This vegan pesto is the easiest and tastiest recipe you’ll make all week! Simply toss all ingredients in a blender, then serve over your favorite pasta. This classic recipe is exploding with fresh, bright, and savory flavor!
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m kind of famous for my pesto. Even cheese-lovers rave about my cheese-less pesto! It was just sort of a recipe that evolved over time based on my dietary restrictions. Growing up, my mom would take me to the local farmer’s market on Saturdays and this one bread stand would hand out samples of thick sliced bread with a big ole’ slathering of pesto on it. It was my FAVORITE part of the farmers market and truly where my deep love of pesto began.
When I moved away for college, I had no choice but to start making pesto myself. Also, around this same time is when I started experimenting with a dairy and gluten-free diet. So one day I randomly decided to just leave the parmesan cheese out of my pesto and see how I’d like it. And well, I LOVED it! Then I began playing around with different nuts in my pesto – the traditional recipes call for pine nuts but those can be pretty hard to come by. So I tried literally every nut I could think of and ultimately landed on cashews for creating the best and creamiest vegan pesto EVER. This recipe is perfectly tangy, incredibly fresh, and tastes just as good as (if not better than) the stuff I used to get at the farmer’s market growing up!
What You Need To Make Vegan Pesto
Basil – If you’re growing basil this year, definitely use it in this vegan pesto! I love doubling or tripling this recipe at the end of summer and freezing leftovers to make sure none of that gorgeous, fresh basil goes to waste. And if you don’t have your own basil plant, simply pick up a package of this delicious herb the next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market. To prepare the basil for this recipe, start by giving it a quick rinse under cold water. Once clean, remove the leaves from the stems and add them to your blender. When I say “2 heaping cups,” I mean 2 HEAPING cups – pack that basil in there, and throw in a little extra if you’d like!
Cashews – Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, but this vegan pesto tastes even better with cashews. Cashews do an incredible job at contributing an almost cheesy flavor to this pesto, in the absence of parmesan cheese! Though feel free to use any nut or seed you’d like to in this recipe. Walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds would all make great substitutions. However, whichever option you choose, please make sure that it is raw and, most importantly, unsalted!
Lemon Juice – Lemon juice adds a touch of brightness to this pesto and emphasizes the delicious fresh flavor. Start small on the lemon juice and add more to taste. I loooove a super lemony pesto so I tend to go a bit crazy, but feel free to customize this recipe to your liking! If you don’t have lemon juice, you can use a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar instead.
Adjust This Recipe To Your Dietary Needs
- Make it Nut-Free: Use raw and unsalted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in place of the cashews to make this a nut-free pesto!
- Make it Oil-Free: Substitute 2-3 tablespoons of water for the olive oil in this recipe.
- Add Cheese: Throw 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese in with the rest of the ingredients if you’d like.