My Favorite Vegan Pesto Recipe

by Gena on May 30, 2013


I consider pesto a fridge/freezer staple, and I make it so often that I often forget it’s not traditionally a vegan recipe. Classic pesto calls for parmesan cheese (or occasionally pecorino) for saltiness, flavor, and umami. Fortunately, nutritional yeast can supply each and every one of those qualities, and it renders vegan pesto every bit as scrumptious as the traditional stuff.

You may already prepare vegan pesto without nutritional yeast, and that’s fine. Many of my own pesto recipes don’t include it, especially the less conventional ones (like my hemp pesto). If you’re craving a truly authentic experience, though, it’s worth using a bit of nooch. I think it makes pesto a lot richer.


To get this simple recipe for vegan pesto, head on over to Food52 for today’s New Veganism column. And enjoy! I’ll be back tomorrow with my next installment of Vida Vegan Con 2013: The Retrospective.


All photos by James Ransom for Food52.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy May 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

I make a vegan pesto with arugula, spinach, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and nutritional yeast. Sometimes I add some jalapeno. Its fabulous.


Sarah C. May 30, 2013 at 11:17 am

That sounds awesome. We make an arugula pesto by itself, but I think this combo sounds delicious! I’ve got bags of farmer’s market arugula and spinach in the fridge, just waiting to be made into pesto!


Gena May 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Ummm, that DOES sound fabulous, Tracy! I can’t wait to try it myself :)


Christa @ Edible Balance May 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

yummm… I’m such a fan! I made a pesto the other day with cilantro/parsley/sunflower seed/rice bran oil/oregano/garlic/nutritional yeast and tossed it with brown rice pasta. Sometimes I forget how easy it is to make and how delicious it is. The flavor possibilities are endless :)


Abby May 30, 2013 at 11:11 am

Oh man. Pesto is most certainly the best-o in my book, as lame as that sounds. The two things I “miss” the most since going vegan are Amy’s Organic pesto pizza and pesto tortellini. But I’ve found that it was really just the pesto herbiness I loved and not the cheese, for example, so I’ve taken to adding it to everything!


erin May 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Can’t wait to try this…

p.s. where did you get the glass container and what brand is it? I MUST GET SOME!! thanks


Gena May 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm


The Food52 folks styled it! Sorry not to know…



goldenpoppy June 1, 2013 at 11:50 am

Looks like a weck jar!


wendy (healthy girl's kitchen) May 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I’m so going to make this for my 8 year old daughter. She just discovered that she loves pesto and I was thinking yesterday that I need to find a killer vegan version of it to make for her. Off to the grocery store!


Gena May 30, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Hooray! I hope she enjoys it, Wendy.


Abby May 31, 2013 at 7:01 am

You’re obviously doing something right if she’s 8 and loves pesto. Mom of the Year! :)


the delicate place May 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

umami indeed! i really enjoyed the first recap of the conference, it’s really fun to see on the go vegan eats and what interesting dishes they have at the conference itself!


Elisabeth May 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm

This is perfect timing! I just got some basil plants last weekend, and I’ve been meaning to make some pesto. Your recipe looks super simple and delicious; thanks, Gena!

Also, I must say that nutritional yeast really enhances any savory food. I enjoy making my own vegetable broth and adding a few tablespoons of nooch to it does wonders for the stock’s umami factor!


Easy Vegan Recipes May 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm

You know what pesto is my favorite too and I lovin it .


Reba - Not So Perfect Life May 31, 2013 at 10:43 am

I love pesto! Thanks for the new recipe.


coffeediva May 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm

This sounds so delicious. I will most definitely give it a try. I agree about having pesto handy at all times. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Have a good day :-)


Jenni May 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I love anything with nooch. Best vegan ingredient ever. (Well, at least one of the best.) I can’t wait to try this!


d June 1, 2013 at 8:27 am

what kind of bread do you eat?


Gena June 3, 2013 at 7:13 am

All kinds, but usually Ezekiel sprouted grain bread. It’s very wholesome, rich in protein, and high quality :-)


Mary Dewitte June 4, 2013 at 9:08 am

This is a great vegan recipe! My husband and I love pesto. I would love to try it! Thanks for sharing. :-D


Michelle June 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

My new favorite nut for pesto is pistachios! SO.GOOD.

No idea why I never thought to use them before seeing the recipe, but so grateful for the idea!


Jenny Lo June 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Mmm cant wait to try and mix that with some good ol Spaghetti!!


Jen x


Alexandra @ Delicious Knowledge June 25, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Gorgeous photo! I love a bit of nooch in my pesto, I really notice it when I decide to leave it out. I have been on a pesto kick the past few weeks and am excited to try this one! I love it on steamed veggies.


wtf September 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

Ok and where’s the recipe?


Marleen April 7, 2014 at 2:05 am

I’m vegetarian, but have a friend who eats vegan. Would love to make my pesto vegan friendly.. Just leave out the parmesan, is that enough?
Is the nutritional yeast to add nutrients, or also flavor?

For i also don’t see any recipe.. I soak almonds & sunflowers seeds to make mine, extra nutriĆ«nts :)


Marleen April 7, 2014 at 2:06 am

Seeing the comment on pistachio’s.. Have you ever had Tamari cashews?
They taste almost the same.. without needing to peel!
So maybe add some tamari? and make this with (soaked) cashews ;-)


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