This vegan basil walnut pesto recipe is fresh, flavorful and rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. It is incredibly easy and fast to make, and can be used to flavour a variety of dishes.
This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, and is compliant with the elimination diet, low acid diet, low carb/keto, low FODMAP, and paleo/autoimmune paleo (AIP) diets.
Equipment you will need for this recipe
- Blender or food processor
- Measuring cups and spoons
Recipe substitutions or variations
Fresh basil substitutions: Instead of using fresh basil, you could also swap it out for any other fresh herb or mixture of herbs. Here is a handy guide for making pesto without basil.
Garlic infused olive oil substitutions: Feel free to use regular olive oil in this recipe. If you still want the garlic flavour though, you can add one or two fresh garlic cloves or ½ teaspoon of garlic powder.
Walnut substitutions: Instead of using walnuts, this recipe is also excellent with pecans. Or to make a more classic pesto, you can use pine nuts. This recipe would go well with any other type of nut. The world is your oyster!
Nutritional yeast substitutes: Instead of nutritional yeast, you can swap it out for vegan parmesan. Or if you tolerate dairy, feel free to use regular cow’s milk parmesan cheese.
Make this recipe lower calorie/fat: Reduce the amount of olive oil from 3/4 cup down to ¼ to ½ cup. If you lower the amount of olive oil though, you will likely need to use a food processor as a blender often needs more liquid to break everything down. You can use a spatula to scrape everything from the sides down (NOT while blending) and continue to go between pulsing and scraping until everything has broken down to the consistency you want.
Make this recipe lower oxalate: Instead of using walnuts, use either pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
Recipe pairing ideas
There are a million ways to eat this basil walnut pesto sauce, but here are some of my favourites:
- Use your pesto as a pasta sauce. A true classic!
- Drizzle your pesto on baked or grilled meats or seafood. I’ve tried it on chicken, cod, shrimp, and even steak.
- Use it on scrambled eggs, sunny side up or even on top of an eggs benedict.
- Add some flavour to your roasted vegetables after you take them out of the oven.
- Drizzle pesto on your pizza. It goes great with a margarita pizza or classic cheese pizza.
- Use it as a salad dressing. Sounds strange but trust me!
The classic nut to use in pesto recipes is the pine nut, but you can also use pecans, walnuts, and even almonds, cashews, pistachios, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Pretty much all nuts mix well with good quality olive oil and fresh basil or other herbs. You can’t go wrong!
Pestos can be made with many different types of herbs. I’ve personally made pesto with basil, cilantro and even dill. Depending on what type of dish you are making, and what herbs go well with that dish, you can very easily come up with your own style of pesto that will work with it. You can also use parsley, mint, sage, and even most greens such as arugula, spinach or micro greens.
It is natural for your olive oil to start separating from the herbs, cheese and nuts after your pesto sits for a while. This does not mean you have done anything wrong. Simply use a spoon to evenly mix your pesto before serving.
Pesto freezes quite well. So if you make a large batch and you can’t use it up, you can store it in a small glass container or even multiple small containers if you want to be able to take out one or more servings at a time to use with your meals.
Many recipes call for blanching basil. This is generally for colour and textural purposes. However, you do not need to blanch basil to make an amazing pesto. In fact, I find using fresh un-blanched basil makes the freshest, most tasty pesto. It’s also easier and faster.
The majority of pesto recipes call for parmesan cheese, but you can also use romano for a stronger flavour. To make your pesto vegan, use nutritional yeast, vegan parmesan cheese, or other dairy free cheese alternatives.
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Basil Walnut Pesto Recipe (Vegan)
- Blender or food processor
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 cup garlic infused olive oil (or regular olive oil + 1 garlic clove)
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Remove the stems from your fresh basil and once you’ve got roughly 2 cups worth, put it into your food processor or blender.
- Pour in ¾ cup of olive oil. Add your walnuts, nutritional yeast and salt on top. Using a spatula, push everything down as far as you can into the bottom of your blender or food processor.
- Plug your blender or food processor in and blend until everything breaks down into a pesto sauce consistency.
- Serve immediately!
Tara Klippert is a Registered Health and Nutrition Counselor and holds a diploma in Holistic Nutrition and Health Coaching. She shares her gluten free, dairy free & allergy friendly recipes.