Easy Vegan Pesto (5 minutes!)

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Bowl of easy homemade Vegan Pesto on a wood platter

It’s no secret that I have a thing for pesto. Yet I didn’t have a recipe for my go-to version on the blog…until now.

The remedy is here! Presenting my 5-Minute Easy Vegan Pesto perfect for sauces, soups, salads, pasta, pizza, and more!

Wood platter with fresh basil, nutritional yeast, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and salt for making our homemade vegan pesto recipe

Origin of Pesto

Pesto is a sauce that is believed to have originated in the Liguria region of northwestern Italy. It’s thought that it may have evolved from a 13th century garlic-based sauce called aggiadda or from the tradition of using aromatic herbs in the Middle Ages.

The first written recipe for pesto was from Giovanni Battista Ratto in his 19th century work The Genoese cuisine. This recipe was a mix of garlic, basil, and cheese (source).

Our plant-based version skips the cheese, but is similarly packed with basil and full of flavor.

How to Make Vegan Pesto

This recipe requires just 5 minutes, 1 bowl, and 7 ingredients to make.

The base is fresh basil, pine nuts, and garlic with a splash of lemon juice for acidity and brightness.

For that cheesy color and flavor, I rely on nutritional yeast, which is a man-made yeast that can be high in B12 (depending on the brand).

Now, we have a paste, but to make it a sauce, I rely on a mix of extra virgin olive oil and water. If you’re trying to avoid oil, feel free to sub the EVOO for vegetable broth or water!

Food processor filled with ingredients for making homemade gluten-free vegan basil pesto
Bowl of our easy Vegan Pesto on a wood platter with ingredients used to make it

I hope you all love this pesto! It’s:

Creamy
Zesty
Cheesy
Garlicky
Healthy
& SO easy to make

I love adding pesto to things like white pasta sauce, breadsticks, salad dressings, sauces, and more! This recipe yields about 1 cup, and I’m always surprised how quickly I use it up throughout the week. It also freezes well in ice cube trays, so you can thaw and use a small amount whenever a recipe calls for pesto.

For my favorite pesto recipes, check out our Pesto Avocado ToastPenne Pasta Salad, Smashed Potatoes with Garlic Pesto, Pea Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta, and Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Basil Pesto.

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Bowl of spiralized zucchini noodles with Easy Vegan Pesto

Easy Vegan Pesto (5 minutes!)

The easiest vegan pesto in 5 minutes! Cheesy and flavorful despite being dairy-free, plus an option for lower oil/fat. It’s the perfect plant-based spread for Italian dishes and more!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Spoon resting in a bowl of our Easy Vegan Pesto recipe
4.92 from 273 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 16 (1-Tbsp servings)
Course Sauce
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 1 Week

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil (large stems removed)
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts (if nut-free, try sunflower seeds!)
  • 3 large cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3-4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
  • 3-6 Tbsp water (plus more as needed)

Instructions

  • To a food processor or small blender, add the basil, nuts, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and sea salt and blend/mix on high until a loose paste forms.
  • Add olive oil a little at a time (streaming in while the machine is on if possible) and scrape down sides as needed. Then add 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water at a time until the desired consistency is reached – a thick but pourable sauce. (If avoiding oil altogether, sub the oil with vegetable broth or just use all water.)
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, salt for overall flavor, nuts for nuttiness, garlic for bite / zing, or lemon juice for acidity.
  • Perfect for adding to sauces, dressings, breads, and more! My favorite recently has been adding it straight to zucchini or carrot noodles (see photo) for a beautiful, healthy side dish.
  • Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. After that, pour into ice cube molds, freeze, and store up to 1 month or more.

Video

Notes

*I rely on a mix of extra virgin olive oil and water to make this pesto a “sauce.” If you’re trying to avoid oil, feel free to sub the EVOO for vegetable broth or water!
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with lesser amount of nutritional yeast.
*Recipe adapted from my Smashed Potatoes with Garlic Pesto.
*Recipe as originally written makes ~1 cup pesto.

Nutrition (1 of 16 servings)

Serving: 1 one-Tbsp servings Calories: 39 Carbohydrates: 1.2 g Protein: 0.8 g Fat: 3.8 g Saturated Fat: 0.4 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.61 g Monounsaturated Fat: 1.6 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 32 mg Potassium: 62 mg Fiber: 0.7 g Sugar: 0.2 g Vitamin A: 317 IU Vitamin C: 1.95 mg Calcium: 13.24 mg Iron: 0.33 mg

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Reader Interactions

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My Rating:




  1. Helen says

    Yum!! Perfect vegan and nut free pesto. 2 of my non vegan people grated parmigiano on top; we all loved it and I look forward to trying some of the variations.

