Healthy Vegan Pesto Recipe

Updated on March 16, 2016
Turtlewoman profile image

Kim is a board-certified Holistic Health Coach, Healthy Living and Cleanse Consultant, and studied under Drs. Andrew Weil and Walter Willet.

4.1 stars from 19 ratings of Vegan Pesto Sauce

Easy and Healthy Vegan Pesto Recipe

I met up with an old friend from college last week for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she had adopted the vegan lifestyle a few months ago for various reasons. What was more surprising to hear was that she was starting to doubt that there are any delicious vegan recipes.

She looked great, felt great, yet was constantly thinking about cheese and pesto sauce. The way she talked about it- you would think she was describing a long lost lover from the past.

"I miss it..."

"I'm always thinking about it..."

I was super excited to introduce her to my "vegan" pesto sauce. I knew the star ingredient, nutritional yeast, would be able perfectly to fill that "void." Although it will never be the same, the way cheese feels and taste...all that sinful goodness that comes along with dairy.

I was confident to set them up, since I knew nutritional yeast has so many health benefits that would treat her even better!

My friend tried the vegan pesto sauce and called me to say:

"It opened up my taste buds to a whole new dimension!"

Now it's your turn to try it! It is seriously a delightful pesto sauce for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who wants to eat a nutritious, easy-to-make pesto sauce.

Pair this vegan pesto sauce with your favorite pasta. If you are gluten intolerant, try brown rice pasta, which is pasta made from a nutritious grain.

Considering the recipe can feed about 4 adults, vegan pesto sauce with pasta is a great family meal for those with allergies to gluten or dairy.

Vegan Pesto
Vegan Pesto | Source

Vegan Pesto: A Highly Nutritious Sauce

Whenever I make this dish, I am reminded of how satisfying it is to eat pasta that is both healthy and flavorful.

Traditional pesto is made from the basic olive oil, basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Substituting the cheese for nutritional yeast will still give it that creamy texture and rich flavor, with added nutritional bonus!

Most vegans I know had a hard time giving up cheese in the beginning, similar to my colleague. That's why nutritional yeast is such a popular substitution. Here's a quick rundown of how healthy nutritional yeast is. It didn't get it's name for no reason!

  • 18 essential amino acids
  • Vitamin B12, vitamin B6
  • Chromium, Magnesium, Copper, and Manganese
  • Folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacine, zinc, pantothenic acid
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Low amount of sodium and fat, and ZERO cholesterol
  • Low glycemic index of 1

I have not even begun to talk about the other healthy ingredients!

  • Basil is loaded with antioxidants and vitamin K
  • Olive oil, pine nuts and walnuts contain "good fats" that protect your heart

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 2 cups

TIP: To reduce the cost even further, you can substitute the pine nuts for walnuts or mix 50/50 ratio. You can buy pine nuts in bulk online to stretch your dollar further!

ANOTHER TIP: If you like a creamier and runnier consistency add a couple of tablespoons of water.


  • 3-4 cups basil, (I love basil, so I always put 4)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, (buy a really good quality!)
  • 1 organic lemon, (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts, (optional: walnuts)

*OPTIONAL, substitute 1 cup of basil for parsley

Healthy Vegan Pesto Sauce
Healthy Vegan Pesto Sauce | Source

Simple and Quick Instructions for Vegan Pesto

  1. Put basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, lemon in a food processor. Process until everything is combined and has a finely ground consistency.
  2. Add olive oil and nutritional yeast and continue to process until you get a creamy sauce.
  • If you don't care for garlic, leave it out. It's your kitchen- do as you please! Just remember to taste as you go!
  • Don't add the pesto directly to the pan when the pasta is still hot. It will change to a dark color and lose its vibrant green when exposed to high heat.

If you enjoyed my Vegan Pesto recipe, please share!

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    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 2 years ago from California

      Nima- haven't tried with peanuts yet- let me know how it turns out!

      I've used walnuts and sunflower seeds and they taste great- cheaper too.

    • profile image

      nima 2 years ago

      I think i am going to try pesto with peanuts. Has any one attempted so far?

