This is the best vegan walnut pesto recipe! It's healthy, easy to make in just 5 minutes, and has the most incredible flavour. This pesto sauce is made without pine nuts and instead uses walnuts, basil, and nutritional yeast. You'll love that this pesto is also dairy free and plant based and it makes the best dip, sauce, or spread.
Why you will love this recipe:
- It has an amazing flavour! It's creamy, garlicky, cheesy, and incredibly delicious.
- It's so quick and easy to make and is ready in less than 5 minutes!
- This vegan pesto with walnuts is not only delicious but healthy too! It is filled with heart-healthy fats, fresh herbs, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- This homemade walnut pesto uses simple ingredients you probably already have in your fridge and pantry, like fresh basil, walnuts, avocado oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, and lemon juice.
- This pesto sauce is made with walnuts instead of pine nuts so it's a more budget-friendly option, but it has the same taste and texture as traditional pesto.
- This basil walnut pesto is made with no cheese and no dairy and instead uses nutritional yeast to give it that "cheesy" flavour. This recipe is perfect if you are vegan or dairy free!
- Feel free to make a double or triple batch of this pesto dressing to have extra on hand for meal prep.
- You can use this pesto in so many ways including as a dip, sauce or marinade or to make a pesto sandwich!
Taste and texture:
This pesto sauce is smooth and creamy and has the most delicious flavour. The combination of walnuts, fresh herbs and lemon juice give this pesto the most bright and refreshing taste.
Key ingredients and substitutions:
- Fresh basil leaves - the base of this pesto sauce is fresh basil. Look for fresh leaves with a vibrant green color. To change up the flavour feel free to add a little fresh parsley, kale or even spinach to this pesto.
- Raw walnuts - walnuts give a delicious nutty flavour and texture to this pesto sauce. Walnuts are full of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In particular, walnuts are high in healthy polyunsaturated fats, and they also have a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have a higher antioxidant activity than any other commonly eaten type of nut. Be sure to use raw walnuts and not roasted or salted walnuts. Feel free to use cashews, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts instead.
- Avocado oil - this is what turns the basil and nuts into a delicious creamy sauce. You can also use olive oil if you prefer.
- Garlic - a key ingredient in pesto, fresh garlic adds a nice bold flavour. Feel free to add as much or as little as you like.
- Nutritional yeast - nutritional yeast gives the 'cheesy' taste and flavour while keeping this pesto dairy free and vegan. You can usually find nutritional yeast in the gluten free or organic sections of grocery stores. It is also readily available online.
- Lemon juice - adds a nice acidity and brightness to this sauce. Can be substituted for apple cider vinegar instead.
How to make this recipe:
First, put all the ingredients into a food processor.
Next, blend until everything is combined and you have a smooth sauce.
Tips and variations:
- Feel free to add an extra clove of garlic if you like more garlic flavour.
- Add as much salt and pepper as you like to this pesto recipe.
- Instead of walnuts you could use other nuts such as pine nuts, cashews, or sunflower seeds.
- To give this pesto an added flavour boost add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
- Instead of avocado oil you can use olive oil.
- Instead of lemon juice you can use apple cider vinegar.
- Add a little fresh parsley to turn this into vegan parsley walnut pesto and give this pesto a unique flavour.
- Feel free to add some fresh spinach or kale to make this into kale walnut pesto or spinach basil walnut pesto.
How to serve:
- Serve pesto over pasta or mix it into pasta sauces.
- Make pesto pasta salad.
- Use it as a salad dressing.
- As a dip for raw vegetables, crackers or bread.
- Serve it over pizza or breadsticks.
- Use it as a sauce on sandwiches, paninis, burgers, pitas, or wraps.
- To top roasted vegetables, meats, or tofu.
- It can be used as a marinade.
- Use it as a dip for vegan shrimp!
How to store:
Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for up to 7 days. The pesto may thicken a bit in the fridge - if it does stir in a little avocado oil or olive oil before serving.
Frequently asked questions:
Both extra virgin olive oil and basil when they are blended for too long in the food processor can cause your pesto to taste bitter. To avoid this problem, only blend your pesto sauce until it is smooth. This only takes about 1 - 2 minutes. You could also try using a more neutral-tasting oil such as avocado oil.
An easy substitution for pine nuts in pesto is either raw walnuts, sunflower seeds, or cashews. They are excellent at achieving that nutty taste and texture that pesto is famous for.
Yes! Nutritional yeast helps give vegan pesto a cheesy flavour to make it taste more like a classic pesto with cheese, but you could easily leave it out of the recipe. Just note that the pesto will be slightly thinner and will have a different flavour so you may want to add a few extra nuts instead.
Yes, you can make this into oil free walnut pesto by using water or vegetable broth instead of oil. Just note that this will change the flavour of the pesto.
Traditional pesto is not vegan because it contains parmesan cheese. However you can easily make pesto vegan by omitting the cheese and using nutritional yeast instead.
Other recipes you will love:
- Citrus Arugula Pesto
- Fresh Parsley Pesto
- Mango Habanero Salsa
- Vegan Sour Cream
- Vegan Mascarpone
- Turkey Pesto Sandwich
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Vegan Walnut Pesto
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- 1/2 cup avocado oil (or olive oil)
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
- Add all the ingredients to your food processor or high speed blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- This recipe yields just over a cup of pesto.
- Nutritional values are an estimate and will vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
- Store any leftover pesto in an airtight jar or container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
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