A perfectly simple, easy vegan basil pesto recipe that you need on repeat. Basil pesto brights up any dish but is perfect on pasta or pizza. This dairy-free pesto version uses just a pinch of nutritional yeast to fill the dairy void while letting the star (obviously, the basil) shine!
Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
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Pesto is one of those easy sauces that doesn’t require hours standing over the stove but packs on bunches of flavor. Everyone has their own version of the perfect pesto, but this is our favorite vegan basil pesto.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
Pesto is a simple recipe with few ingredients. So quality and following the recipe does really count.
- Basil- Remove the stems and discard leaves with any brown spots.
- Pine Nuts- Unsalted and lightly toasted. To toast the pine nuts place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat. They are done when they turn golden and start to smell nutty.
- Nutritional Yeast- This is our "cheese". If you aren't a fan of the flavor you can omit or reduce the quantity.
- Olive Oil- Use a high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Garlic, Lemon Juice, Kosher Salt
Recipe Instructions and Tips
The key to pesto is to place all the ingredients into your food processer EXCEPT the olive oil. Give it a few good pulses to break up the basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic.
Only once everything is all minced up can you begin to slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Salt to taste.
- Blanch the basil if not using right away. This will keep the bright green color.
- Don't use cheap olive oil, you should like the taste of it on its own.
- Adjust the amount of olive oil to get the consistency that works for your dish.
- Use a blender rather than a food processor for the best texture.
How to Store Pesto
I prefer to store the pesto in a glass jar with a thin layer of extra olive oil to the top (to prevent any air from getting to it), cover with a lid. It will keep for 5 to 7 days. Expect some browning unless you blanched the pesto.
For freezing, you can store in the same manner as above or fill ice cube trays with pesto, freeze until hard. Remove the frozen pesto cubes and store freezer-safe plastic bags for up to 6 weeks.
Basil Pesto Variations
- Add a half cup of sundried tomatoes.
- Do 50/50 with another herb. My favorites are parsley, oregano (the most underutilized fresh herb), and mint.
- Replace the lemon juice with a few slices of preserved lemon peel. I would it the nutritional yeast due to clashing flavors.
- Replace the pine nuts and EVOO with walnuts and walnut oil. It really brings a unique flavor.
- Replace the raw garlic with 3-4 cloves of roasted garlic for a sweeter flavor.
- Increase to 1 1/2 cups of olive oil and add 2 tbsp of white wine vinegar to make a salad dressing.
More Vegan Sauce Recipes
We are so happy you stopped by to check out this pesto recipe. Here are some other vegan sauces and spread recipes that don't require cooking. Holla!
- Wild Ramp Pesto
- Cashew Cream Cheese with Herbs
- Quick and Easy Avocado Sauce
- Paleo "Peanut" Sauce
- Spicy Horseradish Cauliflower Sauce
What is your favorite way to serve up vegan basil pesto? Let us know in the comments below!
Easy Vegan Basil Pesto
- 3 c basil leaves, light packed remove large stems
- 1/4 c pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4-1/2 c olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Place basil, pine nuts, lemon juice nutritional yeast, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper into a blender or food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds to break up the mixture.
- Turn the blender on high and drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Additional oil can be added to thin down the dressing. Perfect if making a pasta sauce.