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Healthy Vegan Pesto Recipe

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Kim is a holistic health coach and a toxic-free lifestyle consultant. She obtained her studies from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.


Easy and Healthy Vegan Pesto Recipe

I met up with an old friend from college last week for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she had adopted the vegan lifestyle a few months ago for various reasons. What was more surprising to hear was that she was starting to doubt that there are any delicious vegan recipes.

She looked great, felt great, yet was constantly thinking about cheese and pesto sauce. The way she talked about it, you would think she was describing a long lost lover from the past.

"I miss it..."

"I'm always thinking about it..."

I was super excited to introduce her to my "vegan" pesto sauce. I knew the star ingredient, nutritional yeast, would be able perfectly to fill that "void." Although it will never be the same, the way cheese feels and taste...all that sinful goodness that comes along with dairy.

I was confident to set them up, since I knew nutritional yeast has so many health benefits that would treat her even better!

My friend tried the vegan pesto sauce and called me to say:

"It opened up my taste buds to a whole new dimension!"

Now it's your turn to try it! It is seriously a delightful pesto sauce for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who wants to eat a nutritious, easy-to-make pesto sauce.

Pair this vegan pesto sauce with your favorite pasta. If you are gluten intolerant, try brown rice pasta, which is pasta made from a nutritious grain.

Considering the recipe can feed about 4 adults, vegan pesto sauce with pasta is a great family meal for those with allergies to gluten or dairy.

Vegan Pesto

Vegan Pesto

Vegan Pesto: A Highly Nutritious Sauce

Whenever I make this dish, I am reminded of how satisfying it is to eat pasta that is both healthy and flavorful.

Traditional pesto is made from the basic olive oil, basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Substituting the cheese for nutritional yeast will still give it that creamy texture and rich flavor, with added nutritional bonus!

Most vegans I know had a hard time giving up cheese in the beginning, similar to my colleague. That's why nutritional yeast is such a popular substitution. Here's a quick rundown of how healthy nutritional yeast is. It didn't get its name for no reason!

  • 18 essential amino acids
  • Vitamin B12, vitamin B6
  • Chromium, magnesium, copper, and manganese
  • Folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacine, zinc, pantothenic acid
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Low amount of sodium, fat, and zero cholesterol
  • Low glycemic index of 1

I have not even begun to talk about the other healthy ingredients!

  • Basil is loaded with antioxidants and vitamin K
  • Olive oil, pine nuts and walnuts contain "good fats" that protect your heart
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Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

5 min

10 min

2 cups

TIP: To reduce the cost even further, you can substitute the pine nuts for walnuts or mix 50/50 ratio. You can buy pine nuts in bulk online to stretch your dollar further!

Another Tip: If you like a creamier and runnier consistency add a couple of tablespoons of water.


  • 3-4 cups basil, (I love basil, so I always put 4)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, (buy a really good quality!)
  • 1 organic lemon, (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts, (optional: walnuts)

*Optional, substitute 1 cup of basil for parsley.

Healthy Vegan Pesto Sauce

Healthy Vegan Pesto Sauce

Simple and Quick Instructions for Vegan Pesto

  1. Put basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and lemon in a food processor. Process until everything is combined and has a finely ground consistency.
  2. Add olive oil and nutritional yeast and continue to process until you get a creamy sauce.
  • If you don't care for garlic, leave it out. It's your kitchen—do as you please! Just remember to taste as you go!
  • Don't add the pesto directly to the pan when the pasta is still hot. It will change to a dark color and lose its vibrant green when exposed to high heat.

If you enjoyed my Vegan Pesto recipe, please share!

Kim Lam (author) from California on April 02, 2015:

Nima- haven't tried with peanuts yet- let me know how it turns out!

I've used walnuts and sunflower seeds and they taste great- cheaper too.

nima on April 02, 2015:

I think i am going to try pesto with peanuts. Has any one attempted so far?

Kim Lam (author) from California on February 10, 2014:

Thank you! I hope you enjoy it:-)

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on February 10, 2014:

Thank you for the pesto recepy. You did good hub. I like it kim lam.

