With just five ingredients and less than five minutes, this bright and healthy vegan pesto is ready to top pizza, pasta, salad, and everything else under the sun all summer long.
Pro tip: double (or triple!) this vegan pesto recipe to have a jar ready to top all your favorite foods throughout the week.
Plant-Based Pesto Ingredients
This vegan pesto recipe is made of five ingredients: fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, walnuts, and olive oil.
Unlike traditional pesto recipes that contain Parmesan cheese, this pesto is vegan and can be made nut-free as well. To nix nuts from the recipe, swap walnuts with pumpkin seeds.
Pesto is given its signature vibrant green color and flavor thanks to basil, a fresh herb with both nutritional benefits and recipe versatility. With potent antioxidants and volatile compounds, basil is thought to be anti-inflammatory, liver protective, antimicrobial, and anticancer. Basil also contains trace vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, K, and C, and copper, folate, and manganese.
When purchasing fresh basil at the store or farmers market, look for an organic option. Organic fresh basil grows like a weed in the summertime and is readily available. Choose bright bunches of basil without blemishes, cuts, or torn leaves. Better yet, snag a pot of basil and keep it in a bright sunny place on your kitchen window, balcony, or deck. Hello, farm (or pot) to table!
Garlic, another key ingredient in this vegan pesto recipe, is also full of health benefits. Garlic’s potent compounds promote antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects while boosting the immune system. Garlic provides a spicy and potent bite to this pesto while complimenting the sweet taste of basil. If you don’t love garlic, reduce or omit garlic from the pesto recipe.
Other nutritious ingredients in this vegan pesto include olive oil, which is filled with healthy fats for hormone production and cell integrity, walnuts for even more healthy fats, and lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice contains vitamin C, antioxidants to quench free radicals, and folate.
Throwing together this vegan pesto couldn’t be easier. Simply place all five ingredients into a food processor and pulse. There’s no need to even chop the garlic or basil, as the food processor will take care of that for you!
To make a thicker texture of pesto, pulse walnuts in the food processor first. Pulse walnuts until slightly broken down and pour into a bowl. Pulse the remainder of the ingredients together in the food processor before adding in walnuts at the end.
Using a thicker texture pesto is great for pizzas, sandwiches, and dips.
How to Make Plant-Based Pesto
- 2 cups thickly packed fresh basil
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons walnuts or pumpkin seeds (you can add more or less depending on how thick and nutty you like your pesto)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients into a food processor. Pulse mixture off and on until pesto mixture is broken down and combined, about one minute or less.
- For a thicker texture, pulse mixture less.
- For an even thicker texture, pulse walnuts first in the food processor. Remove walnuts from food processor and add the other ingredients. Pulse mixture together until combined, add walnuts, and pulse once or twice more to fully combine.
- Pesto will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days.