This Easy Vegan Pesto is going to be your new go to vegan sauce! From quinoa bowls, pasta, to lunch-time wraps, you are going to want to slather this vegan pesto on everything. Luckily, it takes only 10 ingredients to whip up this delicious pesto sauce recipe that is sure to become a pantry staple in your home!
Why you will love this vegan basil pesto
I know there are probably 1000 recipes for pesto on the internet, but this is truly my go-to vegan pesto recipe.
As a bonus, this pesto is actually quite nutritious. Instead of cheese, this dairy-free pesto uses soaked cashews and nutritional yeast full of B vitamins to get that creamy cheesy flavor. Plus, this pesto has the bonus of added greens. While I used spinach, this recipe also works incredibly well with kale and arugula.
I'm always down for one more reason to sneak in my greens, especially when it is THIS delicious.
First things first, let's go over the ingredients you need to make this dairy-free pesto recipe:
- Raw cashews
- Spinach (or any greens- kale & arugula also work great!)
- Olive Oil (can be subbed with water or veggie broth for an oil-free pesto)
- Salt & pepper
- Garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic)
- Nutritional yeast (gives it that cheesy flavor)
- Lemon juice
- Pine Nuts
How to make an easy vegan pesto:
There's really one three steps needed to make this vegan pesto with cashews:
- First, soak the cashews for 30 minutes- 1 hour in hot water. This helps to soften them and makes for a super creamy pesto sauce.
- Second, add the cashews, pine nuts, olive oil , nutritional yeast, garlic, and lemon juice to a blender. Then, blend until they are broken into fine pieces (see picture two below).
- To finish, add in the greens, the desired amount of water, and season with salt & pepper. While you can make this pesto with spinach, I also like it with arugula or kale.
- I like to add in 3 Tbsp of water to get the texture of pesto consistency you see in these pictures. (See picture three below with no water and the final image with 3 Tbsp of water). Feel free to add as much or as little water as you want!
FAQ & Tips:
Cashews have a very specific texture after being soaked, so it's not recommended to replace them in this recipe. Pine nuts also give this pesto a very unique "pesto" flavor, but they are easier to substitute.
If you are looking for a pesto without pine nuts, subbing in pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds works just as well for this recipe. In fact, I have a recipe for Pumpkin Seed Pesto Toast with roasted tomatoes on the blog already!
If you are allergic to nuts, I recommend checking out this nut-free avocado pesto instead. Since this recipe relies on cashews for its creamy texture, it's not the best for those looking for a nut-free recipe.
Yes, it is! Just omit the olive oil and replace it with water or vegetable broth. The pesto will be thinner, but it will still taste delicious!
Nope! While it does give this pesto an extra "cheesy" flavor without any cheese, you can definitely make this pesto without nutritional yeast. There's not really a good substitute out there, so if you omit it, just expect a slightly different flavor.
Yes! This dairy-free pesto will actually keep in a closed container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
However, if you want to store pesto longer than that simply pour it into ice cube molds, freeze, and store as cubes in a container in the freezer.
When stored in the freezer this pesto will keep up to 1 month.
I actually love freezing pesto because you can whip it out any time to make a vegan pesto pasta sauce!
Vegan pesto recipe ideas:
I absolutely LOVE eating this pesto in my Quinoa Pesto Bowl recipe. Pair with quinoa and any roasted vegetable for a filling and delicious vegan lunch or dinner.
This pesto is also great added to wraps like my Edamame Hummus Wraps or added to pizza like my Vegan Artichoke Pesto Pizza. For these recipes, I add a little less water to make a thicker pesto spread.
However, my favorite way to enjoy this pesto is on top of my homemade 3-ingredient gnocchi. When using it as a sauce, I do add a bit more water to make it a thinner pesto. It's so simple and tastes great with any vegetable or with fresh spinach mixed in.
If you haven't noticed, I'm literally obsessed with this Easy Vegan Basil Pesto and add it to a whole lot of recipes on this site! It's a staple in my house and I know you're going to be equally obsessed with this delicious & healthy pesto after you make it from scratch. Enjoy!
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Vegan Basil Pesto
- ½ cup raw cashews soaked 30 minutes in warm water
- 1 small garlic clove or ½ tsp garlic powder
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts or sunflower/pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup tightly packed basil
- 1 cup spinach or kale/arugula
- 3 tablespoon water more or less for a thinner or thicker sauce
- salt & pepper to taste
- First, soak the cashews in warm water for 30 minutes to help soften them.
- Then, add the soaked cashews, garlic, pine nuts, and nutritional yeast to a blender and blend for 1 minute to break up the hard ingredients first.
- Next, add in the olive oil and lemon juice and blend until a smooth mixture is formed.
- Then, add in the basil, and greens and blend until a thick paste forms.
- As a final step, add in the 3 Tsp water to thin out the sauce. Add more water for a thicker sauce and less for a thinner sauce. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and blend again until smooth. Enjoy!
- Pesto will keep in the fridge in a closed container for 3-5 days.
- To store pesto in the freezer, pour it into ice cube molds, freeze, and store as cubes in a container in the freezer. When stored in the freezer this pesto will keep up to 1 month.