Vegan Pesto

No Parmesan? No problem. This easy vegan pesto recipe is a breeze to make, and it's every bit as bright, nutty, and delicious as the traditional version.

vegan pesto recipe

When I make pesto, I almost always make this vegan pesto recipe. Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional basil pesto, but this vegan version is just as good.

Classic pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. But my recipe calls for one extra ingredient: lemon juice. The lemon’s bright flavor perfectly balances the richness of the olive oil and elevates the fresh, garlicky, and nutty flavors of the other ingredients. Once you add it, the pesto has enough complexity to make the Parmesan cheese optional, and more often than not, I end up leaving it out. This vegan pesto recipe is a streamlined version of my regular recipe, without the Parmesan cheese. It’s lighter than traditional pesto, it comes together in minutes, and it’s totally delicious. Whether you’re vegan or not, I think you’re going to love it.

Vegan pesto recipe ingredients

Vegan Pesto Recipe Variations

You’ll find my go-to vegan pesto recipe at the bottom of this post. It’s delicious as written, but there are all sorts of tasty ways to change it up. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Switch the greens. When I have an abundance of fresh basil in the summertime, this vegan pesto recipe is my favorite way to use it. However, I love making this recipe with different herbs and greens too. Try replacing half the basil with arugula, kale, radish greens, parsley, or spinach. You could also skip the basil entirely and use a mix of parsley and cilantro or a 50/50 blend of fresh mint and spinach.
  • Swap the nuts. Almost any nut or seed works well in this vegan pesto recipe! I most often use pepitas or pine nuts, but almonds, cashews, walnuts, and sunflower seeds are great here too.
  • Make it cheesier. If you like your vegan pesto sauce to have a really cheesy flavor, blend in a tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Then, taste and adjust, adding more nutritional yeast if desired.
  • Or amp up the umami. If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, add 2 teaspoons of capers or 2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes to give your pesto a rich, savory flavor. Again, taste and adjust, and add more capers or sun-dried tomatoes to suit your tastes.

Vegan basil pesto in a food processor

How to Use Vegan Pesto

There are SO many ways to use this vegan pesto! These ideas are a great place to start:

How do you like to use vegan pesto? Let me know in the comments!

vegan pesto

More Favorite Spreads and Sauces

If you love this vegan pesto recipe, try one of these spreads, sauces, or salad dressings next:

For more delicious vegan recipes, check out this post!

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Vegan Pesto

rate this recipe:
5 from 40 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves 4
This gluten-free, vegan pesto recipe is just as good as traditional pesto, even without the cheese! It's delicious on pasta, pizza, crusty bread, and more. See the post above for additional serving suggestions.



  • In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and pulse until well chopped.
  • Add the basil and pulse until combined.
  • With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until combined.
  • For extra cheesy flavor, add 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast. For brinier flavor, add 2 teaspoons capers. For more umami, add 2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Briefly pulse to combine. Taste and adjust, adding more nutritional yeast, capers, or sun-dried tomatoes, as desired. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.


Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. Then, transfer the pesto cubes to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months.


5 from 40 votes (24 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Jana

    5 stars
    I have been making pesto for years but have been going dairy free due to allergies. I am so happy to find this recipe and like it so much better than using parmesan. It is healthy, bright and tangy and the whole family can enjoy it. Also more economical not using cheese and I sub toasted almonds.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Jana, I’m so glad you loved it!

  2. Jess

    I’ve made this many times we love it for a snack

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Jess, I’m so glad you love the pesto!

  3. Kylie

    5 stars
    This recipe has made me so happy. I am on a journey to try and cut out as much fat (especially saturated) in my diet and this has been a game changer.

    I always have cheese with my pasta and tonight I didn’t and I did not miss it at all. I just want to say thanks!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Kylie, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Natalia

    This recipe is a keeper , no doubtnabout it, amazing flavor , I didn’t have 2 cups of basil ,so I used 1 cup of basil and 1 cup of Malabar spinach from my garden , my whole my family love it!!

  5. Maria Emanuele

    How much of basil is needed for this recipe?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Maria, you’ll need 2 cups of basil leaves. You can find the measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  6. Jenny

    Love this recipe! I like going half-half pine nuts and toasted walnuts. When my garlic cloves are extra fat, I throw it in while roasting the walnuts to soften the flavor a bit. I prefer using a bottled Sicilian lemon juice as it’s a little mellower than fresh. A healthy teaspoon of nutritional yeast is a must for a creamy-umami boost. And I always find I need a little extra olive oil to loosen it up. Thanks for a vegan rendition that never misses the cheese!

  7. Caro

    5 stars
    This recipe is such a life saver! Been not restocking my parmesan cheese to save money, but this pesto is just as good without it. I live in Indonesia, where pine nuts are not readily available. The closest substitute here is the kenari nut i.e. Moluccan/Malay almond, which is widely available in baking supplies shops and is delicious in basil pesto. Cashews work well too! I also do not normally buy nutritional yeast so I used mushroom stock powder instead which adds its own kind of oomph. The garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil all synergise their magic in this pesto and bring out a wonderfull well rounded flavour. Will make again and recommend!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it!

  8. Leslie

    This was excellent with nutritional yeast. Would definitely recommend!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Caro

    5 stars
    This recipe is so good! I normally make pesto with these ingredients plus green olives and parmesan cheese, but today I have neither of those so I was worried. Thankfully this recipe is perfect.

    Pine nuts are difficult to source where I am, so I substituted with walnuts and cashews.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Caro, I’m so glad you enjoyed the pesto!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.