  2. Kels says

    Wonderful and reasonably easy. I used tahini in place of the nuts due to allergies. It worked great. Will definitely make again.

  3. Natalie says

    Such an easy and absolutely delicious pesto recipe, my go-to! It really can’t get any easier than this. I like to use my food processor for this recipe but a blender will do as well. Slather this pesto on fresh kalamata olive bread, pour it over hot pasta, or make it the sauce for an olive and tomato pizza… the possibilities are endless. Highly recommend.
    Thank you, Dana!!

  4. Sahara says

    Delicious! I combined with vegan Alfredo sauce! Thank you so much for the recipe! Your peanut butter cookies are next!?

  5. Amy says

    This is delicious! I made it with a combination of arugula and spinach, with plenty of garlic and lemon. It’s very bright, in taste and color, and excellent on whole wheat pasta.

  6. Cloé says

    Wow thank you, I just made it with sunflower seeds and it was delicious. Currently eating it in a bechamel sauce with pasta, spinach, brocoli and a little bit of seitan and I’m in love!

  7. Lynn says

    I was skeptical about this pesto. Can it be good without Parmesan cheese?? Oil AND water??? I can happily say I will eat this as much as any other honey made pesto. Silly my to question one of your recipes……

  8. Alex says

    What is the best way to store this after being made? If we are meal prepping should we put the pesto on right before eating?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Alex! Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. After that, pour into ice cube molds, freeze, and store up to 1 month or more.

  9. Shelly says

    I rarely post comments, but this was too easy and turned out delicious, not to share. Followed the recipe except that I used avocado in place of the oil as someone else suggested, to make it oil free. I think the flavor actually tastes even better the next day. I loved it on sour dough bread with fresh sliced garden tomatoes ! Yum!

  10. Melissa says

    This pesto recipe is amazing!! I’ve made it several times now and have found that I prefer it when I substitute basil for carrot tops. I was tired of throwing my carrot tops in the compost bin when I knew I could do something useful with them and VOILA, best pesto I’ve ever had. Thanks Dana!!

  11. Crissie says

    This is an incredible recipe! We are a vegan and nutfree family I have a ton of fresh herbs this summer, and your low-oil and nutfree option pesto is totally perfect. I spiralized some zucchini, steams, and tossed in the pesto and also made a pesto rice – makes me wish fresh basil season was all year!

  12. Jenn says

    Any suggestions for making it without nutritional yeast? I haven’t yet found a brand that does not contain folic acid (I have two MTHFR mutations).

  13. Roxanne says

    This pesto is amazing. So flavorful and so easy to make. I made it as is and served it over spaghetti squash with some sundried tomatoes on top. Total yum!

  14. Angelica Virgen says

    I made this with no high expectations on the taste, but OMG!!! The taste is INCREDIBLE! It’s recioes like this that motivate you to keep eating healthy and don’t make you miss all the junk food. I love Italian food and it’s so hard to find good alternatives to the sauces used in Italian food. This is a must try! Very fast and easy to make too.

  15. vanessa says

    I have a ton of basil in my garden right now and I am ready to make me some pesto. However, I can’t eat nutritional yeast. Can I just omit the yeast or can I sub it with another ingredient? What about using pumpkin seeds rather than pine nuts?
    Thanks for the advice.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      There are not substitutions that really mimic the flavor of nutritional yeast, so just omit it!

  16. Brittany says

    This is so scrumptious. I usually double it and use about 1 part basil, 3 parts spinach for the basil and then toss it with pasta and throw in some cherry tomatoes and marinated artichoke hearts. So delicious. My current pregnancy craving obsession.

  17. Gürkan Ülgey says

    It was so delicious and loved!! I didn’t have full two cups of packed basil fresh, so I added some dried basil and it was amazing!

  18. Mari says

    Just made this vegan pesto..
    I have never had a more beautiful pesto before! :)
    Best thing is that it is light and healthier compared to its cheesy variety.
    I strongly recommend it!
    Added a little of my backyard chilli to give it a ‘kick’… Very nice ?

  19. Robin says

    I have a sensitivity to citrus, anything you could recommend in place of the lemon to add acidity and brightness?

    Thanks!

