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:

& 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
Spoon resting in a bowl of our Easy Vegan Pesto recipe
4.90 from 320 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


  • 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)


  • 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.



*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 serving 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. Pauline White says

    Ok I just finished making this with fresh basil from the garden. I added a little more garlic, some green onion and skipped the oil. I used aquafaba( the water from a can of chickpeas) instead of water and oil. I also cut the salt in half. I think it turned out well. I ended up with more than one cup because of my extra additions. Seriously, it took less than five minutes and longer to clean up than to process this wonderful pesto. Thanks for the recipe

  2. Pauline T. White says

    I love this recipe and will avoid the oil to keep it within the whole foods plant-based lifestyle. I am going to make it today. I wonder how it would taste if I used some aquafaba instead of water or veggie broth?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoy the recipe, Pauline. We think aquafaba could work. Let us know if you try it!

  3. Caitlin says

    so amazingly fresh. i didnt add water initially as the consistency seemed fine, and i was adding it to pasta immediately anyways with reserved pasta water which supplemented the original water. simple, delicious, did take longer than 5 minutes but I blame my small food processor

  4. Harmony Houdyshell says

    I made this recipe with my vegan boyfriend and we loved it! Except we replaced the basil with spinach and added vegan Parmesan to the mix, serving in top of gnocchi! Thank you for making this recipe!! <3

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      You’re welcome! We’re so glad you enjoy it. Thank you for the lovely review, Carol! xo

  5. Mamta Rana says

    I just made this pesto and substituted 2/3 of the basil leaves with garlic scapes that I just harvested from my garden. I used pinenuts and didn’t need any garlic at all the depth the flavour the nutritional yeast gives this recipe is far better than just Parmesan cheese alone, I will definitely be making this recipe again. Thank you for sharing your work so generously.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed the pesto, Mamta! Your garlic scape substitution is so creative. Thank you for your kind words and lovely review! xo

  6. Moira Nelligan says

    Great recipe! And so simple! I used fresh parsley and walnuts and it was divine! And it got 2 thumbs up from my omnivore sister :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! We’re so glad you both enjoyed it, Moira. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      That should work! Or if you have cashews or sunflower seeds, those would be great too :)

  7. Dana Chalamet says

    I love pesto! And I make a VERY similar recipe (spinach, basil, walnut pesto) that’s my GO-TO for any time I want a pesto. It’s about about the same amount of walnuts, 1 clove garlic, 2 Tsp nutritional yeast, 3/4 tsp Himalayan salt (sea salt, Celtic salt), about 1- 1 1/2 c fresh basil leaves (I always add more thank 1 cup!), 1 1/2 cups packed fresh spinach, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 Tbs olive oil, and water if necessary to thin out if need be (I never use it).

    This is delicious over spiralized zucchini, in/on scrambled eggs, potatoes and lightly sautéed broccoli if eating eggs (coming from humanely raised and handled, non-gmo chickens), on pizza (but I don’t cook it ON the pizza, I apply it as soon as it comes out. I found this to be the best flavor), and of course it’s perfect for making YOUR wonderful Pesto Veggie Burgers with Balsamic Aioli (a new staple in our house). :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We always love hearing what you’re enjoying and your servings ideas will definitely be helpful to other readers :) Thanks so much for sharing, Dana! xo

      • Dana Chalamet says

        You guys are always SO sweet, SO pleasant! Thank you! But now noticing I should have proofread for typos.🙄 Should have been 2 Tbs nutritional yeast and obviously there was the stupid double “about” and should have been “I always use more THAN one cup!” (basil). Eesh.

        But again, thank YOU and thank YOU for ALL you do! With much gratitude! Dana ☺️

  8. niki says

    I made this with pistachio nuts and the low end (3T) of nutritional yeast. We loved it in my household! Best Pesto Ever — this will be in rotation during our long basil season. Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe and will be making it all season. Thank you for sharing, Niki! xo

  9. Alyssa says

    Followed the recipe exactly using homegrown basil from a friend and it turned out incredible! I only needed to use 1 T. water for it to reach my desired consistency. I froze the rest in ice cube trays. Thanks for the recipe and the tips! Will definitely make again :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Alyssa! Thank you for sharing your experience! xo

  10. Dina says

    Pleasantly surprised by how delicious this came out to be. Made two adjustments though: one garlic clove and only one tablespoon of lemon. Great update to classic pesto and a good way to eliminate any source of cholesterol by removing parmesan altogether.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it with those modifications, Dina. Thank you for sharing! xo

