Sause. Blade container. It. Fluff it. Up. I highly recommend the. BLEND TECH. Sauce. Round jar for. Dressing.
June R. September 26, 2015
I used. Sprouted. Raw. Organic. Pinenuts So. So. Delicious. Raw. Organic Sprouted. Pinenuts. Run. USD. 22.89 +. Tax. For 7.5. Ah~~ Exquisite. Glvour an the. Olive oil. Cold. Explellar. Press. ORGANIC. Imported from. Italy. This makes the. Receive. If you want to. Wow. Special. Guest. This is it. This is better than any. Zagat. Restaurant in the. World. Now. Decsion time. Either ove. Organic. Raw. Zucchini. Spirals. Or. Raw. Cauliflower. Rice. Thought. Decision. It will work on. Just about. Anything. I spread it over an. Heirloom. Purple to. Tomato. An. Went to. Heaven
June R. September 26, 2015
Thank you. Just made it. How long will it. Sit. Fresh?. 1. Day or. 3. Days? Also. Not able to freeze it right ? Do to the. Nutritional. Yeast ?
ItalianAmericancook July 29, 2016
Freeze it without the yeast. Add that after you take the pesto out of the freezer for thawing before using in a recipe.
Elegant F. August 4, 2015
Stop reading these comments and GO MAKE THIS PESTO. Seriously. I am compulsively making this and eating it multiple times a week. It's THAT GOOD. :)
Mirella O. August 8, 2015
Indeed! I made it too! It's delicious.
Mirella O. August 8, 2015
Add parmigiano <3
Christine H. September 11, 2015
Do you use pine nuts or walnuts? :)
Lisa N. January 7, 2017
Then it wouldn't be vegan, which is the point of this recipe
Meredith July 28, 2015
Oh my goodness, thank you for this recipe! Like another commenter, I only had almonds. I lightly toasted them on the stove top before adding them to the food processor. And what a difference the nutritional yeast makes! I know how ALL of the basil from my garden will be used!
Sarah S. July 21, 2015
This was AMAZING! I only had almonds, so I substituted them for the pine nuts, but for people who do not eat dairy like me, this was divine.
Whats4Dinner June 26, 2015
Making this for the, like, 10th time because it's so friggin' good!!! I make it exactly as is and it's pure perfection!! Dairy eaters eat your heart out :-)
If you don't want to use a food processor, go back to the old-fashioned, original method used by the cooks in Italy. Invest in a good mortar and pestle, put the basil leaves in the vessel and pound away. You'll see why the popularity of pesto in this country coincided with the introduction of the food processor.
lisa V. May 27, 2015
For long-term storage, freeze pesto in plastic ice cube trays, then store the "pesto cubes" in freezer bags in desired quantities. (I have four trays designated for pesto!)
Aslan B. May 20, 2015
Other than the addition of nutritional yeast, I don't see how this is any different from regular pesto.
Alex May 27, 2015
Pesto often contains Parmesan which, in turn, often contains animal rennet. The use of the yeast in this recipe is a replacement for the Parmesan.
Valentino B. May 12, 2015
The best way to store your pesto and prevent to getting dark add a little olive oil on top. It keep one week on the fridge and it keep very well in the freezer.
Betty J. May 11, 2015
Heidi I make a chopped version of psto frequently. I squish the garlic cloves into the olive oil and finely chop the basil, mixing in the roasted pine nuts. I have not tried it with the nurtitional yeast. someone mentioned using miso; perhaps you could mix the yeast well with the miso past and then thin it out a little. But a little miso past goes a long way and might overpower other flavors My chopped pesto version doesn't hold well as the basil turns dark.
Heidi G. May 11, 2015
Is there a version that can be made without a food processor?
beejay45 August 5, 2015
I usually make mine in a Chinoise (spelling?). I chop everything by hand first, then use the wood thingie to mash it all together. Oh, I add the pinenuts after the fact because they'd be too hard to mash. If you have a molcajete or a big mortar and pestle, you can use those, too -- probably the original tool for this sauce. I like my way because it comes out so creamy and smooth with just the pine nuts for texture.
Heidi G. May 11, 2015
I started dating a vegan 6 months ago and he doesn't cook!!! We have few vegan restaurants on Oahu and he drinks a lot of naked juices and eats mostly white rice and plain pasta with tomato sauce...I want to learn some easy vegan recipes that don't require a food processor. What are some of your favorites? I'm willing to try anything, if it means healthier meals for my guy!
beejay45 April 30, 2015
I'm a little late to this party, but for those who were wondering what they could sub for the anchovies, how about a bit of miso? That has a similar saltiness and umami quality. Of course, if you're of soy...
beejay45 April 30, 2015
Uh, that was supposed to be "off soy."
Stephany P. April 29, 2015
I'm with Laura on this one -- how long would this stay "good" in the fridge (storing it in a glass container)?
Legally A. April 29, 2015
How long long does this keep and how should it be stored?<br />Thanks!<br />
Dawn H. April 20, 2015
I tried sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts for a less expensive, school friendly version and we loved it. I think the combination of lemon juice and nutritional yeast really makes this recipe! Cheers and thanks
Betty J. April 19, 2015
Pesto and pasta! My favorite before I became a vegan and I have just been leaving out the cheese. I'll try the nutritional yeast. For Karen--try sliced or chunked tomatoes with it--or roasted red peppers or grilled thinly sliced squash. It just becomes a base for vegetables.