    • Melissa says

      hey robin! I was thinking maybe just a splash of apple cider vinegar could work and the remaining could be water or veggie broth? not sure if that would taste a little off though, sometimes ACV sneaks up and bites you in the butt.

  20. Meaghan says

    This is the most amazing pesto recipe I’ve ever tried!!! Adding water and oil together definitely helped make it better for using it in pasta. My family loved it and couldn’t believe that there wasn’t actually cheese in it since it had such a creamy texture! 10/10 recommend trying this

  21. Veg Guy says

    I made this today, and I don’t want to overstate things, but it changed my life. This is an indispensable staple going forward.

  22. Jess says

    So I made the mistake of promising my 3-year-old something and for those in the know, you can’t go back on a promise to a 3-year-old without them scorching the earth… She loves pesto and I had promised to make her some for her lunch at daycare, forgetting that it is a nut-free facility. After seeing and trying the sunflower version as well as fulfilling my promise, I will NEVER go back to pine nuts. It tastes the EXACT same or it does to me and my 3-year-old. I’m stoked I dont have to take out a second mortgage to make pesto. Thank you for the variation, as I would have never thought of it and I avoided an epic meltdown ?

  23. Rachael Sierra says

    Loved the recipe! I toasted my pine nuts lightly (just to make them a tad bit less bitter) and added some sun-dried tomatoes to brighten it up. I was going to put it on top of my sandwiches but decided to put it on top of some home baked fries (YUM). My brother and ate a lot of it for dinner with pasta the next day. Quick question: what difference would roasting the garlic make? I have a sensitive stomach and sometimes cooking garlic can make it easier to digest. Would it mess up the consistency? Make it too sweet?

    • Melissa says

      I don’t think it would mess up the consistency too much seeing a though its not a ton of garlic being used. Might make the flavor a little more warm as opposed to pestos signature bright flavor, but that sounds good to me!!

  24. Hannah says

    Hi! I just made this today and it was delicious :)

    Only thing is, I don’t think your gram measurement is correct for the basil… 4 absolutely packed cups came out to way less than 144g! Maybe a typo?
    Otherwise, easy and fantastic recipe!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Hannah! Thanks for reaching out. You did indeed catch an error and we have updated it to the correct amount!

  25. Katherine says

    Hi Dana,

    This is a wonderful recipes. I love it! I’ve feature it in our website Green Thickies.com in the post 10 Best Raw Vegan Pesto Recipes.
    I’ve only used one image from here, a small snippet and credits and links all given back to this page. Hope that’s okay with you? Keep up the great work!

    Thanks a lot :)
    Katherine

  26. GinaM says

    We are a newly vegan family. And I use your recipes almost daily. I used an avocado in mine instead of oil. It’s a huge hit. Thank you for a all you do. It is much appreciated!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. After that, pour into ice cube molds, freeze, and store up to 1 month or more.

  27. Rae says

    This sounds amazing, I am definitely going to try it. My question is, can you use another kind of seed or nut? Such as peanut, almond or cashew? What would you recommend if so? Thanks!

  28. Sierra says

    A friend gave me a big bag of basil yesterday and I needed a lil something to drizzle over the couscous and chicken I made for dinner. This Pesto brought it all together ✨ so easy sooooo yummy! I have some leftover, I’m stoked to use it for lunch ?

  29. Stephanie de Haan says

    I made this for my family (which includes a very fussy 10 year old boy) and mixed it through bow-tie pasta with steamed broccoli. Everyone LOVED it!!! So incredibly fast and easy to make and it was delicious!!! You would never know it was vegan and it’s so much healthier than traditional pesto!

  30. Kristen says

    I made it today and I think by far it is the best pesto I’ve ever made. This will most definitely be my go-to pesto recipe.

  31. Wendy Medina says

    Hello. Trying to make this for dinner tonight. Do the nuts have to be boiled first or can they go in the blender raw with the rest of the ingredients?
    Thank you!

  32. jenny says

    this is honestly the best pesto i have ever made! i steamed zucchini noodles and then topped them with the pesto and sautéed cherry tomatoes. omg i think i ate it in 1 minute!! thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Joanna! The best for preserving it would be to pour the pesto into ice cube molds, freeze, and store up to 1 month or more. Hope this helps!

  33. Lisa says

    OMG! Either I was really hungry or this Pesto is the BOMB! Sweet Jesus! Can’t wait to make a pizza with it. Many thanks, and BTW, your recipes are all good!

    • Stephen says

      I used this on pizza and it was amazing. I also put on artichoke hearts, garlic, olives, mushrooms and spinach.

