I didn’t grow up knowing how to cook. It was a skill that I learned over the years from many mentors and inspiring chefs who lead by example.
This vegan pesto recipe was one of the first “complicated” things that I mastered in the kitchen. When I first tried it, I couldn’t believe how delicious it was.
My first head chef taught me how to prepare it. He had worked for four years in professional kitchens in Italy, learning their amazing cuisine and soaking in all their rich traditional Italian dishes. I was so lucky to have him teach me all his secrets. And now I can share them with you!
This vegan pesto is so incredibly versatile. From pesto pasta to bruschetta, from a burger topping to a delicious lunch sandwich spread, there are no limits to what you can do with pesto. It would go great on some crostini too!
This recipe is a veganized version of classic Italian pesto. That means fresh basil leaves blended with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Don’t forget to toast the pine nuts for a richer toastier flavor! It’s a crucial step to make this recipe so heavenly. I promise you, you won’t miss the cheese!
This sauce (or spread!) originates in Genoa, Italy. It is an Italian classic and a world favorite!
Pesto is traditionally done in a mortar with a pestle, but using a food processor (a vegan kitchen essential!) cuts down on time and effort considerably.
That said, if you’re good on time and feeling fancy (or nostalgic) you can give the mortar and pestle method a go. You’ll feel like the Nonna preparing pesto the old way.
If you can, try not to rush the process of cooking. There’s something special about the following steps and mixing things together to create something new. Try it when you have the time…you might enjoy it!
For this quick and easy vegan pesto sauce, no mortar and pestle needed. Simply add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse until a paste forms.
Some basil chunks are okay. You don’t want overdo it and have it be completely smooth, otherwise it will turn into a purée.
Another fantastic thing about pesto (as if we need to add more!) is that you can make so many variations using the same base recipe.
You can swap the pine nuts for walnuts which will give it a nice nutty spice. Bonus: it will also save you money, as pine nuts are crazy expensive.
Or you can switch the basil for parsley (or mix both) to try a “different” style of herby pesto.
You can reduce the amount of olive oil and add half of an avocado to make it creamier. It makes it sweeter, and it’s a great chance to add some healthy fats in your diet.
Another cool twist is, if you’re not feeling very green you can use some roasted peppers instead of green herbs and make a pesto rosso. Who wouldn’t love some sweet peppery pink pesto?
If bruschetta is something you’d like to try, it’s really simple. It also makes a great appetizer when you’re not feeling very Master Chef-ish. Just spread some pesto onto a slice of bread, then toast it well. Toasting it with the pesto will take the pesto flavors to a whole new level! Then just add on some fresh tomatoes and garlic, and you’re set! The most delicious 5-minute appetizer you’ll find.
If you have an allergy and can’t get close to nuts, don’t despair! We’ve got you covered. This pesto will also work with seeds.
Sunflower seeds are a great option so you could give them a try. They’re also one of the most affordable seeds and protein sources out there. You can toast them slightly before adding them in your food processor just like the pine nuts to get their flavor come out a bit.
Pumpkin seeds are also a possibility, but they have less fat content so it won’t come out exactly the same way.
If you’re struggling to recreate certain vegan dishes without using nuts, seeds might be your best friend. Start experimenting and find your favorites! Going back to basics is always a good idea.
One of the most important things I’ve noticed since those days learning my craft in the kitchen is that when you cook any recipe, you must have love. Yes! Love for food! Love for eating and everything that comes with it!
Food brings us together and makes us bond with our loved ones. So no matter how simple the recipe is, don’t forget to add passion and care for what you are creating. It’ll make a world of difference.
Are you inspired by this worldly recipe? Don’t miss these other international recipes!
Vegan pesto photos by Zhoro Apostolov for World of Vegan. Recipe and photographs copyright of World of Vegan™, all rights reserved. Article edited by Rachel Lessenden.
Leave a Comment
love this recipe, I love pesto but always find the store bought ones tend to have too much pine nuts for me, so I will definitely try this out and adjust the amount of pine nuts used.
I’ve never made pesto before so I’m excited to make some for the first time! Can’t wait to try it out!
It took me a while to understand why everyone loves pesto so much. Once I realized that I don’t really like the taste of basil or pine nuts very much and could substitute for spinach and walnuts instead, I was hooked! I love this pesto on pasta, especially on bow ties or thin spaghetti. I add some nutritional yeast, crushed red pepper and a little vegan parm on top – what a creamy, lovely flavor! If you’re like me, know that you can love pesto with just a few changes. Give it a try!
I LOVE pesto…and guess what? If you don’t want to use pine nuts because they’re crazy expensive, you can swap in walnuts! We have an awesome walnut pesto recipe in The Friendly Vegan Cookbook that you would have NO idea is made without pine nuts.
I’ll take pesto over marinara any day and this recipe couldn’t be easier! I know they’re expensive but I love pine nuts so much!