Vegan Pesto Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 10 min.
This vegan pesto recipe is just as good as a classic pesto—and it's dairy-free! Toss it with pasta, spread it on pizza or use it as a veggie dip.

Updated: Mar. 25, 2024

Pesto transforms everything it touches with its nutty, garlicky flavor. It’s the ideal sauce when you need to upgrade a sandwich, whip up a quick pasta dish, add flavor to soup or risotto…we could go on and on. We aren’t surprised pesto is so many people’s favorite sauce!

If you’re vegan, though, you might be wondering how to make a vegan pesto recipe that will match the classic. We’re here to assure you that you can, and it’s just as good (and a whole lot lower in sodium and unhealthy fats). To match the nutty flavor of a classic pesto, we swap in nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese and add a touch of lemon juice for extra zest. You’re going to want to make a double batch so you can make all these recipes that call for pesto—it’s that good.

Vegan Pesto Ingredients

Vegan Pesto ingredients laid out on a white wood surfaceTMB Studio

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Pine nuts, toasted
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic cloves
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil

Directions

Step 1: Pulse the ingredients

Vegan Pesto ingredients inside a food processor; top down viewTMB Studio

Pulse the first six ingredients in a food processor until chopped.

Step 2: Gradually add oil

hand adding oil into food processor for vegan pestoTMB Studio

While processing, gradually add the oil in a steady stream until the mixture is smooth and no large chunks remain. That’s it!

Vegan Pesto Variations

  • Change up your greens: Try spinach-basil pesto, parsley pesto or arugula pesto. Of course, replace the Parmesan cheese in those recipes with nutritional yeast to keep the pesto vegan.
  • Go nut-free: If you can’t eat nuts or don’t like the flavor, try making nut-free pesto as an alternative.
  • Use different nuts: Instead of using pine nuts in your pesto, try cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts—you name it. Whichever nut you have in the pantry will work in this vegan pesto. You can even experiment with different combinations to find your favorite pesto flavor. We love a combo of pine nuts and cashews for a creamy consistency.
  • Try it without nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast gives this vegan pesto a nutty, cheesy flavor. But if you don’t have nutritional yeast or don’t like it, you can use a vegan Parmesan like Violife or Follow Your Heart instead. Or, skip it altogether! The sauce is still delicious without a cheese substitute. If it seems too loose, add more greens or pine nuts (or another nut).

How to Store Vegan Pesto

Store the pesto in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator and use it within about a week. Or, you can freeze pesto: Spoon the vegan pesto into a covered ice cube tray and freeze it. The next time a recipe calls for pesto, pop out one or two pesto “ice cubes.” It should last up to six months in the freezer.

Vegan Pesto Tips

How To Make Vegan PestoTMB Studio

What do you do if vegan pesto is too oily?

If you accidentally added too much oil, your pesto might not be as thick as you’d like. To fix it, our Test Kitchen recommends adding more basil (or any other greens you’re using). You can also add more pine nuts to even the ratio of extra greens. Sprinkle in a little more salt to make up for the extra ingredients.

What’s the best type of olive oil to use for vegan pesto?

Since the flavor of the oil will come through in the finished sauce, reach for a quality extra virgin olive oil. Our Test Kitchen has a few favorite olive oil brands.

How do you serve vegan pesto?

Pesto and pasta are a perfect pairing. Toss the pesto with drained (but not rinsed!) linguine or orecchiette, or whichever pasta shape you prefer.

You can add vegan pesto to many of your favorite vegan recipes. Try it on a vegan pizza, spread it on crusty baguette slices, or add it to soup or a rice dish for extra flavor. Pesto goes great with vegetables: Use it as a dip for crudites, mix it in with roasted vegetables, or use it in a salad dressing.

Watch how to Make Vegan Pesto

Vegan Pesto

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 3/4 cup.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Pulse the first 6 ingredients in a food processor until chopped. While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream until mixture is smooth. Store tightly covered in refrigerator; use within 5 days.

Nutrition Facts

2 tablespoons: 127 calories, 13g fat (2g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 163mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 1g fiber), 2g protein.