If you’re like me and you have basil in your garden, then you know that this time of year means lots of fresh, homemade pesto. Pesto has always been a favorite pasta sauce for me, so naturally, it was one of the first things I learned to make vegan when I cut out dairy 10 years ago. This Classic Vegan Basil Pesto is creamy, herby, and salty with a ‘cheesy’ tang.
the pesto ingredients
Luckily, most of the ingredients in pesto are naturally vegan-friendly. To make dairy free pesto, you really only need to make a swap for the parmesan cheese. Below are all the ingredients you’ll need in order to make this homemade vegan pesto.
- Fresh Basil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, be sure your olive oil is good quality!
- Toasted Pine Nuts, see below for substitutions
- Vegan Parmesan, my favorite is by Violife
- Salt + Pepper
substitutes for pine nuts:
Let’s face it…pine nuts are expensive. And people don’t always have them on hand. I’ve made this vegan pesto without pine nuts before and had it turn out great! Of course, pine nuts give a unique flavor to the pesto but it will be equally as delicious if you sub in another type of nut. Below are some of my favorite substitutions for pine nuts in this recipe:
- Almonds: because almonds are harder than pine nuts, the pesto may be chunkier
- Walnuts: walnuts are probably the closest substitution for pine nuts because their texture is similar
- Cashews: this will definitely give the pesto a creamier consistency
While you don’t technically need vegan parmesan in this recipe, it adds so much flavor and really makes this the best vegan pesto possible. Violife makes the best vegan parmesan cheese in my opinion. It comes in a wedge that you can grate yourself for fresh dairy free parmesan shreds. I buy this vegan parm at Whole Foods, usually when it goes on sale. It looks like you can also order it directly on Violife’s website. While I’ve never done this, it does seem pretty convenient.
If you don’t plan on using vegan parmesan, you’ll want to add more salt than the recipe calls for. The vegan parm adds a good amount of saltiness, so just be sure to compensate for that!
making the vegan pesto
To make this easy vegan pesto, a food processor is highly recommended. If you don’t have a food processor you could use a mortar and pestle but it will take a long time to blend everything by hand. I don’t recommend making this in a blender, as the pesto will lose all of its texture.
To make the pesto, you’ll follow the steps below:
- First, toast your pine nuts on low heat for 3-5 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides.
- Add the basil, garlic, and pine nuts to the food processor. Pulse until they’re roughly chopped.
- Slowly start drizzling in the olive oil and continue blending. The mixture should start to come together into a sauce consistency.
- Add the vegan parm, salt and pepper. Be sure to taste the pesto and add any more salt to taste!
tips & tricks
If you can’t find vegan parmesan or choose not to include it in the recipe, you can add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast or about 1/4 teaspoon of salt in its place.
pine nuts give a unique flavor to the pesto but it will be equally as delicious if you sub in another type of nut.
Almonds: because almonds are harder than pine nuts, the pesto may be chunkier
Walnuts: walnuts are probably the closest substitution for pine nuts because their texture is similar. Cashews: this will definitely give the pesto a creamier consistency
Unfortunately, to make this classic vegan basil pesto, there’s no good substitution for fresh basil. I don’t recommend using dried basil in this recipe. However, I do have a recipe for spinach pesto which is also very tasty.
more delicious vegan sauces!
Did you make this recipe? I’d love to know! Leave a rating and comment below!
- 3 cups fresh basil , loosely packed
- 1/4 cup +2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup grated vegan parmesan, like Violife
- 1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- Toast your pine nuts on low heat for 3-5 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides. Watch them closely since they burn easily.
- Add the basil, garlic, and pine nuts to the food processor. Pulse until they're roughly chopped.
- Slowly start drizzling in the olive oil while the food processor is running. The mixture should start to come together into a sauce consistency.
- Add the vegan parm, salt, and pepper.
- Be sure to taste the pesto and add any more salt to taste!
- Substitute 1 tbsp nutritional yeast + salt to taste for the vegan parmesan.
- Substitute toasted almonds, walnuts, or cashews for the pine nuts.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 166Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gProtein: 2g
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