  34. Kimberly Marin says

    I made this and it was absolutely delicious! Could not tell the difference between this and the old one i used to make wih cheese! Yummy!!!

  35. Debbie says

    I just made this and it was super easy and yummy. My 2 and 4 year olds scarfed it down on some whole wheat fettuccine. I added some hemp hearts for a nuttier flavor and to increase the protein content and liked the creaminess they added to the pesto without relying on too much olive oil.

  36. Linda says

    We loved it!! We don’t use oil so I put white beans (I read that idea on another recipe) in it to thicken and give it more body. Perfect! Thank you

  37. NdeJ says

    I made this with garlic scapes (instead of basil) and sunflower seeds instead of basil and nuts. Turned out great!

  38. R says

    This recipe is great! I opted for water instead of EVOO and it still held together thanks to the nutritional yeast. I’ve been using it similarly to your chimichurri portobello recipe and it’s divine! I’ve also coated roasted shaved brussel sprouts with it for a killer side dish.
    Fair warning for anyone reading this: do not put it on spaghetti squash; the sweetness of the squash clashes and makes the pesto taste bitter.

  39. Sherry says

    Wow!! I haven’t comfortably eaten pesto in well over a decade. This is WONDERFUL! SO amazingly good and totally pesto. I made the walnut version because I didn’t want to “waste” my pine nuts if this wasn’t spectacular. Incredibly luscious on raw zucchini pasta.

    THANK YOU!!

  40. Lauren says

    I just made this tonight and it was delicious!! My boyfriend has been growing basil and had enough for a half of this recipe. We had it with spaghetti squash and roasted chickpeas. So so fresh and delicious. I will definitely make it again : )

  41. Lauren says

    I used Aquafaba to replace the oil. I save the bean juice after cooking beans. We used the pesto for pesto potatoes and it was very yummy. Thanks so much!

    • Terri says

      Thanks! Never thought of aquafaba to replace oil! I am on a no/low oil diet (high cholesterol/blood pressure), and miss so many yummy recipes.

  42. Antonia Raab says

    Thanks for this recipe! I’ve always loved Pesto before going vegan and this one actually tastes so much better than anything with cheese! I also added some peas into the recipe to make it creamier. It turned out deöicious. Thanks for all the cooking inspiration!

  43. Rebecca Saguin says

    Made this today. Absolutely fantastic. I did as the directions said except I only used 2T water and 1T olive oil. Thanks for this!!

  44. Giada says

    Mmmm… great recipe! I’m definitely making it again. I love this website btw. I am vegan and I appreciate that all the recipes are dairy-free (and delicious!) Thank you, Dana, for creating this really cool site :)

  45. Elyse says

    Really yummy, I made a half batch and I added too much nutritional yeast and I made it a little salty but it was still awesome. I’ll be eating it with pasta tomorrow for lunch.

  46. Ashley says

    Do you think this would work well with your vegan Parmesan recipe in place of the nutritional yeast??

  47. Luann Rouff says

    I’m 60 and have been making traditional pesto for years, but this is my new favorite pesto. My daughter is vegan, and I am rapidly following in her footsteps due to her influence. I used pecans for the nuts because that’s what I had on hand. Yummy!
    Next time I’ll double the recipe, because we are sad to see the empty blender.
    Thank you for the wonderful recipe.

      • Luann Rouff says

        Hi May. Yes, it’s a bit different, but I wouldn’t say “significantly.” I love almost all nuts, so I just use what’s on hand (pine, pecan, walnut, or even macadamia). A little arugula thrown in with the basil is also really good. Have fun playing around with your pesto!

  48. Jennifer says

    Really, really good! Just had for dinner and was enjoyed by all. I had never heard of nutritional yeast being used in place of cheese, so glad for a substitute, thanks! Did not have fresh Basil so used a variety of organic greens together and added 1 tsp dried basil.

  49. Pauline says

    I’m always after something new and I like the idea of using yeast. So healthy for a vegan recipe. I will try it and let you know.

  50. Britt says

    Dana, I am a huge fan of your blog! Any chance that last photo is some sort of spiralized veggie noodle? I actually tried raw zucchini pasta for the first time over the weekend, and now I’m completely hooked! Is there any certain type of spiralizer you might be able to recommend to a minimalist on a budget?

    • Christopher VeganPorowski says

      I grow basil in the garden it is overwhelming I got so much of it and try to make a pesto following your recipe it is absolutely delicious i did use vitamix and make it very creemy so delicious!

