Nothing says spring like pesto — the burst of fresh basil awakens the mind and stimulates the senses. This vegan pesto recipe uses walnuts instead of pine nuts. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1. Walnuts are what I happened to have in my cabinet. 2. Pine nuts are mad expensive and this was not for a special occasion 3. Walnuts have tons of nutrients the body needs (omegas, b6, vitamin e, etc). and 4. You don’t always have to play by the rules! Cooking is often about tradition, but it’s also very much about spontaneity and convenience.
Why is pesto not vegan?
Pesto is traditionally not vegan because it has parmigiano reggiano cheese mixed into it. For this reason, it’s very hard to find vegan at the supermarket or out at a restaurant. Luckily, if you have a food processor it’s super easy to make pesto at home, and more delicious too. Plus, there are no cows tortured to make your vegan pesto sauce, which is a huge bonus in my book.
Vegan pesto without nutritional yeast
Another variation is that this vegan pesto recipe does not have nutritional yeast. I love it with nutritional yeast but, in the name of convenience, I only had vegan parmesan on hand so that’s what I used this time. This worked out wonderfully because the original nonvegan pesto uses parmigiano reggiano. I realize some people try to avoid nutritional yeast so this recipe is a great option for you.
HOWEVER, to be honest I think it’s even better with nutritional yeast than vegan parmesan. It lends more of a cheesy flavor and marries perfectly with whatever nut you are using. For this reason, I will be putting a note about switching parmesan for nutritional yeast.
Pesto Without a Food Processor
I assume every person on the planet has a food processor because it’s my favorite kitchen appliance in existence. However, I’m shocked by how many people don’t. Many times I plan to make this at a family member’s home or AirBNB or close friend’s house and realize they don’t have a food processor! So there have been countless times I’ve had to make pesto without a food processor.
Actually, not using a food processor is the way that the old Italian grandmas used to make it once upon a time. Food processors didn’t always exist, so sometimes I really enjoy making pesto with a good sharp knife and mad chiffonade skills. It connects me to the ancestor spirits.
To make pesto without a food processor, all you need is time, patience and a super sharp knife. Here’s the method:
- Get a good, large, very sharp knife like a mezzaluna knife or similar.
- Chop very fine the garlic and a portion of the basil leaves. As you chop, continue to add the basil leaves until all are finely chopped. about 5 minutes.
- Next, add half of your walnuts and chop. Then add the rest of the walnuts and chop until all it incorporated and tiny. The whole chopping process will take about 15-20 minutes.
- Now, transfer the basil, garlic and walnuts to a bowl, add parmesan and olive oil, and mix to incorporate.
Vegan Pesto Recipe with Walnuts and Basil
- 4oz (114 g) Basil, rinsed and removed from stalk
- 1/4 cup walnuts (I used raw but roasted is fine)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 4 tbsp vegan parmesan (I used Follow Your Heart brand)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add all ingredients to a food processor
- Process until smooth and combined. Do not over process or it can bruise the basil and create a bitter flavor.
There are countless ways to use pesto, here are some ideas:
- Use as sauce for 10 oz of your favorite pasta with veggies. For this, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water and mix in when adding the pesto to your cooked pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve as appetizer dipping sauce for veggie meatballs with toothpicks
- Use on toasted Italian bread to make a pesto bruschetta topped with some chopped tomato
- Spread on any of your favorite sandwiches
- Use as a drizzle on vegan white pizza
- Subbing nutritional yeast. You can sub nutritional yeast by putting 4 tbsp of nutritional yeast rather than vegan parmesan.
- Adding water. To make it more smooth, light and creamy, add 3 tbsp of water
Calories in Vegan Pesto
This vegan pesto recipe contains 786 calories in total. It can serve 6-8 people, making each serving 98-131 calories per serving. Most of the calories come from olive oil, so if you are looking to cut calories, feel free to cut the amount of olive oil in half and sub with water.
Can you Freeze Vegan Pesto?
Yes, you can freeze vegan pesto. To freeze, place in an air-tight container and cover with a thin layer of olive oil before covering. This will minimize the browning of the pesto. It can be stored for up to 6 months. This is actually a great idea, especially if you have an herb garden with tons of basil that would otherwise go to waste.
To thaw and use pesto after freezing, simply defrost in the fridge overnight and mix with fork to smooth. Or you can use defrost setting on your microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until ready. After thawing, be sure to use within 5 days (do not re-freeze).
What’s your favorite way to use vegan pesto? Share your thoughts and enjoy this spring favorite!