Pesto is something I used to shy away from since it often contains Parmesan cheese. As I have decided to cut out dairy from my life, that no longer works for me. After some internet research, however, I discovered there were vegan options that actually had some potential.

Most pesto recipes contain the same ingredients: basil (or some other leafy green vegetable), pine nuts (or other type of nut), lemon juice, garlic, salt, black pepper, and oil (typically olive oil). After messing around with the quantities, I came up with my own version that is my go-to for quick, easy, no-fail pesto. Here’s what you’ll find in this post:

Step-by-step photo instructions

1. Soak pine nuts in salt water for 4-6 hours. If you’re in a rush, you can skip this step.

2. Drain and rinse the pine nuts. Pat dry, then add to a food processor and roughly chop. The drier they are, the easier they are to chop. Chopping them by themselves helps them combine well with the other ingredients.

3. Rinse basil and pat dry. Add to the food processor. The drier the leaves, the easier it will be to finely chop them.

4. Add the remaining ingredients, then blend into a fine paste. The smoother, the better.

5. Add in oil, and blend to combine.

Ways to change it up

There are many ways to change up this recipe, and I have gathered a list of a few things I have seen:

  • Use more oil for a runnier ‘sauce’
  • Add soaked, sun-dried tomatoes for a redder, sweeter version
  • Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese for a non-vegan version, or use nutritional yeast for vegan, cheesy flavor
  • Substitute a different fresh green leafy vegetable (ex. kale, arugula, oregano, spinach, parsley, cilantro, or mint) for some or all of the basil
  • Substitute a different type of nut (ex. walnuts, cashews, almonds or pistachios) for some or all of the pine nuts

How to use pesto

Pesto has such a great flavor. It is so unique, and I find myself trying to sneak it into everything I make. Here are a few ways I’ve used pesto in the past:

  • Pesto pasta—instead of tomato sauce, use pesto as a base for a pasta dish
  • Pesto rice—mix into rice before cooking. Adding some smoked turkey and peas takes it to a whole different level. Another grain can also be substituted, like barley, quinoa, or millet
  • Add to salad dressing—yummm…that’s all I’m gunna say on that.
  • Use as a spread—add some flavor to a sandwich or a piece a toast
  • Stir into hummus—with so many flavors of hummus out there today, this is one of my favorites
  • Add to mashed potatoes—add a twist on a classic


Yield: 3/4 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Delicious basil pesto—full-bodied and packed with flavor. You wouldn't even know it was vegan.


  • 2 oz. pine nuts
  • 4 oz. basil
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil


  1. Soak pine nuts for 4-6 hours. Drain, rinse, and pat dry. Roughly chop in food processor.
  2. Rinse and drain basil leaves. Pat dry, and add to food processor. Pulse a few times to chop.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, besides oil, and process until paste forms.
  4. Add oil, then pulse to combine.


If you are short on time, skip soaking the pine nuts.

See post for ideas on how to use the pesto and ways to change it up.

This basil pesto is best used within 2 or 3 days. After that, it can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Have you made pesto before? How do you use it? Let me know in the comments!

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