Laina March 26, 2015
This is delicious! I toasted the pine nuts in a dry frying pan (so not raw anymore) and served this with a beet & buckwheat gnocchi from "The Vibrant Table" cookbook. AMAZING!
IvorieJenkins January 5, 2015
Karen, <br />This pesto is surprisingly amazing! Make more than you need, freeze and enjoy later! <br />It's great with angel hair pasta although I chose to pair it with Kelp noodles (a low calorie, raw, seaweed like noodle that is pretty tasteless so goes great with sauces) instead. You can find those at Whole Foods.<br />Enjoy!
Karen January 5, 2015
Would this pesto be good with pasta? I am a beginner with the Vegan lifestyle. Any advice is wanted.<br />
Eve J. January 15, 2015
Pasta and pesto is a staple dish! Pesto is perfect for pasts. Simply make the pesto, cook the pasta, and stir them together! Often I sizzle (never burn!) some sliced garlic and/or mushrooms in some “butter” (Vitalite or Pure, vegan spread, and a pinch of salt) to go with my pasta and pesto. Honestly it’s staple dish if you come home from work and just want a quick dinner. All it takes is boiling some pasta, getting your pesto out of the fridge, lightly cooking the garlic and/or mushroom – onion if you like too – and stirring together. You can add nutritional yeast on the top like you would cheddar or parmesan, and you can drop the coated pasta onto some salad leaves as well. In all, this can be a gormet meal and I have this about once a week! <br />
[email protected] September 21, 2015
Pesto genovese (Genoa-style) is eaten over a type of pasta known as trenette (hard to find here). Chunks of boiled potatoes and green beans are tossed with the pasta and pesto. It makes a great vegan meal!
Jory M. November 25, 2014
Wow this pesto is GOOD - the nutritional yeast adds a whole other dimension. Thank you!!
Janelle R. November 2, 2014
This is a keeper. I used it with salmon burgers and sliced avocado. Perfect for a dairy-free and gluten-free way of eating.
Cillabeth October 7, 2014
So yum, my kids 5-17yrs loved it. It was quick and easy, a definite weekday recipe. Thanks for sharing.
macarena August 10, 2014
what is nutritional yeast??
Wild B. August 10, 2014
Eve J. January 15, 2015
I find it strange when people, who at on a computer, ask questions in comments rather than simply Googling the question to find the answer instantaneously.
Rach K. June 30, 2015
Wild B. August 2, 2014
When I read that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this recipe and traditional pesto I was skeptical, but for the wrong reason. It's better than regular pesto. No butyric acid. No pukey smell or taste. Fabulous!
Eve J. January 15, 2015
What reason were you sceptical and why was it the wrong reason?
Zestilicious July 30, 2014
This is hands down the best pesto I ever had. So easy to make and SO delicious. Will make sure to use in recipes on my vegan blog and circle back to this link! Thank you!
Angie A. June 25, 2014
I just purchased a lovely bunch of basil from the farmers market. I am going to pick up a few ice trays and make this tonight!
Charity April 6, 2014
I'm allergic to citrus. Lemon alternative?
Angie A. June 25, 2014
you can leave it's not required.
SDK March 10, 2014
I substituted a bit of water for the olive oil - it was still delicious! Bumped up the garlic and lemon as well.
Therese February 22, 2014
I just made this for my dairy allergy son, it is amazing!
Urvish T. September 27, 2013
I just made this recipe and used raw pistachios instead of the pine nuts and used a little more garlic. Delicious! <br />
Trees September 22, 2013
Just made this, and it's delicious! I only used about 1/4 cup of oil.
IvorieJenkins September 17, 2013
I tried shelled hemp seeds as pine nut alternative. Turned out great and a great deal cheaper than using the pine nuts!
Karen August 31, 2013
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!
Kater July 28, 2013
the nutritional yeast makes this pesto I've ever made. Am headed out to the garden to decimate some more basil!
Cookie16 July 29, 2013
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...
Cookie16 July 25, 2013
Made this last night — so very good! The nutritional yeast is a brilliant idea!
Shayna T. July 23, 2013
Love it! I foresee myself making this many, many times.
Mare July 15, 2013
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. <br />
LiVe July 12, 2013
Could I use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts/walnuts?
bd20009 June 20, 2013
This was amazing. My boyfriend -- who usually hates pesto with cheese -- loved this too.
Author Comment
Gena H. June 28, 2013
Jacqui W. June 17, 2013
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.
Jordan W. June 23, 2013
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!
Kimba54 June 27, 2014
I use Go Veggie! parmesan style topping instead of nutritional yeast and it's really good. Not sure if it's made with yeast, though.
MyLime June 16, 2013
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.
Citygal June 13, 2013
Would it be possible to make this in a blender, rather than a food processor (which I don't have)?
dorifern June 16, 2013
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!
Randi L. June 12, 2013
Suggestions for nut alternatives? This sounds good, but I can't eat either walnuts or pine nuts. Maybe I'll try with sunflower seeds.
dorifern June 16, 2013
I like using pumpkin seeds (pepitas) in pesto
Jens D. June 11, 2013
I love this idea...I use Nutritional Yeast all the time to add a cheesy flavor because I can't eat dairy!
RachelinAsia June 3, 2013
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.
AlissaK June 1, 2013
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!
Nancy J. May 30, 2013
Thanks for sharing. Sounds Yummy!