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 3 years ago from California

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy it:-)

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 3 years ago from Miami Florida

      Thank you for the pesto recepy. You did good hub. I like it kim lam.

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      Toytasting- It really is that simple!! ;-) Hope you enjoy the pesto. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 4 years ago from Mumbai

      I am a huge fan of pesto sauce. Eating at various restaurants made me think, how difficult it would be to make this. You make it look so simple. I will try it out soon. Thanks for sharing the recipe. :)

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Realhousewife- thanks for linking! Love your cooking series...;-)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This looks wonderful! I was looking for a pesto spread that I could link to my newest hub - thank you so much and I can't wait to try it myself!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      You come up with the best vegan recipes! Who would have thought of substituting nutritional yeast for cheese? I'd even like to try this. Your photos look so tempting and the extra tips are helpful, such as not adding pesto to the hot pan. Voted up and shared!

    • FreezeFrame34 profile image

      FreezeFrame34 5 years ago from Charleston SC

      Thanks Turtlewoman for answering my question; this is a great recipe that I will have to try!

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Hi Peggy! Oh no, not a silly question at all. Don't use the peel and pulp! The yellow bits are actually the nutritional flakes. (and maybe smaller chunks of the garlic). Hope you like it...thank you for stopping by and voting. :-)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I love making various kinds of pesto but have never used nutritional yeast as a substitute. This may be a silly question regarding your lemon ingredient. Do you use all of it including the peel and pulp? It looked like it in that one photo with the yellow bits. Would undoubtedly be tasty. We love Parmesan cheese, but would try the yeast just to taste the difference. Voted up, interesting and useful. Thanks!

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Chestnuts....hmmm, haven't tried using that. Please let me know if works. Thanks- I appreciate your comment. :-)

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Very interesting recipe. I always find pine nuts are extremely expensive so tend to substitute with something like walnuts. I'm intrigued how chestnuts might work for a pesto as I know plenty I could pick on the autumn.

      I'm not a vegan but the nututritional yeast sounds interesting.

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 5 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Looks and sounds like a great recipe. I'm always looking for gluten & dairy free recipes. Look forward to more great recipes. Voted up!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I would love to make this. Veggin pesto is definitely something to look into. The crushed herbs and the green color really held my interest.

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Anglnwu- thank you for sharing...I appreciate it! I'm confident you will love nutritional yeast.

      Arlene- yes...walnuts and cashews are a great substitution! I've never even put any thought to how those darn pine nuts are gathered. Can't wait for your hub. Make sure you include pictures of you climbing the pine trees LOL. Thanks for stopping by....enjoy!

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

      Ah, the pesto recipe of my dreams, and I've grown more than enough basil this summer for several batches. Pine nuts are something like $19+ per pound here in Sacramento, so I guess I could use walnuts and cashews in the mix? What I should really do is ask my friend to show me how to gather pine nuts. Wouldn't that experience be worth a Hub? LOL!

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 5 years ago

      YOur pesto sauce looks decidedly appetizing. I've never use nutritional yeast but it sounds healthy and anything healthy is a good thing. Thanks for sharing and will share.

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Crystal and MsLizzy-I hope you enjoy the pesto! Take care,

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thanks Marcy, they're sold everywhere in health stores Trader Joe's. :-)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Beautiful! Wow - what a great picture, and the recipe sounds incredible! I'm not sure I've heard of rice pasta - where can we get it? Yummy!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      My, oh my, this sounds delicious! I'm printing this one out to try later.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Hmm... my recipe for pesto was vegan to start with...basil, garlic, olive oil, parsely, salt, pepper. no cheese I've never had pesto that had cheese in it... interesting.

      Thanks for sharing this delicious-sounding recipe with an extra nutritional kick. Voted up, useful and rated 5*'s. ;-)

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California just reminded me of my aunt's spaghetti squash! She grows them in her backyard. Thanks for the suggestion and the awesome comment.

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 5 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      This is a great recipe, speaking as someone who is always struggling to find good gluten free recipes for my family. And just a suggestion to make it a little more carb conscious, is that you can substitute the brown rice pasta with spaghetti squash. Cutting the calories and carbs allowing you to eat more!