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Simple Vegan Pesto

This easy vegan pesto recipe is packed full of fresh basil and delicious flavor. It's dairy free, and so much tastier than store-bought pesto. Only five ingredients, and you can make it in minutes!

vegan pesto-feature

As the weather starts to warm up, and things begin to bloom outside, I start to think about planting some herbs. The first herb that always pops into my mind is BASIL.

I love basil. I love it all year round, but during the spring and summer months I could eat it almost every day, in any dish, in any form.

One of my favorite things to do when I have an abundance of basil in my herb garden (or when I see a great deal on basil at the store) is to make pesto.


I make my own vegan pesto without cheese for two reasons:

  1. I think homemade pesto just tastes better
  2. My daughter is allergic to dairy, and almost all store bought pesto contains parmesan cheese

When I first started experimenting with making vegan pesto, I expected it to taste like something was missing. But as I continued to tweak the recipe, I discovered that I actually liked pesto better WITHOUT the parmesan cheese.

It's just lighter and fresher (especially with the addition of fresh lemon juice), and the flavors taste brighter.

Homemade vegan pesto ingredients:

  • basil
  • pine nuts
  • lemon juice
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • (plus a little salt)

Of course, you can always add cheese to this recipe if you love parmesan in your pesto; or you can do what I do...shave a little bit of fresh parmesan over the top of whatever dish you're serving with your pesto.


Homemade pesto making tip:

Although I've tested this recipe multiple times and these are the proportions that worked best for me, you may need to adjust some of your ingredients after you've blended it together.

Depending on the age/potency of your lemon, garlic, and salt, you may find them a little too strong or a little too weak for your taste.

The nice thing about making pesto is that you can keep adding a little of this and a little of that until it comes out completely perfect.


Can you make pesto without a food processor?

Technically yes. You can chop everything by hand, but the texture will definitely be different, and it will be very time consuming.

If you are up for the challenge, this article beautifully explains how to chop pesto by hand like an Italian grandmother. :) It's actually sort of inspiring, and I might try making it this way one of these days.

Shortcuts and Substitutions:

  • If you're short on basil, or you want to experiment with different flavors, you can substitute arugula, spinach, cilantro, kale, or parsley (or any combination of these greens).
  • You can also swap out the type of nut you use in this pesto recipe. Look for a creamy nut, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, or sunflower seeds.
  • This pesto should stay fresh in a sealed container for about a week, but if you've got leftovers you can freeze in an ice cube tray to add flavor to pasta sauces or soups.

Favorite Ways to Use Pesto:

  • Stir into warm or cold pasta (Chicken with Pesto Pasta and Vegetables is a fantastic dinner idea).
  • Use it to dress a pasta salad
  • Spread on a slice of tomato when making a Caprese salad
  • Use in a sandwich (a turkey and pesto sandwich is a favorite of ours)
  • Spread onto toasted baguette slices for an easy appetizer
  • Combine with chopped tomato, chopped buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil
  • Use in place of tomato sauce on a homemade pizza, even if using store-bought pizza crust
  • Mix with mayo for an easy dipping sauce or sandwich spread
  • Use as a topping for chicken, fish or steak
  • Stir into scrambled eggs

Simple Vegan Pesto

This dairy free, vegan pesto recipe is bright, lemony, and full of flavor.
4.79 from 28 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 134kcal
Author: Kate


  • 3 cups basil moderately packed
  • juice of one small-medium lemon
  • c pine nuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ c extra virgin olive oil


  • In a food processor, combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Pulse until evenly chopped. Slowly add in the olive oil through the top of the processor. Pulse until evenly combined, but not completely smooth.


Calories: 134kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 80mg | Vitamin A: 635IU | Vitamin C: 2.5mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 0.8mg


Recipe Rating

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Sunday 6th of August 2023

Yummy recipe! I swapped the pine nuts for salted cashews and added a bit less salt. Perfect!


Tuesday 10th of May 2022

Tastey, and good. If you taste it withour the pasta or whatever you are mixing it with, yes it is pretty salty. (a little too much salt) Then I added more walnuts, and baisel leaves and then I mixed it with the pasta, and it tasted great! Over all salty, but when I added the pasta it was good.


Thursday 2nd of June 2022

Thanks Jenerson! Yes, this sauce is definitely meant to go on something, not be eaten on its own. :)


Saturday 23rd of January 2021

Fantastic recipe! The best PESTO I have made . Thanks !


Monday 19th of October 2020

Thank you, thank you for sharing this yummy, flavorful recipe!  I start my day with a generous spoonful of this fresh pesto over scrambled eggs, and it keeps me full and satisfied till lunch time.  This is fabulous over boring  steel cut oats, too.  No more unhealthy snacking and I've been able to lose some weight.  


Tuesday 20th of October 2020

That's great to hear! Thanks for leaving a comment.


Wednesday 5th of August 2020

Absolutely amazing pesto! Thank you! I poured the pesto over zucchini noodles, broccolini and cherry tomatoes. It was delicious and I love that it’s vegan and still tastes amazing! 

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