Throw it in pasta, toss it in a salad, smear it on a sandwich, and don’t even bother trying to resist gobbling it straight from a spoon! This vegan pesto packs a flavor punch from fresh basil, garlic and a touch of fresh lemon juice. The best part: it whips up in minutes!
The first time I tried to make pesto, it turned out horrible. I used dried basil. Oops.
In my defense: I was twelve at the time. Still working on my culinary skills! Anyhow, I’d had pesto at our local Spaghetti Factory and fell in love. I’m not sure I followed a recipe. I probably asked the server what was in this delicious sauce and thought I’d stuck gold when I realized mom had all the ingredients on hand.
But no, she really didn’t.
In case you were wondering, pesto made with dried basil is a chewy, disgusting mess.
So yeah, this recipe uses fresh basil, and is far superior to my original pesto recipe. And also, this one is vegan!
I’ve made lots of versions of vegan pesto, and although they were all a million billion times better than pesto alla dried basil, most were probably more complicated than they needed to be, simply due to the fact that conventional pesto has cheese and I thought replacing that would be super complicated.
Turns out, cheese isn’t that big a deal in pesto. It adds some zip, texture, and saltiness. So my vegan pesto has a little bit of lemon juice for zip. Bonus: lemon is also delicious and refreshing and goes great with fresh basil. In past versions I used nutritional yeast for zip, but you know what? It really doesn’t need it. And I think it actually tastes better without it.
Nuts take care of texture. Traditional pesto uses pine nuts, but I went with pistachios for this recipe because I actually like the texture better. Also, they’re way cheaper and keep longer than pine nuts. And as for saltiness, I added salt!
Making vegan pesto is easy! Throw a bunch of ingredients into a food processor and blend it up in the food processor.
Give it a taste. Does it need anything? Add it now! It’ll probably be a bit thick at this point, so run it through the food processor a second time and drizzle in some additional olive oil as you do, just until the consistency is right.
Tips for Making Amazing Vegan Pesto
- Don’t use dried basil. Haha! I hope you figured that out by now, but just in case.
- Walnuts or (more traditional) pine nuts can be subbed for the pistachios.
- Your homemade vegan pesto will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.
Vegan Pesto with Lemon and Pistachios
Throw it in pasta, toss it in a salad, smear it on a sandwich, and don't even bother trying to resist gobbling it straight from a spoon! This vegan pesto packs a flavor punch from fresh basil, garlic and a touch of fresh lemon juice. The best part: it whips up in minutes!
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Place the basil, pistachios, garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade.
Blend until all ingredients are finely chopped, then drizzle in the remaining olive oil with the food processor running.