Kim Lam (author) from California on October 14, 2013:

Toytasting- It really is that simple!! ;-) Hope you enjoy the pesto. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

Toy Tasting from Mumbai on October 14, 2013:

I am a huge fan of pesto sauce. Eating at various restaurants made me think, how difficult it would be to make this. You make it look so simple. I will try it out soon. Thanks for sharing the recipe. :)

Kim Lam (author) from California on July 23, 2012:

Realhousewife- thanks for linking! Love your cooking series...;-)

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on July 22, 2012:

This looks wonderful! I was looking for a pesto spread that I could link to my newest hub - thank you so much and I can't wait to try it myself!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on July 09, 2012:

You come up with the best vegan recipes! Who would have thought of substituting nutritional yeast for cheese? I'd even like to try this. Your photos look so tempting and the extra tips are helpful, such as not adding pesto to the hot pan. Voted up and shared!

FreezeFrame34 from Charleston SC on July 06, 2012:

Thanks Turtlewoman for answering my question; this is a great recipe that I will have to try!

Kim Lam (author) from California on July 05, 2012:

Hi Peggy! Oh no, not a silly question at all. Don't use the peel and pulp! The yellow bits are actually the nutritional flakes. (and maybe smaller chunks of the garlic). Hope you like it...thank you for stopping by and voting. :-)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 05, 2012:

I love making various kinds of pesto but have never used nutritional yeast as a substitute. This may be a silly question regarding your lemon ingredient. Do you use all of it including the peel and pulp? It looked like it in that one photo with the yellow bits. Would undoubtedly be tasty. We love Parmesan cheese, but would try the yeast just to taste the difference. Voted up, interesting and useful. Thanks!

Kim Lam (author) from California on June 27, 2012:

Chestnuts....hmmm, haven't tried using that. Please let me know if works. Thanks- I appreciate your comment. :-)

Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on June 27, 2012:

Very interesting recipe. I always find pine nuts are extremely expensive so tend to substitute with something like walnuts. I'm intrigued how chestnuts might work for a pesto as I know plenty I could pick on the autumn.

I'm not a vegan but the nututritional yeast sounds interesting.

MazioCreate from Brisbane Queensland Australia on June 26, 2012:

Looks and sounds like a great recipe. I'm always looking for gluten & dairy free recipes. Look forward to more great recipes. Voted up!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on June 26, 2012:

I would love to make this. Veggin pesto is definitely something to look into. The crushed herbs and the green color really held my interest.

Kim Lam (author) from California on June 26, 2012:

Anglnwu- thank you for sharing...I appreciate it! I'm confident you will love nutritional yeast.

Arlene- yes...walnuts and cashews are a great substitution! I've never even put any thought to how those darn pine nuts are gathered. Can't wait for your hub. Make sure you include pictures of you climbing the pine trees LOL. Thanks for stopping by....enjoy!

Arlene V. Poma on June 26, 2012:

Ah, the pesto recipe of my dreams, and I've grown more than enough basil this summer for several batches. Pine nuts are something like $19+ per pound here in Sacramento, so I guess I could use walnuts and cashews in the mix? What I should really do is ask my friend to show me how to gather pine nuts. Wouldn't that experience be worth a Hub? LOL!

anglnwu on June 26, 2012:

YOur pesto sauce looks decidedly appetizing. I've never use nutritional yeast but it sounds healthy and anything healthy is a good thing. Thanks for sharing and will share.

Kim Lam (author) from California on June 25, 2012:

Thank you Crystal and MsLizzy-I hope you enjoy the pesto! Take care,

Kim Lam (author) from California on June 25, 2012:

Thanks Marcy, they're sold everywhere in health stores Trader Joe's. :-)

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on June 25, 2012:

Beautiful! Wow - what a great picture, and the recipe sounds incredible! I'm not sure I've heard of rice pasta - where can we get it? Yummy!

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on June 25, 2012:

My, oh my, this sounds delicious! I'm printing this one out to try later.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 25, 2012:

Hmm... my recipe for pesto was vegan to start with...basil, garlic, olive oil, parsely, salt, pepper. no cheese I've never had pesto that had cheese in it... interesting.

Thanks for sharing this delicious-sounding recipe with an extra nutritional kick. Voted up, useful and rated 5*'s. ;-)

Kim Lam (author) from California on June 25, 2012: just reminded me of my aunt's spaghetti squash! She grows them in her backyard. Thanks for the suggestion and the awesome comment.

Jami Johnson from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont. on June 25, 2012:

This is a great recipe, speaking as someone who is always struggling to find good gluten free recipes for my family. And just a suggestion to make it a little more carb conscious, is that you can substitute the brown rice pasta with spaghetti squash. Cutting the calories and carbs allowing you to eat more!

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