Vegan pesto is a flavor gem for dairy-free diets, and can fit into almost any free-from dietary need, from gluten-free to Paleo. Though many varieties of pesto contain Parmesan, some store-bought brands are actually cheese-free, and you can easily make your own non-dairy vegan pesto at home.
It surprises many people to know that Parmesan isn’t actually a key ingredient in pesto. In reality, basil and good quality olive oil are the foundation of a top-notch pesto, the rest are simply flavor agents to customize the sauce to your personal tastes.
The recipe below is a wonderful, basic dairy-free and vegan pesto that you can customize to fit your mood and meal. Here are some ideas for variations on this simple recipe:
- Different nuts offer different flavor profiles; walnuts are particularly nice in vegan pesto, but you can use any nut you like in place of the pine nuts to shake things up a little.
- For nut-free, I adore sunflower seeds in vegan pesto. Simply replace the pine nuts with an equivalent amount of sunflower seeds.
- Add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the mix, either before blending or stirred in after for a chunky-style sauce.
- If you desire a bit of that Parmesan tang, add a twist of lemon to taste. You can also increase the salt for more intensity if desired.
- For a deeper cheesy vibe, add some nutritional yeast before blending. Start with a small amount (nutritional yeast can easily overpower), like 1 teaspoon, and add more to taste for a more pungent flavor.
- Swap half of the basil for another herb – mint leaves are actually an amazing flavor pairing with basil.
Special Diet Notes: Versatile Dairy-Free and Vegan Pesto
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.
- 1 cup basil
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- Place the pine nuts in a food processor, followed by the garlic, salt, oil, and finally the basil.
- Press down the basil before securing the lid.
- Pulse the ingredients about five times to initiate the mixing action.
- Blend the ingredients until they well combined, but still a little coarse.
This recipe is Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy free, Egg free, Gluten free, optionally Nut free (see notes above), Peanut free, Soy free, Wheat free, Sugar free