This Vegan Basil Pesto recipe is a dairy-free version of classic pesto that uses almonds or cashews for the creaminess. With fresh basil leaves, nuts, and flavorful seasonings, this pesto sauce will please everyone. Enjoy this quick and easy vegan pesto today with pasta, sandwiches, and many more!
Traditional basil pesto (Pesto alla Genovese) is an Italian sauce made with basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, and hard cheese like Parmesan cheese. It is usually hand-pounded using a mortar pestle, hence the name "pesto" (1).
After so many trials, I came up with this vegan cashew pesto recipe. I made this pesto recipe numerous times, and it tasted delicious every single time.
Unlike my other recipes, I always weigh the ingredients to make this vegan basil pesto. I strongly recommend weighing the ingredients as we cannot measure basil leaves accurately using measuring cups. But if you cannot access the weighing scale, I have mentioned rough estimates in cups.
Main Ingredients for Vegan Basil Pesto
Fresh basil leaves - I used homegrown basil leaves to make this pesto recipe. And you can also get them easily in markets. Pluck the basil leaves from their stems and wash them well. Dry them very well, and no water should be in them.
Almonds/Cashews - Traditional pesto uses pine nuts. I used raw almonds in this recipe, but toasted almonds also go well. I sometimes replace almonds with cashews or use half almonds and half cashews. Cashews will make the pesto more creamy when compared to almonds. To make this vegan pesto, you could use other nuts like pine nuts, walnuts, or seeds like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
Extra virgin olive oil - Olive oil gives taste and consistency to the sauce. However, we want to store the pesto sauce for a long time, so do not reduce the olive oil quantity.
Garlic - One or two pods of garlic will flavor the pesto. As we are using raw garlic, do not add more garlic. It might get pungent. You can skip the garlic if you do not like it.
Salt - I used pink salt, but sea salt also works here.
Pepper powder - Freshly ground black pepper will add spiciness to this pesto. If you want to make it spicier, add red chili flakes.
Lemon juice - Lemon juice will prevent basil leaves from oxidizing, and pesto will be vibrant green.
How to make vegan basil pesto with cashews or almonds
Step 1: Preparing Fresh Basil Leaves
- For authentic flavor and taste, fresh basil leaves play an important role. Carefully pluck the basil leaves from the stems.
- Gently rinse them in the water a couple of times and pat them dry using a clean towel. There should not be any water left out in the basil leaves. They should be dried thoroughly.
Step 2: Blending the Almond/Cashew Base
- Take a food processor and add all ingredients except basil leaves.
- And blend the ingredients into a rough paste.
- At this stage, it might look oily, but after adding basil leaves, the consistency of the pesto will change.
Step 3: Blending Your Vegan Basil Pesto
- Add the basil leaves to this base and blend it into a rough paste.
Step 4: Achieving Your Desired Consistency
- For a smoother consistency, blend it continuously until you reach the desired thickness. I like to keep it chunkier.
- You could grind it into a smooth consistency to use the pesto for pasta or as a sandwich spread.
Step 5: Taste Testing and Adjusting Flavors
- At this stage, taste the pesto and adjust the salt and pepper.
Step 6: Proper Storage for Freshness
- Transfer the pesto to an airtight container. I like to store it in the glass containers.
- To prevent the oxidation, I drizzle a thin layer of olive oil. This will help in preserving the vibrant green color of the pesto.
Recipe Notes & Variations
- After washing basil leaves, I always dry them thoroughly. There should not be any water left out in them. Water will spoil the sauce, and we cannot store it for more days.
- To dry the basil leaves, spread them on a kitchen towel and leave them aside for a couple of hours. If I am out of time, I use my dehydrator to dry the leaves. Basil leaves will only take 10 to 15 minutes to dry thoroughly. Do not leave them in the dehydrator for a long time.
- You can use half almonds and half cashews to make this vegan pesto. Basil pesto with cashews will be more creamy and delicious.
- If you have to make nut-free pesto, use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds to make this pesto.
- In this recipe, I am using a food processor. But you could make pesto using a blender or Nutri Bullet as well.
- This basil cashew pesto recipe is naturally gluten-free. As we use almonds or cashews instead of cheese, it is dairy-free.
- You could add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast to make it more cheesy.
Creative Ways to Enjoy Vegan Pesto
This pesto sauce is versatile, and you can use it in many ways. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve this vegan pesto sauce.
- As dipping sauce: This pesto makes an ideal dipping sauce for raw veggies, steamed veggies, roasted veggies, crackers, nachos, or breadsticks.
- For seasoning: If you feel cooked quinoa or cooked millet is bland, add a teaspoon of this pesto to season the quinoa or millet. And you can turn this seasoned quinoa or millet into delicious salads or serve it as a side dish.
- As pizza sauce: Though I do not like to cook this basil pesto sauce, I use this homemade pesto as pizza sauce. This basil sauce will fix your pizza cravings for sure.
- As a sandwich spread: Basil pesto makes a flavorful sandwich spread. I add a teaspoon of water to a teaspoon of pesto and whisk it well to make it a creamy spread.
- As a salad dressing: Instead of regular lemon olive oil dressing, you can use pesto sauce as a salad dressing. You can add a teaspoon of water and whisk it well for a creamy dressing.
- All-purpose sauce: Pesto is a versatile ingredient, and you can use it in many ways. If you are out of time, you can use this flavorful sauce for pasta, as taco or tortilla sauce. You can even serve this with grain bowls. Just a dollop of pesto on roasted veggies makes them more delicious.
How to store vegan basil pesto
As I am not using water in this recipe, this basil pesto keeps well for about a month in the refrigerator. Make sure to dry the basil leaves after cleaning them with water thoroughly.
If you want to store this almond pesto for more days, you can freeze it. Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays or small silicone molds so we can easily thaw the required amount.
As you are here, you will like my other dip recipes
Vegan Basil Pesto with Almonds/Cashews (Easy Dairy-free Pesto)
- Food processor
- 100 gms fresh basil leaves around 5 cups fresh basil leaves
- 100 gms almonds or cashews (around ¾ cup)
- 100 gms extra virgin olive oil approximately ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic pods
- ½ teaspoon pepper powder
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Take a food processor or blender jar.
- Add almonds or cashews, garlic, black pepper powder, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the food processor.100 gms almonds, 100 gms extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic pods, ½ teaspoon pepper powder, ½ teaspoon lemon juice, Salt to taste
- Blend these ingredients into a rough paste, which will be the pesto's base.
- Now add basil leaves to the food processor and blend it continuously until you reach the desired consistency. If you wish, you can grind it into a smooth paste. I like it to be a little chunkier.100 gms fresh basil leaves
- Transfer this vegan pesto sauce into clean, dry glass jars or airtight containers. Top the basil pesto with some olive oil to prevent oxidization.
- Enjoy this vegan basil pesto with cashews/almonds that is flavorful and delicious.
- Adjust olive oil according to your preference.
- This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a month.
- To keep it fresh, store this in an airtight glass container.
- Top it with olive oil to prevent oxidization.
- Cashews can be replaced with almonds or walnuts or pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.