  51. Cam says

    I halved the recipe, for 2 people and served it with wholemeal spaghetti, the mix itself has a great balance of acidity!

  52. Dana says

    This looks great! I plan on making it today as I have a ton of basil waiting to be harvested! And a huge thank you for adding the weight measurements in grams! That helps so much!

  53. Bill Bradley says

    Bill Bradley @ MediterraneanLiving.com
    As a Dietitian, I work with many people who love eating Italian, but can’t eat the cheese because of lactose intolerance. This is a brilliant recipe that really tastes as good as it looks. Bravo!

  54. Krys says

    Made this last night and it was AMAZING! Want to make it again tonight but I’m out of basil and have a ton of kale kicking around. Do you think it would taste good swapping the basil for kale?

    Thanks ?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I’ve heard kale pesto is awesome! I’d still recommend throwing in SOME herbs, either parsley or basil for flavor.

      • Anna says

        Kale pesto is delish!! But I always try and add in a little basil and I like to saute my kale with the garlic for just a few minutes. I’ve learned that our body can more readily absorb the iron in greens when lightly cooked/warmed. YUM! Also love using 1/2 an avo instead of oil when they are on hand and ripe :).

        • Lynn says

          New to the vegan world and I made it, successfully!! Excellent! Next time I will back off a little on the lemon juice. And I added no water. Thank you!!!!

  55. Samantha says

    Yay!! I’ve been waiting for a bomb.com pesto recipe to make it’s way onto your blog! Can’t wait to make this!

    • Bat says

      This kind of yeast isn’t like the yeast used to make bread rise. It’s a food supplement that lends a cheesy, savory or umami flavor to dishes. It’s vegan, unlike actual cheese, and is used here as a parmesan substitute. It’s also very good for you! I believe it grows naturally on beets, but don’t quote me on that. Hope that helps!

  56. Three Brits says

    So much better to make your own pesto rather than buying it! Way cheaper and so much tastier! We make all our own pesto in our blender and like to mix it up, sometimes using spinach, sometimes using kale and sometimes with basil – such fun experimenting!

  57. Jenn says

    Love this recipe, which I’ll make again and again. I made it tonight with what I had on hand (kale and walnuts) and I couldn’t believe how quickly in came together and how wonderful the flavor is. I’m excited to start experimenting with nut and herb combinations.

  58. Sandy says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was so delicious! I added an extra clove of garlic.
    Dinner was so easy and quick, this is my new go to recipe! Thanks Dana!

    Sandy

  59. Amy says

    I am always grateful for a meal that my entire family eats and uses the ingredients already in my fridge. While I didn’t have any basil, I followed your recipe using 2 bunches of Italian parsley and 1 bunch of cilantro. I also used a mix of walnuts and almonds and served your vegan parmesan cheese on top. Nothing was wasted! Thank you!

  60. Natalie says

    This looks delicious and surprisingly creamy for a vegan pesto – will try it out the next time I need a quick pasta fix

    – Natalie

  61. Elena says

    I just made your dried tomato pesto pasta yesterday, oooh i was so delicious! This looks great and i will return to pesto more often now. Thank you!

  62. littleblackdomicile blogger says

    There is nothing about pesto I do not like! AND the colors of the food when on display in white dishes can dictate an entire food event. We encourage our clients to always use “food” as an accessory. So natural and a feel good moment.-Laurel Bledsoe

  63. Saskia says

    Looking terrific! I like the variation with sunflower seeds as they are also much friendlier on a student-budget. Will definitely recreate this soon!

    • Keri says

      I made this for my family of 5 which is the “bell curve of diets”, and everyone loves it! One of my favorite things to do is modify dishes to satisfy my vegan eater and my carnivore. This is an awesome pesto to pair with meatballs as well as grilled veggies and vegan pasta. Thanks for your easy to follow, beautiful recipes.

      • Rachel says

        Oh my goodness. I laughed so much about the “bell curve of diets”! I feel your pain Keri! In my family we range from pre-diabetic, post-heart attack kosher, to your basic fussy child, to coeliac vegetarian, as well as seafood allergy and even vegetarian with a dairy and cashew intolerance! And this recipe is good for all of us! Love it! Thanks Minimalist Baker!

  64. Juliette @ Namastay Traveling says

    Pesto is my favorite, and it’s been so hard finding a replacement that doesn’t load up on cheese. Excited to try it with nutritional yeast!