Vegan pesto is creamy, rich, delicious, and such a versatile sauce. My go-to five-minute vegan pesto recipe is dairy-free and perfect for a variety of dishes.
For the longest time, looking at the jars of pesto in the grocery store, I always thought they were complicated to make. Why spend so much time making my own sauce when I could just buy it? But now, I’ve got vegan pesto sauce of my own, made fresh – and it’s so good.
The best part – it only takes five minutes to make! In five minutes, I’ve got an amazing sauce to drizzle over fish or stir into pasta. Or to incorporate into salads or give a boost of flavor to some chicken. The possibilities for vegan pesto are only limited by your imagination.
My dairy-free gluten-free pesto recipe has a distinctly cheesy flavor. But vegans, there’s no need to panic. Unlike most vegan pesto recipes, you don’t have to sacrifice any cheesy goodness for my five-minute sauce. This is because I make my pesto with nutritional yeast – a great vegan supplement for traditional cheese.
This vegan pesto sauce is a great alternative to the traditional cream and tomato-based sauces that you’ll often find on pasta. And it is super easy to make at home for a quick, mid-week dinner or lunch.
Is Pesto Vegan?
The short answer is no.
Traditional classic pesto from the Genoa region of Italy is not vegan. It is made using a hard cheese like parmesan or Sardinian Pecorino – made from cow and sheep milk respectively. Finding pesto without cheese is particularly difficult unless you make it yourself (which I’m very much an advocate for!).
Even my Basil Pesto Alle Genovese recipe uses parmesan cheese and pecorino. So coming up with an alternative took a little extra work. Finally though, my vegan recipe for pesto uses zero cheese – but has 100% of that familiar cheesy flavor.
What Is Vegan Pesto Made of
This vegan basil pesto only has six ingredients:
- Fresh basil: The cornerstone of pesto, basil leaves release an incredible flavor.
- Pine nuts: The other key ingredient, these are edible seeds (not nuts) packed with healthy fat and protein. This will give the pesto a buttery consistency.
- Olive oil: For a super silky texture use your favorite extra virgin olive oil.
- Lemon juice: This will cut through the heaviness of the oil and the basil.
- Nutritional yeast: This is the magic ingredient for this dairy-free pesto recipe. A great vegan source of protein, it has a distinctly cheesy flavor and is often used as a cheese replacement. You can however, omit it, if you don’t like it or have none at hand.
- Garlic: For a punch of flavor, one of two garlic cloves helps vegan pesto a lot.
- Salt: A necessity for bringing out the flavor of your food!
If you want a more intense pesto taste, substitute some of the pine nuts for pistachio nuts. For flavor variations, you can also use walnuts, cashews, or sunflower seeds or even pumpkin seeds.
How to Make Vegan Pesto Sauce
Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse or blend until you achieve your desired texture.
If you prefer, add the lemon juice and salt gradually to the vegan pesto sauce. In this way, you can flavor it to your taste.
An alternative way to prepare this would be to use a mortar and pestle. However, the process will be slower and take a lot of arm power.
How Should Vegan Basil Pesto be Served
This easy vegan pesto recipe can be served with so many different things. It’s easily incorporated into pasta. I like bowtie/farfalle or penne because those shapes holds the sauce better. This pesto can also be drizzled over chicken and fish, like salmon, cod or haddock.
Some of my other favorite ways to serve vegan basil pesto:
- As a replacement for tomato sauce on my Butternut Squash Pizza.
- Add some dairy-free peasto to a batch of homemade zoodles.
- Use it to make vegan pesto pasta or to flavor homemade pasta like my Homemade Pappardelle Pasta.
- Drizzle over Italian favorites like bruschetta or Caprese salad.
- Spice up your salads – I love using it in my Greek Pasta Salad or Chopped Greek Salad. Or mix it in your salad dressings.
- Stir into soups, it’s great in tomato soup or carrot soup.
- Spread on top of a toast or sandwich with tomatoes or eggs.
- Use as a veggies dip or elevate roasted vegetables or a potato mash.
How Long Does Vegan Pesto Last
There are a few ways to store pesto without cheese.
In the Refrigerator
Pour the prepared pesto into an airtight container and close the lid. Make sure the pesto is cool before you do this. If you’re making pesto with nutritional yeast, consider waiting until you plan to use the pesto before sprinkling it in.
When kept in the fridge, vegan pesto is best eaten within three days of making. However, you can store it for up to 1 week.
In the Freezer
One of the best ways to freeze this dairy-free pesto recipe is in ice cube trays. Simply put spoonfuls of the vegan pesto into large ice cube trays and place them in the freezer. If you’re making pesto with nutritional yeast, don’t put the nutritional yeast in before you freeze the sauce. It’s best to save it for when you’re ready to enjoy it.
You can also store larger batches in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Frozen vegan basil pesto will keep for up to six months, though it’s best used within the first three.
More Sauce Recipes
- No Fail Hollandaise Sauce
- Garlic Cream Sauce (Garlic Alfredo Sauce)
- Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Colombian Creole Sauce – Hogao
If you try this vegan pesto recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
5 Min Vegan Pesto with Cheesy Flavor
- 1.6 oz basil leaves 2 cups packed
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice or 1 small lemon
- 0.3 oz garlic 2 cloves
- 0.4 oz nutritional yeast 1/4 cup
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
This will yield about 3/4 cup (170ml/176g/6.2oz)
- Blender/Food processor
- Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend. If you prefer, add the lemon juice and salt gradually to the vegan pesto sauce so you can flavor it to your taste.
How to Store
- In the fridge: Pour the prepared pesto into an airtight container and close the lid. Make sure the pesto is cool before you do this. If you’re making pesto with nutritional yeast, consider waiting until you plan to use the pesto before sprinkling it in. In the fridge, vegan pesto is best eaten within three days of making, but it can be stored for up to 1 week.
- In the freezer: One of the best ways to freeze dairy-free pesto is in ice cube trays. Simply put spoonfuls of the vegan pesto into large ice cube trays and place them in the freezer. If you’re making pesto with nutritional yeast, don't put it in before you freeze and save it for when you’re ready to make it.You can also store larger batches in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Frozen vegan basil pesto will keep for up to six months, though it's best used within the first three.