This easy Vegan Walnut Pesto recipe only requires 9 simple ingredients and comes together in 5 minutes. Packed with healthy fats it's the perfect quick and easy yet nourishing dinner when combined with pasta.
This basil walnut pesto recipe is a classic pesto recipe that only requires a couple of simple ingredients.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- It's a great recipe when you're short on time!
- There's no cooking required (which also means less dishes to wash up).
- It's meal prep and freezer-friendly.
- It's dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free and soy-free.
Ingredients & Substitution Notes
- Walnuts: Pesto recipes typically call for pine nuts but this recipe is made with raw walnuts. You could roast them in the oven for a couple of minutes to bring out the flavors even more. That's totally optional though.
- Olive Oil: Try to opt for a good quality oil such as extra virgin olive oil. It has a very distinct flavor and pairs very well with the fresh greens and nuts. Alternatively, you could use avocado oil but this will result in a slightly different taste.
- Garlic Powder: Is used instead of fresh garlic because it's often time easier to digest for people than raw garlic. You could however, use a fresh garlic clove instead or sub onion powder if you don't like garlic at all.
- Fresh Basil: Adds some lovely fresh flavors and give this pesto its bright green colour. Fresh green herbs are essential for this pesto's taste so don't skip them. If you're not a fan of basil you could try parsley or cilantro instead.
- Nutritional Yeast: This will add some delicious cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast flakes usually can be found in bigger grocery stores or health food stores. Vegan parmesan cheese would make a great substitute.
- Fresh Lemon Juice: Adds some tangy fresh lemon flavors. Could be replaced with lime juice.
- Pasta: Any type of pasta would would taste great with this pesto such as spaghetti, tagliatelle or penne. Simply choose your favorite pasta.
How to Make Vegan Walnut Pesto
This Walnut Basil Pesto is ready within minutes and super simple to make.
Step 1: Cook Pasta (optional)
If you descide to enjoy it with pasta right away, start by preparing your pasta.
Bring a big pot of water to boil. Generously season with a pinch of salt and cook your pasta of choice according to package instructions.
Step 2: Make pesto
Set aside half of the olive oil. Put all of the remaining ingredients into a food processor and blend until you'll end up with a thick sauce. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Pour in the remaining half of the oil while the food processor is running. If you don't have that option with your food processor, simply add all of the oil at once and scrape down the sides more frequently.
If you can, opt for the smaller bowl of your food processor to ensure that all of the ingredients are blended equally.
Step 3: Mix together (optional)
Add the pesto to the hot pasta and stir until well combined.
To prepare this walnut pasta sauce at home, you'll need either a blender or a food processor.
- Food processor: My favorite way of preparing this pesto is in a (small) food processor. The sauce doesn't need to be blended until completely smooth- we actually want to little pieces of walnuts left.
- Blender: A blender with a small container or a container that's narrow at the bottom will also work. The pesto might not be blended sufficiently in a large container. I have not tried making this recipe in an immersion blender as I think there's not enough liquid for a stick blender to work.
- Oil-Free: For an oil-free walnut pesto recipe, you could use and avocado for a creamy pesto and replace the oil with veggie broth. Start with ¼ cup of broth and gradually add more until you end up with a desired consistency.
- Nut-Free: It's hard to make this recipe nut-free but you could try using sunflower seeds instead of walnuts. Please note that this will result in a different taste and we have not tested this recipe using sunflower seeds.
- Gluten-Free: Choose a gluten-free pasta of choice to make this recipe gluten-free.
- Wheat-Free: You might want to try using vegetable noodles such as zucchini noodles or carrot noodles if you can't have any wheat.
- Leafy Greens: Feel free to add a handful of baby spinach or baby kale for some additional nutrients and flavors.
- Protein: Add a handful of thawed peas for some extra plant based protein.
- Roasted Vegetables: such as oven-roasted cherry tomatoes or asparagus make a great addition to this homemade pesto pasta.
- Spice it up: Create a spicier pesto version by adding some chili or red pepper flakes.
There are so many ways to enjoy this vegan pesto sauce.
- Pizza: Top your favorite pizza with a couple of tablespoons of pesto to create some additional flavor. It also could also be used instead of regular tomato sauce.
- Sandwiches & Toast: This pesto makes a great spread on sandwiches and toast. Sprinkle with some red chili flakes and enjoy as a quick and easy snack!
- Wraps & Quesadillas: The pesto tastes amazing in Italian flavored wraps or quesadillas.
- Dip: Enjoy this pesto as a dip on bread sticks, veggie sticks or crackers!
- Salad Dressing: Makes a great salad dressing! Simply add a couple of tablespoons to your favorite salad.
- Hummus: It also tastes great mixed into hummus and other spreads.
- To store: Place leftover pesto into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Give it a good stir before using it.
- To freeze: Freeze pesto in a ziplock bag or freeze it using an ice cube tray. That way you'll have frozen pesto cubes ready to be used.
- To reheat: If frozen, let thaw at room temperature overnight. Gently reheat in a smalls saucepan, adding a little water or vegetable broth. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Alternatively, you could reheat the pesto in the microwave using a microwave-friendly jar.
- Roast Walnuts: To bring out the flavors even more, place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for 5 minutes at 350F (180C). Make sure not to burn them though or they might turn bitter.
- Pasta: For Pasta recipes to reach their full potential, the pasta itself is almost as important as the sauce. Make sure you don't overcook the pasta and follow the package instructions for an al-dente pasta.
- Add-Ins: Play around with different flavors by adding more ingredients. Get some ideas above.
Yes, simple replace the nutritional yeast flakes with vegan parmesan instead. If you don't need this recipe to be vegan you could try any other hard cheese such as pecorino or grana padano.
I'm afraid not. You could try using a mortar and pestle but we've never tried making this pesto that way.
Traditional pesto recipes usually contain cheese and often also milk powder. The recipe below will result in a dairy-free pesto that's just as delicious.
Sure, you can add as much basil as you like. More will result in richer flavors. Since basil is essential in a pesto recipe, it cannot be omitted. You could try using parsley instead but the taste will be different.
Vegan Walnut Pesto (5 min)
- ¾ cup raw walnuts
- 2 cups basil (2 large handfuls) *pre-washed
- 3 tablespoon nutrional yeast *or vegan parmesan
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove *minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Set aside half of the olive oil.
- Put all of the remaining ingredients into a food processor and start blending. Scrape down the sides a couple of times.
- Pour in the rest of the olive oil while the food processor is still running. If that's not possible then add all of the olive oil at once and scrape down the sides as needed.
- Taste and adjust flavor (more nutritional yeast, basil, salt...).
- If you prefer a thinner sauce, add more oil/ vegetable broth until desired consistency.
- Equipment: You'll need a (small) food processor to prepare this pesto. The sauce doesn't need to be blended until completely smooth- we actually want to little pieces of walnuts left.
- Oil-Free: For an oil-free walnut pesto recipe, add one avocado and replace the oil with veggie broth. Start with ¼ cup of broth and gradually add more until you end up with a desired consistency. Making pesto without oil is possible but will result in a different taste and consistency.
- Storage: To store: Place leftover pesto into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Give it a good stir before using it. To freeze: Freeze pesto in a ziplock bag or freeze it using an ice cube tray.
- Recipe makes about ½ cup of pesto (~170g)