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Easy Vegan Pesto

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    Alyssa Workman

Taking only 10 minutes, this vegan pesto recipe is delicious and easy to make. This recipe is totally dairy free and uses nutritional yeast instead of cheese to create the same irresistible flavors as a traditional pesto.

Small bowl of vegan pesto with a spoon scooping some up.

I love pesto because it’s versatile and easy to make. The best part about this recipe is that you seriously can’t tell it’s vegan. So you get the same flavors without any of the dairy!

What makes this pesto vegan?

Traditional pesto contains parmesan cheese, but I’ve swapped the cheese for nutritional yeast in this recipe. If you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s used in a lot of vegan dishes as a cheese replacement. Nutritional yeast has a unique savory/cheesy flavor, plus it’s rich in B-12 vitamins! 

How to make pesto from scratch

Pesto is incredibly easy to make. You can whip it up in 10 minutes or less in just two steps and minimal cleanup!

Kitchen supplies:

  • Food processor
  • Rubber scraper


  • Fresh basil
  • Garlic
  • Pine nuts
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fresh lemon
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
Vegan pesto ingredients all in a food processor next to oil.

First, you’ll add everything except for the oil into the food processor and pulse a few times.

Then, you’ll slowly pour in the olive oil as the food processor is running.

There you have it! Throw the food processor bowl and lid in the dishwasher on the top rack and your cleanup is done.

Substitutions for pine nuts

Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, sunflower seeds, or macadamia nuts are some of the most popular substitutes for pine nuts. Any of these alternatives would make a great tasting pesto!

Small bowl of vegan pesto surrounded by its ingredients.

Quality of olive oil matters - how to choose a good one

  1. Look for extra virgin olive oil, as it comes from the first pressing of the olives. Extra virgin olive oil contains more of the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals found in olives. 
  2. Look for cold pressed olive oil, meaning that minimal heat was used in the process of extracting the oil. This allows the oil to retain the most nutrients.
  3. Look for a dark container. This prevents exposure to sunlight, which can negatively impact the quality of the oil and cause it to go rancid.
  4. Avoid extra-light olive oil. This kind has been highly refined and processed, which reduces its nutritional value. Rather than a deep green color, extra-light olive oil has a yellow color to it. (source)
Small spoonful of vegan pesto close up.

Best uses for pesto

Here are some of my favorite ways to use pesto:

  • Use it as a veggie dip
  • Add some to baked tofu
  • Stuff chicken breasts with it or drizzle it over baked or grilled chicken
  • Use it as a dipping oil for sourdough
  • Spread it on a sandwich or wrap
  • Mix some into veggies before roasting
  • Add a little more oil and use it as a salad dressing
  • Drizzle it over salmon or steak
  • Make pizza and swap the red sauce for pesto - add toppings like chicken, shrimp, or make a veggie pizza with artichoke hearts
  • Add pesto to any type of eggs

The possibilities are endless!

How to store leftover pesto

Store pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To extend the shelf life even longer, drizzle a layer of olive oil on top of the pesto. This will seal the pesto and prevent air from getting into it. The pesto will keep for a week or longer if it’s sealed with olive oil.


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: ¾ cup


  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

  • ⅓ c pine nuts

  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ⅓ c olive oil


  • Add the fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt to your food processor. Pulse 5-7 times until a coarse mixture forms. 

  • With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto is smooth. Scrape the sides of the food processor as necessary. Serve immediately.