  11. Jilly says

    Just a simple fab recipe – thank you. I sautéd off some asparagus, courgette and shallots, added the pesto and a little vegan cream. Served with pasta and a sprinkling of pine nuts 👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼

  12. Lorraine says

    I made this, and found that the 2 tbsp of lemon juice is just way too much. The sauce had a nasty, sour taste as a result. The lemon juice over-powered all of the beautiful basil and pine nuts that went into this. Additionally, I have a standard sized food processor that made it difficult to process such a small amount of pesto. It never really came together and was chunky as a result. If I were to make this again, I would used only 0.5 tbsp of lemon juice AT THE MOST, and triple the recipe to give my food processor enough volume to work with.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Lorraine, sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it! Did you pack the basil into the cup? It sounds like it needs more basil! That will help it blend and also balance the lemon.

    • Rosario says

      Too much garlic. I wish I had compared this against other recipes. It ruined the pesto. You just need one clove.

      • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

        We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy it, Rosario. We do like it garlicky. Adding more basil should help!

  13. Mag says

    I have a question. I found this recipe while trying to figure out how to make a carrot-green pesto recipe vegan. I’ve never made pesto before. Where would I sub in the carrot greens?

  14. Jennifer says

    Fabulous recipe! I have made this pesto several times. Most recently, I used fresh parsley instead of basil, and it was awesome! I have also used carrot tops as the greens. Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! We’re so glad you’ve enjoyed all three variations. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer! xo

  15. Niwashi Kun says

    Pine nuts are not nuts, they are seeds.

    If it’s an allergy concern, one can be allergic to pine nuts but one can also be allergic to sunflower seeds.
    (There are also people who are allergic to garlic and citrus.)

    Pine nuts and sunflower seeds also have a similar caloric content.

  16. LisaH says

    This is a wonderful pesto! Our guests loved it over gnocchi and all wanted the recipe. I used your 5-ingredient vegan cheese. Absolutely fantastic.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! We’re so glad you and your guests enjoyed it, Lisa. Love that serving idea! Thank you for sharing! xo

  17. Aisha says

    Love this recipe! Made it multiple times now and it’s worlds better than store bought pesto. I like to add just 2-3 tbsp of water sometimes a little extra lemon.

  18. Katrina says

    This has been our go to pesto recipe for many months now. It is super simple and oh so delicious. I make it with 1/4 cup of raw cashews. The recipe is light and bright and full of basil flavor without the weight of too much oil.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Carol, yes, it can! We like to freeze it in an ice cube tray, then transfer to a sealed bag.

  19. Wendy says

    My two year old LOVES this sauce. She’s been eating it with a spoon. It’s happened twice now so it’s not a fluke. I’ve also offered her other (high-quality jarred) non-vegan pesto and she’s completely uninterested, but this stuff is her favorite. We’ve been eating it on top of flounder baked with tomatoes and onions, and its superb.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, too cute! We’re so glad you’ve both been enjoying it. Thank you for sharing, Wendy! xo

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Char, the metric measurement is 9 grams, not 9 cloves. 3 cloves equal ~9 grams. Hope that helps!

  20. Kristin says

    This was so delicious and so simple! I had an abundance of basil this year and loved that I could easily make this pesto and freeze it to get me through until next summer. Also, loved the flexibility on using walnuts instead of pine nuts.

  21. Barbara says

    I’ve made this recipe for a year now and we love it. We eat more fish and vegetables because they both taste better with this vegan pesto. And because we keep kosher we can serve this with both meat and dairy meals. Sometimes I add more garlic, sometimes more lemon juice, rarely the greater amount of water. Excellent, thank you!

  22. Julie says

    For me in France, the cup system is not at all usual. 2 cups of basil corresponds to approximately how many grams? Thank you

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Julie, you can find the metric measurements by clicking “metric” beneath the ingredients header. Hope that helps!

  23. Anna Reid says

    I made this with the Cuisinart food processor you recommend and it turned out perfect! My kids love it, too, which is a huge bonus. Thank you for providing nutritious, simple recipes for all seasons.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so happy it was a winner with the whole family! Thank you for letting us know, Anna! xo

  24. Patricia Frothingham says

    Have made this often, both following the recipe to the letter (using walnuts), and sometimes substituting collards for 1/2 of the basil. Either way, divine. Thanks!